I can remember the day like it was yesterday; the sun was shining, the air had that smell of freshly cut grass and all seemed good with the world. It was 1985, I was 10 years old and about to start my first ever race – I won! What began on that sunny afternoon at Downham Junior School in Ramsden Heath, Essex; would turn into a lifelong obsession, seeing me through more ups and downs than I could possibly imagine at that innocent age.
For many years I ran to compete, always with that burning ambition of emulating my childhood hero Steve Cram. Whether at the distance of 1500m on the track, or Half Marathon on the roads; I worked tirelessly to achieve my potential. As with many other boys and young men sport is priceless in developing good character traits and instilling discipline; personally I just wanted to win!
The sport I loved also became the glue that held me together in so many different ways. Whether the divorce of my parents when I was 11, and subsequent breakdown in relations with my Father for the following 5 years; the passing of my beloved Mum when I was just 26, followed only 3 years later by the tragic death of my best friend Paul Davies (Paul died from undiagnosed Cardiomyopathy aged 28 years old), running was my constant. It enabled me to retain some sort of control over life and remained the one thing that could never be taken away. In short, there were times where I felt running was all I had.
After 23 years of training and competing, winning and losing, I decided to hang up my competitive trainers and take a more ‘chilled’ approach to running. Very similar to that day in 1985, I remember it like it was yesterday; whilst out on a training run I suffered a muscle pull that left me walking forlornly home. As I sat at home I knew it was time to call it a day; the decision was made so much easier because Nadine was pregnant with our first child. To say life was never going to be the same again would be the understatement of my life! Seb’s entry into the world bought an immeasurable amount of happiness but also a feeling of utter helplessness and pain.
I have spoken on many occasions of the fear I suffer on a daily basis around the health of our beautiful little boy. This fear drives our support of CHUF (Children’s Heart Unit Fund at the Freeman Hospital) to somehow influence on the future health of Seb and other ‘heart’ children. What I haven’t talked about is how I cope; what stops me from crying myself to sleep every night or locking myself in a room and shutting the world out. The truth is without running; both of these things would certainly be reality and possibly even worse. I have come to realise that running is more than a way of achieving my sporting potential or raising money; it is the safe haven I can retreat to when I fear the worst. On so many occasions as I have completed yet another early morning run, I have found myself dealing with realities I would hide away from in normal daily life. It is almost like it has become my personal therapist, sometimes providing the answers and other times just allowing for quiet moments of contemplation.
Whether in my safe ‘running bubble’ on the streets of Newcastle or as a group, this wonderful activity has become a real source for good. It has been a fantastic way of bringing a group of like minded people together to achieve great things; you only need see the final days run of our three C2C Challenges to witness that. Over the course of our 3 years fundraising I’ve completed more Marathons than I ever did in 23 years of competition and in no way have I taken a more ‘chilled’ approach to running! In an attempt to somehow say thank you to those amazing people at the Freeman Hospital I run with greater passion and drive than I ever did before. It could be said the ability I have for this sport combined with my drive for helping these poorly children has almost consumed me, but I have come to realise this is not necessarily true or fair.
The reasons why I run are exactly the same as when my world fell apart all of those times before – a vehicle to enable me to cope and subsequently heal. Sometimes the things we take for granted are the very things we need so much and until Seb was born I never truly understood the importance or power of my running. When you are dealing with situations in life for which you have little or no control over the world can feel like an incredibly lonely and vulnerable existence. Running provides purpose and meaning to my life, whilst charging me with the strength to get up each morning and face another day.
The Essence of Running
Running is a road to self awareness and self reliance. You can push yourself to extremes and learn the harsh reality of your physical and mental limitations or coast down a solitary path watching the earth spin beneath your feet; but when you are through, exhilarated and exhausted, at least for a moment everything seems right with the world. (Author unknown)
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