Miles (and miles and miles) for Smiles

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

All around the travel retail world tonight, I suspect, there are some very sore people. I am one of them.

The problem (but also the reward) with volunteering to compete in something like ‘Miles for Smiles’, this month’s charity run in Dubai, is that you really have to give it your best shot. And that means not only helping to raise a lot of money for the nominated charity – The Smile Train – but completing the distance.

In case you don’t know it, 10k is a long way. After managing (below) to complete last year’s inaugural run in 49 minutes 56 seconds, I had vowed stupidly to break 47 minutes this year.


One year old, no wiser, one recent bout of swine flu under my belt, and with work pressures making training a difficult, sporadic and unpalatable option, I’m beginning to wish I had inverted those numbers and opted for 74 minutes.

Tonight I headed down to the ‘dreadmill’ in the Worldwide Headquarters of The Moodie Report (also known as the Garden Shed), determined to run 8k – the furthest I would have completed in preparation for the now imminent 21st November event.

smile train rack_torture

[The Moodie Dreadmill]

Coping with that distance involves two key elements – stamina and overcoming near terminal boredom. Who invented running anyway? It’s about as much fun as swimming in quicksand except it takes longer to bring the suffering to an end.

smile train wwhq_small-281x375

Music is one solution. 8k is about 10 songs on my iPod – unless you include Dylan’s Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands which would get you through a half marathon. But believe me you wouldn’t want to be listening to that while you’re running because not only would you go very slowly but you might just leap into the sea around the Jumeirah Beach Hotel on race day to end all the despair.

I choose my music carefully to get my way through the kilometers; a combination of the upbeat, the inspirational and the ‘stop feeling sorry for yourself you lazy git’ genre.

Besides an eclectic mix of Marley, Springsteen, Johnny Cash and Warren Zevon, I throw in the odd piece of feel good music: Arlo Guthrie’s ‘Last Train to Glory’ which for me will always be poignantly synonymous with The Smile Train charity dinner in Hong Kong in 2007; Sound Driver’s ‘Chasing Rainbows’, the theme tune of travel retail’s thrilling rock-gig focused February 2010 ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro in aid of the same cause; and (you heard it here first) the Dubliners’ ‘Lord of the Dance’ as it always transforms my desperately flailing jog into a sub-45 minutes Irish jig.



But none of that’s working. Tonight I staggered off the dreadmill convinced not only that I had run my last kilometer but that I might struggle to make it not only to Dubai but back up to the house.

My legs had ‘gone’ as they say. Looking around for them in the garden, I realized I must have finally succumbed to writer’s cramp.

Desperate for fluid intake I crawled to the house, through the back door and towards the fridge where an ice-cold Villa Maria – Ave Maria more like it – Riesling 2008 from my homeland offered instant succor.

villa maria 37120_p

[Always take fluids while running]

Or was I the sucker? During my visit to Cyprus for the opening of the new Larnaka Zenon International Airport at the weekend I dined with a nice French gentleman called Gilles Naour from L’Oréal Paris, a former marathon runner of some repute.

As serious runners tend to do, Gilles dispensed helpful advice freely. As I poured myself a very nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc, he said “Stay away from that”.

White wine is apparently bad for long-distance running, Gilles explained, adding that it was something to do with the tautening effect on the muscles. That’s odd, because it’s always made me feel more relaxed. Red is ok, in strict moderation, he added.

I reached for a moderately sized bottle of Shiraz immediately, feeling fitter already.

“Only eat pasta before the race,” he added, as I tucked into a deliciously rare Argentinean tenderloin. Later as I feasted on a sumptuous chocolate dessert, Gilles leaned over conspiratorially towards me again and said: “Avoid sweets. The day before the race you can eat them but not before.”

I learned an important running lesson that night. Yes, that’s right; be careful who you dine with.

Determined to seek a second opinion, I have since studied my Hugh Johnson Wine Companion avidly and can confirm that every bottle of white wine contains a significant amount of water.

hugh 2

[Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Runners’ Guide]

As any fool can tell you, water keeps you hydrated, and alcohol makes you feel better. What a combination! So in my top tip to all those travel retail executives still finalizing their preparations for the big Dubai run, I say this – run to the fridge, fast and now! If they offer Cloudy Bay at the Miles for Smiles water stations I’ll be unstoppable. 

A final word on the fund-raising effort – thanks to some tremendous generosity from individuals and companies in the industry, some US$25,264.40 (ok who donated the 40 cents?) has been raised so far – enough to fund an incredible 101 life-transforming operations on children born with clefts in emerging countries.

I must single out our competitors at Travel Retail Business who today stumped up with US$1,000, typical of their generosity and commitment to the industry.

There are many others who have shown great support, through donations of all sizes. We are good as an industry when we mobilize. It’s not the amount you give, it’s the momentum it creates. For a cause like this every Dollar counts.

But we need more, much more. What if, for example, every reader of The Moodie Report – who each receives our publications free of charge – was to donate a minimum of US$20 in lieu of an annual subscription fee?

I am not being pushy, I promise. I just ask you to imagine the impact that would have on fund-raising. Imagine the impact on children whose lives make our industry’s struggle with ‘crisis’ pale into insignificance. Look at the two pictures below and ask what if that had been your child. Would you then support to the hilt an organization that ensures that every Dollar raised is spent effectively? I think you might.

I know we have asked you for a lot of support in the past but think about it please.

Here is the link – – this year you can support the whole field rather than individual runners.

I personally pledge to run as long and hard as my aging chicken legs will take me. But I need your support to get me to the finishing line.

smile train Wang_li_child

[Wang Li: The first child to be operated on courtesy of The Smile Train and star of travel retail’s ‘Turning Tears into Smiles’ charity dinner in Hong Kong in October 2007. That transformation, dear readers, is what every US$250 we raise achieves.]

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  • Hi Martin,

    I will sponsor you for $250 if you complete the run. This will be doubled to $500 if you complete it below your target of 47 minutes.

    Good luck, see you in February,