|A little Before & After for you. I think you get the picture.|
I am a black speck in a vast sea of pink. Pink wigs and pink fairy wings and pink, sweaty faces. A grainy photocopied picture of a smiling man bounces up and down as its wearer pounds along the muddy path ahead of me. "For Dad", it says. Next to For Dad is "For my mum, who I miss every day." "For all the people affected by cancer." "For my beautiful daughter." "For the cure." "For myself."
This is it.
My strides become strong and purposeful. My aching limbs begin to stretch out, reach further, move faster. I am going to finish this race, damn it, and I am going to finish it well.
As I push myself forward, striving for the end, I feel a solid ball of emotion begin deep in the pit of my belly and swell up through my chest. Tears sting the corners of my eyes. Or maybe it's sweat. Either way, it's something. As I see familiar faces shining towards me from the crowd, smiling and cheering my name, I am almost overwhelmed. But I keep going.
And before I know it, I'm through. It's over. My shoulders heave as I lean my hands on my knees, exhausted. Elated. (But mainly exhausted.)
I would do it again in a heartbeat.
You're probably thinking that was a marathon, or some other spectacular feat of human endurance, right? Wrong. It was a paltry 5k. But, for me, running that first 5k was one of the biggest achievements of my life. I am not co-ordinated or sporty, at all. The only sport I can engage in with any level of competence is skiing, and that's only because my dad bought me my first pair of Mickey Mouse skis when I was two so I had a head-start. My whole life I had been told, and I had believed, that sport, or just exercise really, was simply not my thing. And that was ok, because I was clever, and musical, and arty, and you can't be good at everything. I was embarrassed by my own unfitness, I couldn't even run for the bus, and so I avoided anything that might expose this flaw, this failing.
And then my mum was diagnosed. I felt helpless. There was nothing I could do to make the situation any less crap, nothing I could do to help. Cancer has a way of making you feel powerless; it comes into your life uninvited and just takes over, puts its feet up on your couch and eats all your food and makes you watch some tragic documentary when all you want to watch is Grey's Anatomy.
So, shortly after her diagnosis, I signed up for the Race For Life. Sure, it couldn't directly influence what was happening to my mum, but it gave me a focus, something to work towards. And not only for me; all of my friends, my family, my mum's friends who wanted to help but didn't know how, suddenly had an easy and direct way of showing their support. They couldn't make it all go away, but they could sponsor me, and holy crap did they sponsor me. I raised over £1,200 for that first race. It was insane. I raised much less when I did the Race For Life again the following year, but every single penny I have raised means so much to me because at least I feel like I'm DOING SOMETHING. Which, without wishing to sound like a credit card advert, is priceless.
What I would love is your support. Encouragement, good luck wishes, kicks up the arse when I fail to go to the gym YET AGAIN. That kind of thing.
If they can put up with all of that for us, then I can bloody well keep running for them.