I KNOW WHAT A HERO LOOKS LIKE – Halifax parkrun 20th Feb 2016
Today, I know what a hero looks like: I ran with one.
As you may (or may not) know, Gav and I ran the Dubai Marathon recently (“Did you? You should have said!”) We raised funds for our friends – Tom & Cheryl – who lost their beautiful daughter Edie back in October. Through their #FlyHighEdie campaign, they’re now raising funds for Edinburgh Sick Kids, who helped them through the worst imaginable pain.
Now, we’ve all got our crosses to bear, and some mornings, the mere fact that Tilly takes ten minutes to decide what shoes she’ll wear is enough to drive me to distraction (in fact, that’s most mornings.) I’m well aware of my own shortcomings – the trivialities and miniscule frustrations of life can sometimes tip me over the edge, to the point where I have a Kevin Spacey American Beauty meltdown if I get asked one more time to enter my Apple ID password, which I’ve already had to reset ten times that week. Or, hollers of “Gav! This bloody Suunto won’t sync again and I’ve been trying for the past friggin half hour. It’s just crap! Aaarrrgghhhh” ring out across our apartment, frequently. It shames me to be able to think of a million other examples of my ‘daily stresses’…
Today, Cheryl Murphy ran the Halifax Parkrun. We met her and Tom (and their beautiful baby Annie) at Shroggs Park. Cheryl has committed to running the Yorkshire Marathon in October this year in memory of her Edie, and for their campaign in support of Edinburgh Sick Kids. The most she has run in years is 3 miles. But, the heroism doesn’t stop there. I offered to run with her today – in fact I PLEADED to run with her – my own pathetic way of trying to avoid the pain of a distance I hate, on a tough Parkrun course, in abysmal weather conditions. She was having none of it. “Nope – thanks all the same but I’m fine. Really! I’ll be OK. You go ahead. No, seriously…” And so, without any good excuse not to, I sloped off and ran my own race.
My legs were (predictably) tired after a decent 9 miler yesterday, and still possibly feeling the effects of last weekend’s Village bakery Half Marathon – which was only 3 weeks after Dubai. I focused on the task in hand, and came away with an unremarkable time of 22:14 (in my head, I have a voice which frequently tells me I ‘should have done better’) but actually, today I couldn’t have done any better. I crossed the finishing line, and immediately set off back around the course to find Cheryl. One marshal looked at me quizzically, and said “Haven’t you already finished?!” I smiled and replied that I had, but was on a mission to find someone and run in with them.
And then I saw Cheryl. With about ¾ of a mile still to go, including two hill climbs (it’s hardly a PB course), she was working hard. Really hard. I ran alongside her and said “Right. We’re going to run in together. Stay with me, and we’ll pace it to the end.” She could have walked – I know she wanted to. She could have let that voice inside her which was screaming “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? YOU CAN’T DO THIS” win. She didn’t. I could hear the effort she was putting in. I could feel her determination to keep going and push through the pain. And in that moment, I realised – I was running with a hero. Nobody there knew her story, her loss, or her pain. Nobody knew how hard it was for her to put those trainers on and walk out of her front door – let alone battle her way through that 5k Parkrun.
When she finished, I wanted to throw my arms around her and scream at the top of my voice “LOOK WHAT YOU’VE JUST DONE! LOOK HOW MUCH YOU’VE JUST ACHIEVED!” I didn’t, because it’s a bit freaky weird, and could have appeared ever so slightly bipolar. But, in that moment, I realised what true strength and courage was. If she had walked in that last mile, she could still have held her head high, but she chose to fight harder than that.
And, ladies and gentleman, if that isn’t what a true hero is, then I don’t know what is.
Cheryl, you are my hero. #FlyHighEdie