It seems strangely self indulgent to be writing a blog right now. A man died on Sunday doing the very thing that we were doing, on the very roads that we were on.
I said there were too many ambulances.
Out loud I said it was going to be too many people pushing themselves beyond their personal extremes. Inside I had a horrible feeling it was going to be something serious.
The girl that we passed being picked up on the stretcher is fine. I've seen a Facebook thread where people were asking about her. She's been tagged in by her friends and answered to say everything's fine, even apologised for making people worry.
In the metric marathon, sadly, things had really taken a turn for the worse. Trevor Cording, a father of 3, suffered a medical emergency, and tragically died.
He was an experienced runner, a member of Northwich running club, and previously ran with Fylde Coast runners (Blackpool and Fleetwood coastline). Pictures on the local papers’ websites show a happy man, a man with a warm and friendly face, and one who clearly loved his running. Seems he was highly thought of, and the warmth with which he's spoken about fits with the smile on his face. I feel for his wife and children, and the rest of his family too. They didn't expect to lose him that day.
At least he got to die doing something he loved, and for most of us, that's probably not a bad way to go (only me that's ever thought being mauled to death by a tiger in its natural habitat would deliver me happy from this world into the next). We'd probably all choose to go peacefully in our sleep if we had a choice in it at all, next best is surely to be doing something you love?
Real superheroes don't wear costumes. Those that would lay down their lives for what they love and what they believe in, they walk among us dressed like you or I, and you likely wouldn't spot one if you bumped into them. Forget Comic Con, the real convention of superheroes happens every Saturday and Sunday up and down the land and it happens wherever there is running!
I can't think about anything other than that man dying right now, so I shall return to this blog once my head is cleared…..
3 days later….
I think the biggest heroes do their heroing behind closed doors, out of the limelight, where no-one can see.
The frail elderly lady caring for her even more frail husband. The depressed teenager putting on their smile and still making it through Uni. The child going to school only after he's taken care of his one disabled parent. The one who's anxiety runs so high she can't leave the house without being physically sick, but still gets out there. The mum holding everything together for the kids when their dad has left for another woman. The kid who soaks up all the bullying because he doesn't want to worry his parents. The girl who copes with being made a pariah because she won't go and take drugs like all her friends are. The addict who makes the decision to stop, but fights every day to turn his life around……
I can think of hundreds of examples, but that's enough to make my point. On sight, we don't recognise these superheroes - we might even have seriously misjudged them and have them labelled as something else.
One thing I know absolutely for sure - these heroes, these real life superheroes - they don't bother to wear a costume - because they simply do not recognise the hero in themselves.
There's another trait I've noticed - I suspect there would be a strong correlation between enthusiasm for running and degree of heroism behind closed doors.
Now, really I want to tell you, tell the world, about Clair, and Clair's marathon.
“But it's your marathon too…” she says “… You ran it with me, it was just as far for you, just as hard for you”
No Clair. No!
Fit or not, injured or not, trained or not, even willing or not, I've run marathons before, and know exactly what to expect. I know I can grit my teeth and get through it - especially when the main motivation for me is that I promised I would be there by your side. So if you're gonna keep running, I'm gonna keep running with you, because there is no way I ever want you to have to suffer the heartfelt disappointment of turning to someone who told you they would be there when called upon or needed, only to find that they left you on your own. My desire to not let you down made it easy for me - well, relatively so.
She's quite a private person is Clair. She likely wouldn't thank me for writing directly about her in my blog.
She won't feel entirely comfortable with the plaudits she'll receive if I tell everybody how brilliantly she ran on the day.
She won't feel entirely comfortable with me publicly praising her for the incredible strength of mind she showed on those long training runs, so joyless and painful for her that she knew long before running this race, that there will never be another marathon for her.
She'll recoil in horror if I tell of the battles which she faces everyday, and how draining it can get on her at times, so respectfully I won't.
She wouldn't believe me if she caught me saying how brilliantly I think she did at following the essence of her training plan whilst adapting it to suit her lifestyle, and fit it around all of the other demands placed upon her.
She'd no doubt think I was being uncomfortably public if I said that I admired the strength and tenacity she showed when the kindness of her heart led to a good couple of months without sleep - it didn't stop her.
She'd probably be embarrassed if I told of the great lump on her knee, that was delivered by an accident with a door on the morning of the marathon itself, and how she could barely walk, or how she cried sat on the side of the bath, really believing that all the training, all the effort, had been snatched away in a moment.
She'll not readily believe me when I say that in my head, a 4.5 hour expected finish time had dropped to 5 when injury struck her 4 weeks out, and dropped again to 5.5 when I saw how badly everything was affecting her.
She probably thinks I'm just saying it when I tell her that I was often just slightly behind her in that marathon because I was literally struggling to keep up (she would believe it if I said I was just ogling her sexy little bum).
Clair doesn't wear a superhero costume.
She walks among us dressed like you or I. She does her heroing behind closed doors, out of the limelight, where no one can see.
All I can say is, the superhero did come outside for the Chester marathon last Sunday, and from where I was looking, there was no need for a costume - she looked every inch the hero every single step of the way.
From being brave enough to start, to running earlier than we'd planned on, to pacing herself so beautifully, to surging uphill like she does, to gritting her teeth through the chaffing and refusing to adjust her troublesome sock, to ploughing on despite the blisters, and running so strongly that a quick toilet break took me 4 miles to catch back up. From having the time to stop and get a quick chat with Jan and Alex, to carrying the sweets, to beating the pants off Spider-Man, to running faster than a horse. From struggling around those middle miles, to getting going running again when the wheels had come off up that long uphill drag after Farndon.
Clair, everything about your run on Sunday was amazing.
Somehow in spite of all the challenges along the way with your training - you still managed the 4.5 hours we'd secretly hoped for and that was based on you being fully fit!
You are a superhero!
Don't ever think you are anything less.
You're a marathon runner now - if ever you are having self doubt - you can always, forevermore, sneak a quick look at that medal, and know exactly what it means:-
You young lady, can achieve anything. You can successfully do anything you decide you want to do.
Quite a journey it turned into, that little taxi ride on January 13th 😊.
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