‘What he did next was so unexpected. Read til the end’
I’d like to use this blog to tell you a story. You know those videos that appear on your Facebook timeline that say ‘so heart-warming. Watch til the end’ or ‘what he does next is not what you’d expect’? Well this is my version of one of those. I’m a sucker for a good story about human decency, acts of chivalry, unexpected support or just anything that shows humanity in the light in which it should be shown. You know those videos of parents returning from active military duty to surprise their kids? Or someone hearing for the first time? Choke me up something rotten. Yeah, what? I’m not scared to admit it!
Anyway… So my dad died almost 14 years ago. 18th October 2003. I’ve written all sorts of blogs about him, suicide, mental health and everything in between. This isn’t one of those blogs (oi – I heard that sigh of relief). He, in a convoluted way, got me running when I was a kid. It was that desire a child has to impress their parents. And he, in another convoluted way, got me back into running just after he’d died. I ran to heal, I ran to cry, I ran to ponder and I ran to cause myself the sort of pain that makes you want to throw up. I still do all of that, sometimes. But now I run for other reasons. Sure, in his memory, but also for me, and to be a role model to my son.
Now, I’ve got many strange personality traits and one of them is establishing weird, self-imposed traditions. One of those traditions started in about 2005 when I ran 10k as fast as I could on the anniversary of dad’s death. I’ve done it every year since. And from 2006 onwards, every one of those 10ks has been under 40 minutes. Every 18th October, you will find me on a treadmill, running a 10k; regardless of my current level of fitness, I have always managed to grind out a 39.xx. Until 2014, that is…
In 2014, I took up rugby again (long story) and the week before dad’s anniversary, some fat shit of a front row player fell on my knee and hyper-extended it. This is what it looked like:
There was no way I was going to be able to do my 10k and I was gutted. Totally and utterly irrationally gutted. I’m not sure anybody even knew of my tradition up to that point! So the dream was over. I tweeted about it and this incredible bloke called Rich replied ‘I’ll give it a go for you mate’. He was willing to take my 10k and keep the tradition alive. There was only one problem – Rich had never run a 10k in under 40 minutes before and he was going to have to go guts out to do it. I was just blown away that he’d make the effort, to be honest. We agreed to meet at Preston Park parkrun in Brighton on the day. He was going to run the parkrun and then do it again.
Jesse and I took up a prime position ready to cheer him on. Preston Park is 3ish laps of the park so we saw him go by plenty. After 5k he was just about bang on pace. He looked knackered but I could see in his eyes that he was going to give it hell and try his hardest. I was getting all het up watching him and as he came round during the 4th and 5th laps I could see he was off pace, slowing and getting a bit annoyed at himself. Rich didn’t do it. He was a bit over and as he crossed the line, he wasn’t only exhausted, he was absolutely gutted. It didn’t matter one bit to Jesse and me. We just watched this guy absolutely bury himself for us, trying to keep a tradition alive that nobody knew about. Now who was irrational? I was just so proud of him and we went over to congratulate him. I could see him welling up a little and I could tell he felt shit about not managing to do it. I told him exactly what I thought and that it didn’t matter one bit. If anything, it had actually made me realise that the 40 minute thing was just a mask for other stuff. We chatted for a while, I made sure he knew I wasn’t bothered one bit and then we went off. I was so satisfied that in some way, there was a 10k for my dad being covered on the anniversary – that was the important tradition. Here we are after his run (he’s tall, I’m not short):
That’s not the end of the story, though. That evening, I received this tweet:
The daft bugger had gone back out that afternoon and re-done the 10k. And he’d done it in under 40 minutes. He absolutely smashed himself to bits twice – TWICE in one day to help me out and keep my tradition alive. I basically cried. There’s no other way to describe what he did for me that day other than heroic. I know it seems small, but to me, to my mind and on a day as important as that, somebody showed the kind of love that I dream of being able to show others. For all intents and purposes, Rich is just a guy off Twitter who likes running, like me. Nothing more. Or at least that’s how it could have been. But because of the kind of person he is, because he was invested in my running and my story, he’s a good friend who I just happened to meet on social media. That night, all was right on a day where 11 years earlier, all was beyond wrong – all was falling apart. I’ll never forget that. Hey, you know what’d be nice? Send him a tweet and say ‘I just read what you did for Kev Betts in 2014. Thank you’. He won’t know what’s going on but it’ll make him smile.
If anybody fancies joining me on Wednesday of this week (18th October) in running a 10k in memory of my dad, you would be very welcome. Virtual running is great. It gives company and support where it’s not physically possible. Throw me a tweet or facebook message to let me know and I’ll be your biggest supporter.
And hey, if you’ve read this whole thing, well done! I continue to support the incredible work that Mind, the mental health charity, does. This December, a good friend of mine and I are putting on an event called the Run Up to Christmas. In the advent period, we’ll keep you running when all you want to do is eat, drink and shop. We’ll encourage you, challenge you, introduce you to others and give all the support you need to keep up the exercise. Oh, and we’ll also furnish you with a medal. Get your friends together and enter. We’ve got almost 250 people already signed up. It’s going to be brilliant!
PS – I forgot to mention. I do the New York Marathon in 3 weeks. I managed a 10 mile run. I’ll be fine, right?!
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- Exercise for the Elderly - May 18, 2016
- Challenging misconceptions about running - February 21, 2016
- Writing your marathon training programme - November 15, 2015
- Running4Women 10k, Windsor - October 13, 2015
- Why women run – and why they should! - August 9, 2015
- Endure Ultra 12 - July 30, 2015
- Windsor Running Festival and Running4Women 10k - May 26, 2015