Running For Helen

Posted on: 15 May 2017

I had a wonderful weekend, it was Jenny’s Mother’s wedding and we celebrated hard! The step count was going through the roof on the dance floor! This came at the end of a solid week of training for The Wall in June; over 40 miles done that week, legs feeling stiff but spirits high.

Then came the news I’ve been dreading for over two years now, my friend Helen who I went to Drama College with died in the early hours of Sunday morning. I received a text message at 2.30am to say she’d been admitted to a hospice, by 7.30 I got the email to say Helen had passed away. It was a huge shock.


Helen was a wonderfully gentle person, at college she was a devout Christian and Vegetarian, shy but very funny once you got to know her, which I did as we lived in the same student house with three others for over a year. When all around her was wild parties and student high jinks, Helen was the rock, dependable and calm. She was the only one I kept in regular touch with ever since. She was very good at her job and rose to be the Administrative Director of a very successful and respected theatre company, it was always my regret that I couldn’t work with her as her company worked with female prisoners and ex-offenders, consequently it was a women only company.


I know that the fight against Cancer is a subject close to the heart of many Real Buzzers, Cancer has affected so many of our lives and many of us use our running to raise awareness and money for Cancer charities. Several of us are in the midst of their own battles with this horrible disease and I hope you won’t mind me talking about this on our running forum.


Helen never wanted us to talk about her in terms of ‘fighting a battle’ or ‘being brave’; in her mind that would raise this illness above a status that she thought it deserved. She would say ‘I’m just ill and I’m dealing with it.’ She didn’t want sympathy or to be treated as a soldier. Each to their own, we all have different ways to cope with bad things when they happen and I respected her for her choice. She dealt with her illness with the calm efficiency she brought to everything in her life. She hoped for the best but planned for the worst.


Now the worst has happened and I am very sad. Sad and angry. Angry and trying to find ways to take this pain and turn it into something positive. As ever with any crisis or trouble in my life, I turn to running to find a solution. Hollywood Dave has been running his legs off to raise money for charity and to show solidarity with his wonderful wife Michelle. I have had the privilege to run with him in Manchester and right now I’m in training for our conquest of Hadrian’s Wall in June. I had thought of trying to raise some money for Hollywood’s charity, just to do my bit but I was aware there was a danger of asking the same people to shell out more money for the same cause and I didn’t like to make people feel pressured. Now this has happened I feel it only right to get in touch with Helen’s family, find out which charity she would like to see supported, and raise as much money as I can for that charity in Helen’s honour. I’ll let you know when I know.


So that is one way running could help in the long term, but in the short term, yesterday as I travelled back south on my own, under a dark cloud, how was I going to deal with the shock and hurt I was feeling? I decided I would go for a run as soon as I got to Salisbury and that’s what I did.


My legs felt like lead after the 3 hours of dancing at the wedding the night before, it was muggy and warm, I felt like crap, but I knew I would push through that. 6 miles was going to get run in Helen’s memory. The first mile I really struggled and actually felt like stopping, I did it in 9.06 but it felt like 19.06! The second mile was 8.52, the third was 8.46. It was then I was thinking about my plan to raise money for Helen, I began to push a little and I noticed that each mile was getting quicker. I decided that I would try to run each mile quicker than the last, somehow I felt that doing that would be a good way to honour my friend (strange the way the mind can work while you are running…) So mile 4 was in 8.35 and I was beginning to feel stronger again, feeling determined. Mile 5 was 8.18 and although I was tired, I knew mile 6 would be faster, I put my foot down and thought about channelling my anger at this unjust world that had taken a good woman before her time, I finished mile six in 7.34. I was utterly spent but I had found a kind of peace. I had a plan and new determination to complete the task of Hadrian’s Wall. Running would not bring my old friend back, but it will give me a fitting way to honour her in the best way I can.

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