My first race booked for 2009 was the Reading Half Marathon on 29th March. I ran regularly to train for the race and the day dawned sunny but cold. This is one of my favourite races and I crossed the line in what I thought was 2:19:02 but then realised that was the gun time. My actual chip time was 2:10:49 – I had managed to take almost ten minutes off my previous half marathon time!
In May I did the Bedfont Lakes 5K, its inaugural parkrun at this venue, and finished in a time of 27:52
2009 was the year of the very very hot summer and my next race was on 14th June, the Southend Half Marathon, in Shoeburyness. All the family came with me and we met up with my mum-in-law, who lives near Southend, and my sister-in-law. I do love having family support at races, it really makes a difference. The race started, a two lap course out and back along the sea front. I have to say that the heat really made this race a struggle, there wasn’t even a sea breeze and I did not enjoy the race at all. I saw many people being treated for the effect of the heat and was grateful to get to the end! I finished in 2:20:05, which given the circumstances I wasn’t too disappointed with.
On 20th June I took part in the Bedfont Lakes parkrun again and recorded a time of 27:21.
I then had two weeks to go before my next race. I had booked to do the Cranleigh 10K, only about 40 mins drive away, on 5th July. Come race day it was still very warm. I can thoroughly recommend this race, it takes you through some beautiful countryside and two farms – probably not good if you’re allergic to animals though! Everyone was very friendly and I was pleased to finish in just over an hour, at 60:04.
We had another family outing in July to the athletics at Crystal Palace, really enjoyable and an outing I would really recommend for any age.
I felt good about my running, and life in general, my family were well and everything seemed to be going to plan.
But that wasn’t going to last.
In early August 2009 my dear mum suffered a heart attack and despite best efforts doctors were unable to save her and three days later her life support was switched off. She and my dad had been together for almost 60 years and to see his utter devastation was heartbreaking. But, being the gentleman that he is, he told my sister and I that our lives must go on and we musn’t make changes to accommodate him. But of course we did but he was absolutely insistent that I didn’t stop running. In fact, it helped me enormously. I went out for my first run again about two or three weeks after mum died and it helped me put everything back into perspective, as did a refreshing day trip to Lulworth Cove at the end of August.
My next race, on 6th September 2009, was the Harry Hawkes 8(miles), in Thames Ditton. This was only a few miles from Dad’s house so he came along to watch and I could see the pride in his face as I headed towards the finished line at the end, in a time of 1:16:52. He said Mum would’ve been so proud of me.
The children had returned to school and me to work as a Special Needs Teaching Assistant and life slowly took on some sense of normality again. My sister and I obviously gave Dad as much support as he wanted but, being of his generation, he is very independent and never wanted to, and still doesn’t want to, ask for help with anything, despite being nearly 80 years old.
The R4W Windsor 8K (5 mile) was next, on 26th September. I’m biased of course, but this has always been one of my favourite races. Everything is superbly organised, plenty of facilities and everyone is always really friendly. And, somehow, the sun always shines brightly! I was very pleased with my time of 46:34.
My next challenge was to be the Great South Run on 25 October. I had promised to run for a local charity set up by two close friends of mine who had both lost children at a very early age. The charity, Heavenly Stars, aims to provide support to those families with life limited children and so is a very worthy cause. The children held a cake stall at my son’s school to start the fundraising which was great fun. Race day arrived and we travelled once again to Southsea in plenty of time. But despite that, I still managed to forget to put my timing chip on my shoe! I finished in a time of around 01:40:00. Altogether we raised about £600 for the charity and I was slightly embarrassed to be presented with a certificate and flowers at a school assembly just afterwards and was asked to tell the children about the race.
We then went off for a very much looked forward to family break to Cumbria for five days. Visiting the Lake District always invigorates and refreshes me and I really think if I could go and live there I would!
So that was all my races for 2009. I carried on running regularly through the Autumn and Winter to prepare myself for 2010 and my next race, the Silverstone Half Marathon.
Next time – the final chapter