Tuesday, 8 April 2014

The final countdown...

I WRITE this with less than a week to go to the big day, the culmination of a pledge I made just seven months ago to run a marathon to honour the life, and praise the courage, of my wife Diane, who died of breast cancer in February 2013.
When she lost her fight, just a few weeks after thinking she’d beaten this terrible disease, she made me promise her that I would not allow myself to go downhill. I was in a shocking state health-wise. I weighed 24 stones, had mobility problems and suffered from Type 2 diabetes.
I couldn’t get up a flight of stairs without struggling for breath. If I hadn’t done something quickly, I could have seen myself in a wheelchair within a very short space of time.
Now, here I sit, just over a year later, looking forward to next weekend. I now weigh 15-and-a-half stones (so still plenty to work off!), I have lost eight inches off my waist and dropped five shirt sizes. My diabetes is now undetectable and I am desperately hoping I can finish the 26.2 miles round Rotterdam next Sunday, the city where Diane grew  up and learned to be the wonderful woman I was lucky enough to share more than 20 years of my life with, in under five hours.
She never got to take me to the city, although she always wanted to. She wanted me to see where she laughed, cried, played, went to school and lived.
A lot of you will think I’m repeating myself, but the only point I’m making is that this is now a time for reflection. A time to take stock, before I fly off to realise this dream.
Life without Diane to hold, to hug, to kiss and to just be with, has been difficult. You put on a brave face, you try not to cry when anyone’s around. You try hard to cope and you have days when you don’t quite manage it.
But my life is not without Diane.
She is in heart and my head, especially when I run. That’s our personal, private time together. When I run, I think of nothing but Diane. And I want to think of her for as long as possible, so I want to run for as long as possible.
I think that’s why I’ve taken to this distance running so quickly. I can’t get enough of it because I can’t get enough of our “us” time.
People often talk about longing for some “me” time. I say cherish the “us” time. I have more “me” time right now than I know what to do with. What I crave is going back to all the “us” time I had with Diane. Make the most of yours. Before you know it, you might find yourself sitting like I did a year ago struggling to cope with how empty the house felt.
But my life isn’t empty. Diane fills it still. And she’ll be with me every step of the way on Sunday.
My biggest challenge on the big day could be to keep a lid on my emotions until after the race. It won’t be easy. Standing on the start line with the other 13,500 runners will be emotional enough, let alone running the race. Heaven only knows what the last 200 metres will feel like.
One thing is certain. This is not the end of this story. This is merely the end of Chapter One. I have begun to write on that blank piece of paper I mentioned in a previous post. Now we are on the brink of starting Chapter 2, and just like when I began to write Chapter 1, I have as yet no idea what it will reveal or where it will take me.
There are certain to be more marathons, more adventures, more ways to celebrate the life of Diane, the most wonderful person I have ever met or am ever likely to meet.
Cancer took her body away. But it could not take away what she means to me. I am aiming to show the world just how much she is still a part of everything I do on Sunday.

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