It just happened. I knew parts of today had been a battle – my determination to keep the hope inside going was still pushing through the thoughts that were challenging whether I could make this work – whatever ‘this’ is. I did my first marathon in 2015, I’d signed up to do one in the October of 2013. On the second of March that year I did my first long training run – 11 miles. I was really pleased with myself but had a significant amount of leg pain afterwards. I got home and made the mistake of sitting down, so when I tried to stand I probably moaned about as it hurt to stretch my legs. I hardly ever do warm up or warm down after running so my own fault really. But Elliot came up to me and said ‘have you hurt your leg mummy’, I said yes and he bent down and gave my knee a kiss and asked me if it was better. I gave him a big hug and said yes it was now. He then put on my slippers and went walking downstairs with me stressing he was going to fall and telling him to be careful. The next day he went for his afternoon sleep and never woke up.
Although I’d still planned to do the marathon that year, I didn’t. The thought of going out running and not coming home to my little boy was just beyond what I could cope with. But with some great guidance and an amazing supportive runner – I finally did my first marathon in October 2015. Steve ran it with me, all the way near or by my side. He was brilliant. What made it all the more special was that he was one of the people who had to come out to our house the night Elliot died, he was part of the investigation team into what happened to Elliot. He’d followed our progress through the charity and had done the marathon the year before for us.
As we ran he gave me advice now and then, we chatted about work and life in general. I said I could only imagine how tough his job was – whenever he gets a call he knows its bad news for someone. He said that life was a bit like a marathon. You have your stretches where you are really pleased with what you are doing, that sense of achievement – here you are training done and you are at the starting line with thousands of others about to push yourself to the limit – but somehow you feel good about it. Then the race starts, and this is is – exciting and a bit daunting at the same time. Just like life sometimes, a new challenge comes up, maybe going to University, a new job, new relationship or even a new arrival. Then as the miles build up you have to dig deep. At times your mind says no way – I can’t do another step – I need to stop. But somehow your body says – no chance, keep going we’ve gone this far – you can’t quit – let’s see what the next mile brings. Then you have moments when your body says – no way, I physically can’t do this – but then it’s your minds turn to say yes you can! All that training, you’ve done 10 miles already – just keep going – just keep going. So you do – life has its troubling patches and moments when you just think – really – does it have to be like this.
As your mood dips at mile 14 when you realise you have so so far to go and the road stretches on for miles – you hear faint music. You keep pushing yourself and then you run through a village where the local vicar and a band are out on the street, giving you the high five as you go past. It gives you a huge lift, you feel your legs getting lighter and you are sure there is bit of an energy boost from all the support as you run through the village.
Then you go past young kids handing out jelly babies and oranges – and although they don’t have a clue who they are – they tell you to keep going, you can do it, how great you are.
Just like as in life, during the marathon, these are moments to bank for when the crowds have thinned, it starts to rain and the road feels like it goes on for ever. But, just as with life, you’ve no idea who is round the next corner or over the next hill. You meet people on the way, have a chat, help them out if they are struggling and they might help you. You see signs with people’s names on and hear cheers from family and friends. You have long dark never ending patches where your mood dips so low that you can’t figure out why you are putting yourself through this. But the highs and the finish line as well as the fundraising you achieve – they far outweigh the pain and the emotional toll. At the end you look back and realise just how much you have achieved and what you have put yourself through. But you also realise just how many people shared the journey with you, either through making a banner to cheer you on, knowing they were at the waiting line or even the good luck texts and the people who thought you were mad for doing it.
So yep, I agree with Steve – I think you can make the analogy to life in general. You go through an incredible experience, sometimes you just have to put your head down and push on, sometimes you have the highs and other times you look around to see who you can reach out to and times when you need just that helping hand yourself. All of it is the tapestry of life. No one moment defines our life – we are made up of millions of moments and experiences.
That includes those moments when like today it just felt too much, too overwhelming and tears just started flowing before I even knew they were there. Sat in slow moving traffic on the way home from work I just couldn’t find that brave face, that ‘it will be ok’ mantra. I’d been to see the mum this morning, we talked about her little girl, about the new headstone they have, about the horrendous choices you have to make about funerals and headstones. We also talked about the future, her son and how they will live with the memory of the daughter in their hearts whatever they do.
In the car coming home I just missed my little boy so much – I couldn’t put any positive thoughts there. It all just started to flow when I was thinking about when to fit my training run in over the weekend as I have signed up to another marathon for this year. The tears just flowed when the memory of Elliot kissing my knee came into my head. I just wanted him back here in my life, I wanted to have a weekend on the football touchline, I wanted weekend homework to do. I wanted to do a training run and for him to be there when I come home.
But, just like with the physical marathon and like Bob always said – it’s a moment of pain and sadness and a tough stretch to get through – but one foot in front of the other and you keep going. See what is round the next corner and over the next hill.
Elliot, I miss you more than words can ever say.
Sometimes you just have to hold tight and ride the waves out.