Light up, light up
As if you have a choice
Even if you cannot hear my voice
I’ll be right beside you dear
What inspires us to get out and run?
Monday, 27th October 1997, 07.00am I was getting ready to go the work. I went out to buy the newspaper and made my sandwiches to sustain me through a hard, arduous day. At that time I was an uninspired toolmaker. I hated the job and worked with morons whose stupidity gave me a kind of one-upmanship. I was tired and aching after racing the Stroud Half Marathon the previous day. It was that sense of pride ache that runners get after a good race and time. My sister Gill phoned me and told me the sad news that our Dad had passed away during the night. He had been ill for much of that year and although, not surprised, the shock of it hit me like a speeding juggernaut. I phoned my Boss and told him I wouldn’t be into work that day. I was allowed two days off plus another for the funeral compassionate leave. Whoopy shit. My sister Gill and me, were executors of our Dad’s will and to unravel a man of 74 years of life in two days was pretty much impossible. Luckily, my sister’s employers were kinder and she finished what we had started.
That night, instead of an easy recovery run, I ran like my life depended on it. To free the stress and, especially, the emotions.
My Dad was unfortunate enough to die on the 27th October, my Mum’s birthday and this makes it easy for me to remember, or dread. Every year since I’ve been anxious and nervy over this period. I know I should focus on the good memories that I have, and I do have many but the day always conjures up sadness.
Just to rewind a little, my parents met during World War II in Scotland. My mother was in the Army and was an enemy plane spotter. My dad lied about his age to join the Navy as he was from Portsmouth and it was a family tradition to join up. I’m proud to say they served the United Kingdom and Allies during the darkest of days well. Especially my dad, who was on the tank landing crafts that enabled Allied troops to make it to the Italian beach at Anzio for their attack at Monte Cassino, a crucial battle akin to the D-Day landings but not often mentioned or revered, and my dad only spoke of it in his last years as real heroes don’t. The fear of attacking the beach, and being so vulnerable, most have been unimaginable for us nowadays even with the horror of watching the beginning of Saving Private Ryan.
After leaving the Royal Navy my dad joined the Merchant Navy and served with them until I was 8 or 9. I saw very little of him and therefore I was very close to my mum in those formative years. My dad always sent me a birthday card containing some money which I spent in the local toy shop, Arden Gifts, on some Gerry Anderson toy from Thunderbirds or Captain Scarlet. It did irk me when playing cricket for Burnham-on-Sea Cricket Club when an old boy bragged about his Merchant Navy pension when my dad got f*ck all, but that’s life and progress and the creakyter was a dick. Bitter, of course I am. My dad was a hard worker and and a great man and life didn’t give him an even break.
My dad regularly watched the London Marathon on tv and the local Tewkesbury Half Marathon although not being sporty or active he loved to see people try and have a go. It’s my biggest regret that he wasn’t alive to see me run them. I know he would have been so proud that I had ran in London regardless of what time that I finished in. That is the touchstone for many club runners, that elusive London Marathon medal and tee shirt. The ultimate proof of being a marathoner.
Remembrance Day and Armistice Day have recently passed and I know there must be many who are fondly thinking of the the sacrifice of their father’s, grandfather’s, mother’s and grandmother’s youth to help preserve our democracy and improve our way of life even in these days of Covid-19.
Incidentally that Stroud Half Marathon was my 4th half and I finished in 124th place in a time of 1.23:22