Well, I’ve done it. On Sunday, I ran a competitive half marathon for the first time in aid of the Alzheimer’s Society and I have to say, I loved (almost) every minute of it. When you hear of people running 50 marathons in 50 days for charity, my humble effort is hardly newsworthy. Yet, for someone who once finished last in a 400 metres school race when the person in front of me ran backwards for the last quarter of the race and still beat me, Sunday’s performance was significant! Aside from raising money for the worthiest of causes, I felt a sense of personal achievement, finishing in a respectable time and still being able to hold a reasonable conversation soon after I crossed the line.
The experience also taught me something else.
For the first 40-plus years of my life, Mum was always a huge source of strength for me. When my A-Level results were poorer than I’d hoped for and I missed out on my university of choice, it was Mum who, in her typically no-nonsense way, took charge. Within an hour, and with me still moping on the sofa, she’d arranged an interview for me at the local Polytechnic. They were to offer me a place and I couldn’t have wished for a better experience of further education. All down to Mum.
Earlier, when I was going through a particularly unhappy period at school, Mum was at my side, never challenging my right to feel the way I did but always encouraging me to overcome those feelings. I owe her so much and a determination to repay her has underpinned all that I’ve done since Dad died and Mum was diagnosed with dementia a couple of weeks later.
It’s hard for the Mum of 2012 to be a source of strength in the same way. She did her usual trick of disappearing when my back was turned on my last visit. She’d returned to the lounge area and seemed surprised to see me when I chased after her. Although she was in bright spirits, that last visit was a sobering affair. First of all, she told me my wife had moved away, which was news to me and fortunately, to my wife as well! Then, she told me that Duncan had moved away because he couldn’t stand the comings and goings. I know Mum knows she knows me but this was the first time she’d talked about me in the third person. Does she know I’m her son anymore? I’m really not sure.
So, it’s hard to take much strength from our encounters. But, and this is a huge but as far as I’m concerned, as I pounded the streets of Coventry on Sunday, Mum was with me. In days gone by, she’d have been there in person, cheering me on. Instead, her face was in front of me for every one of the 13 miles. Seeing her there, smiling that beautiful smile, how could I not run my heart out? On Sunday, Mum was as much a source of strength as ever.