I haven’t written an entry on this blog since the end of June, 2020. Looking back on it, my main concerns then seemed to be when we would be getting races back. Little did I know what was in store for me and my family over the coming months. LOL. WARNING – this blog will contain A LOT of emotional triggers.
Back in June, it felt like things were getting a bit more positive re the COVID doom. Things were opening up, the sun was shining and I was also running pretty well! I was in PB running shape – I ran the 21 mile Hangers Way with my friends Dan and Oliver and I’d even been to the pub for a pint. All the posi vibes went out the window when my lovely little mum was diagnosed with cancer. To add even more darkness to an already pitch black situation – all the lockdown miles caught up with me and I got plantar fasciitis in my right foot. Obvs mum’s diagnosis was the worst thing but when you use running as a coping mechanism, it wasn’t an ideal situation and another worry on top of everything.
Mum’s illness took centre stage of course. I was very lucky to be able to spend lots of time with her. I took her to the hospital (along with my brother) and enjoyed our chats in my van as we coasted to the coast. She was getting radio / chemo at QA Hospital in Portsmouth and when she was in there, I sat in the back of my van working and stretching my foot. To cut a short story even shorter – mum died of cervical cancer on October 3rd. She’d only been diagnosed in July and everything happened super quick. Of course my family and I were super sad. It was such an emotional time. I’ll never forget the hug she gave me after the first lockdown ended – she burst into tears on her doorstep and said to me, “Jhonny, I just want to give you a hug.” It was my favourite ever hug. I am crying while I write this. I keep having dreams about hugging her which are simultaneously strangely satisfying and disturbing in equal measures.
I guess I have always had issues with death. It is a taboo of western society for sure and something that I never really talked about with my family when I was young. I knew that one day my parents would die. but I guess it’s not something we want to think about on a daily basis is it? My friend Steve died a few years back – and that was the last time I cried before mum got ill. Needless to say, I’ve been pissing out the tears ever since. Mum dying has improved my relationship with death. She never complained even when she was feeling terrible – and I love that about her, even though she had every right to. I guess I am lucky that I got to say everything to her that I wanted and I know she loved me, and she knew I loved her. We looked exactly the same for fucks sake – two fluffy doppelgängers. I feel like I have lost the most important part of my support network as well as a little bit of me… I kinda feel like a big bag of raw emotions that has been squeezed into a brick and then every time I feel sad, it’s like someone is picking up the brick and trying to grate it on a grater made from sadness. The tears have made the grater rusty and it’s getting harder to grate. Great!
I am so lucky to have so many lovely friends, family and even internet acquaintances that helped me through this. Thank you all so much! I am always here for you, you know this. I owe you and I love you. I was also very lucky to have done a counselling course in the last year which helped me process stuff, as well as receiving grief counselling from MacMillan. What a brilliant service! I am still having a weekly chat with a lovely lady for an hour. I sit on my bed and cry and she says nice things. It’s like a dummy for my brain. It’s been particularly hard having to sort all mum’s life admin, her funeral as well as look after my dad – again, things you never think you’ll have to until they happen. Thank fuck for the counselling.
To celebrate mum’s life, I always knew I would do some sort of exercise based charitable event. When she was in hospital, I spoke to a nurse on the Oncology Ward who said they needed funds for things like exercise bikes to help the patients exercise safely during these COVD times. I decided on Christmas Eve, which would’ve been mum’s 69th birthday – to run to the hospital and back from where I live. It was 34 miles and of course I had done no specific training. I set up a fundraising page and I am overwhelmed to say it raised close to £9000 with nearly £1800 of Gift Aid as well. I am sure the Oncology Ward will put the funds to good use. I am so grateful to everyone who ran with me or supported the event – it really helped me channel my grief towards something positive and to honour my mum. You can check out a video from the day here. I will never forget my friend, Dan, playing ‘Happy Birthday’ to my mum on the bagpipes on the top of Portsdown Hill – what an emotional moment.
To compound the 2020 clusterfuck, I am also sad to say that Rowena and I broke up. She had her reasons (damn Specsavers opening up again) and we weren’t helped by lockdown life and both losing a parent last year. It was hard for us to support each other. When her dad died early in the year, I guess I blocked some of it out due to my own aforementioned issues with death. It was also super-hard as we were in lockdown and there was nothing to do and only each other to show off to. Mum got ill and Rowena was so lovely to her, I will never forget our last trip to The Heath in Petersfield and the fun we had. Losing Row was another big loss in terms of relationship / support network and one I am still probably processing but after the loss of my mum, I guess I took it on the chin and chalked it up to being another casualty of 2020. Get that brick on the grater!
I reckon I should talk about running for a bit, eh? My plantar fasciitis got better (mainly due to wearing a night-sock which looks like a bondage party for one) and I could run a bit more. I built up slowly and enjoyed training with my Longmoor Squad boys as well as running with so many lovely mates and chatting about all things life. I was lucky to be able to do a couple of races in December. The Goodwood HM – I didn’t race properly but I turned up and ran well and enjoyed it, and after the tribulations of the year – that’s all I wanted. I also got to run at the PB5k where I ran exactly 18 mins. I would’ve been a few seconds quicker if I hadn’t shown off for every camera and been so excited about running fast again.
I have to thank the Running Punks Community (especially Jimmy, Rhodri & Jon) for all their support. They sent me cool kit and the best fucking flowers when my mum died. I now know I like lilies – especially the smell! Also, HOKA ONE ONE (Joe Wade is a superstar) for having me on their Racer Program and sending me all the best shoes and kit to support my running. I am much better off for having all these people in my life, so thank you. Last but not least my Longmoor Squadron who I’ve trained with for the last few months in lieu of races.
I managed to run 2612 miles in 2020 (plus a few hundred on the bike) and in 2021 I am going to step it up in terms of better training. In a week, I start working with Jo Wilkinson (not the comedian, Andy) who is going to coach me so I can actually aim for some PBs. I learnt in 2020 that running isn’t all about PBs… I knew it was there for my mental health as well but now I know I can enjoy it just for getting out the door and it being like a good friend. Always there for me but not one I need to rely on for happiness – I can rely on myself for that. Having a coach will hopefully reign in my tendencies to overtrain, help me focus and also that word beginning in a which I have forgotten but will hopefully remember at some point. ACCOUNTABILITY. Got there. I am also working a lot more on my strength work to support running faster.
FUCK! This has been a long post hasn’t it? Did you make it to the end? Well done. If you did, you can listen to my Running Punks Playlist as a reward. It’s really good and not really that punk. Or maybe it is. Let’s hope the next time I write a post, that 1) It’s not so long and 2) It’s not called ‘It’s been a tough few months.’ Ironically I know it’s going to be a tough few months with lockdown and especially babysitting my dad (read this for context) but I am up for the challenge and I actually feel in a much better place than I was this time last year. Life’s much more than races, I understand myself more, why I am like I am and when COVID eventually fucks off, I am going to hug the fuck out of you all. Something we can all look forward to, eh?!
Did I mention you should really listen to my Running Punks playlist? It’s the perfect companion for running to get your vaccine and one step closer to a hug from me.
Gonna sign off now and just say – Mum I love you and I miss you.