Well, I did it. I completed the Race for Life at Epsom Downs in 45 minutes and 23 seconds, almost five minutes faster than the target I set myself. It’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like it. I hated running at school, dreaded sports days and have avoided anything remotely connected to it, with the exception of the occasional run for the bus and even then I’d usually let it go and wait for the next one.
I had a ‘Yes! Damn!’ moment last week. This is a theory stating that when you plan something for the future, you optimistically think ‘yes!’, that you will have lots of time, that life won’t be as busy, and that you will be full of enthusiasm for it, only to experience the ‘damn’ moment as the event approaches. A ‘why did I do that?’ feeling. However, on waking this morning, I decided to go for it, embrace the moment and enjoy it. I’m so glad I did, but not for the satisfaction of succeeding in a personal challenge.
What was truly humbling was the fact that almost everybody was running for someone who was either fighting or had lost their fight against cancer. Some were fighting cancer themselves. Some people had just one name, others a frighteningly long list. There were photos, dates, messages…and occasions of hope with people running in thanks for those that had survived. The sense that no-one was untouched by this disease was overwhelming. A group of children were running in memory of their friend who had died aged just 10. A woman in front of me had a photo of her sister, who had died aged 40. Particularly poignant was a woman who had lost both her mother and her husband to the disease last year. By her side was her daughter, aged about 8, running for her grandmother and dad. There was so much personal grief…but also a celebration in the joy of life.
So although I met my personal challenge, what I really came away with was a sense of the collective power of individuals united through a common grief. So much of our everyday life is spent chasing things that ultimately are of no importance, a selfish, greedy quest for fulfilment of a meaningless desire. We’re made to feel that’s all there is. Today proved to me that what gets hidden in the daily grind is the absolute compassion and humanity that we all share.