Ten peaks for venture philanthropy

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On 7 September 2013, Coller Capital Partner François Aguerre is embarking on a gruelling challenge in aid of Impetus – The Private Equity Foundation. Here we find out a little more about the task ahead.

You are about to undertake a major challenge – 89 kilometres that ascends 4,800 metres over 10 peaks through the Brecon Beacons. Have you ever completed an event like this in aid of charity before?

I have completed a number of similar events in the past, including the 100km Hong Kong Oxfam Trailwalker, but never personally and directly in aid of a charity. It is a new commitment for me that I would like to repeat in the future.

How did you find out about us, and what made you decide to fundraise for Impetus – PEF?

I became enthusiastic about the charity’s work after attending a fundraising dinner with Coller Capital colleagues. I thought that the unusual races I participate in would help capture people’s attention and therefore help raise money.

Our venture philanthropy model is a combination of strategic funding, management support and specialist pro bono expertise. What did you find particularly attractive about this model?

The question says it all. Time and money are two very precious assets. If you manage to get them both, achievements can be tremendous. I think it is essential that to work together as a society to provide funding or to volunteer (or both whenever possible!) for the benefit of our society. Although my contribution is mainly funding, I’m hoping I can also draw attention to the need for professionals to volunteer their valuable skills and time.

What is the most difficult part of completing a challenge like this and how do you train for this?

The most difficult part by far is the training. Even though the race is long—probably 15 to 20 hours depending on the conditions on the day—the training is much longer, and very lonely. I am married with three children, who need my time and attention, and I also travel quite a bit, so my training is all about smart planning, to make it very efficient.

During the challenge itself, if you are well-trained the “physical” race is not the hardest part. The most difficult part is actually food and drink. In a typical race like this, you might consume 10,000 – 15,000 calories or more. If at any point your body is not able to absorb anymore, you cannot continue.

How are you feeling about the challenge event, with the date fast approaching?

Feeling quite excited, with a healthy sense of pressure because of all the money raised so far. Almost £7,000 (including Gift Aid) against a target of £10,000, which seems ok to me for my first attempt at fundraising. I have been very cautious in the training to avoid any injury before the race itself. Hopefully it won’t be a rainy day in Wales…

How many challenges like this have you completed?

My enthusiasm for extreme challenges started in 2005, when a friend encouraged me to take part in a four-man team challenge in Hong Kong. Then a few years later, while based in Europe, I began pursuing it with more interest, focussing mainly on 50 to 55 kilometres to start with, then building up from there. Since then I have competed in events in many locations, even attempting (but failing) the “Diagonale des Fous”, a 170 kilometre race ascending 11,000 metres on the French Indian Ocean island of Réunion last fall.

In total, I have completed around 30 marathons and ultra-marathons in the last 10 years or so.

You’ve said you plan to fundraise around these types of challenges on an annual basis, have you started thinking about your next big event yet?

You would be amazed by the number of these challenges every year in the world. When you do ultra-trails, the grail is the UTMB (Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc), at least in Europe. 166 kilometres with 9,000 metres of ascent, with the average altitude reasonably high. That could be 2014 if I manage to get in.

Alternatively, I might try to go back to marathons to get my time below the three hour mark. I did the 2010 London Marathon in 3h00’59’’. It would be nice to complete the race in under three hours before or when I hit 40 in 2015. If I go for the latter, I have already thought about making the challenge a bit harder, for instance, refunding a portion of the money raised and making up the difference if I don’t complete the race in under three hours.

As a person who has completed many challenge events in the past and only recently decided to fundraise around these, what would be your advice to friends or colleagues looking to do the same?

The obvious one would be: Just do it! As I don’t run with Nike shoes, I would say: most people have the physical ability to find a challenge which is worth doing and for which they can raise money to make their effort even more worthwhile. To complete it, it is all about focus and discipline. Again, the training is the hardest part, by far. Good luck!

To support François and help him reach his target of £10,000, visit his Virgin Money Giving page. If you are interested in completing your own challenge in aid of Impetus – PEF, please contact our Events Team for further information. 

Impetus − The Private Equity Foundation
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