Tuesday, 24 April 2012

On running and dying

Amongst this year's London Marathon's mania was a tinge of tragedy. A competitor collapsing short of the finish is sad enough, that said competitor dies after collapsing is devastating. It's the second high profile running death in our close knit UK community of road racing distance runners in the last month. And it gets me thinking, of all sorts of things. 

Death does that, makes you contemplate life, reminds you of your own mortality. Even if just for a second you think "there but for the grace of God..." It makes you think how lucky you are to feel invigorated with cold-tingle are after a run through constant drizzle. It makes you push harder in your next attempt at running exactly the pace you want. It makes you thank your family and friends for their constant ungrumbling patience of early mornings, big appetites and full washing machines. It makes you donate a tenner to a charity you've been meaning to for ages. 

That's good right? Isn't it? Or should we be aware of those things anyway? Do we need the unfortunate passing of one of our own  to focus our attention? 

What I have noticed about runners is that - for people on the move - we're very good at spotting the little things. The sunrises and sunsets in winter that punctuate our runs; the sparkle of dew, frost, canals and rivers; the nod, smile or upwards grimace of a fellow runner; the slow increase in blood sweat and tears as each of us reach towards our goals. So many of us run for charity, support each other's charities and dig deep to donate. And more than a few of us have confessed to roaring, whirling, dancing, whooping, punching the air throughout runs -celebrating feeling alive. 

So what more can we do? Is it about spending more time with family, friends and other loved ones? Do we too often indulge ourselves with time on trail and road to the detriment of quality time with others? Or should we hit the road more to honour those who've passed before us; raise funds for the dead, continue their legacy and raise awareness of their causes. Is it about continuing what we do, answering the primal urge to move rather than sit, giving our mind the space to contemplate the biggest thoughts and tiniest thinks on a meditative long slow run and doing what we love because isn't that what life is all about?

The answer to this is both different and personal to everyone, and the more I've written this post, the more lost in thought I've become. I think I might have even had a point or a thought to share and that has got completely lost too. 

So instead I'll finish on the slightly lighter end of a sombre topic. After all, death is unavoidable for us all at some point, so we better make sure that until that while we remain alive, we keep living:

"Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows that it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows that it must out run the slowest gazelle or it will starve. 

It does not matter whether you are a lion or gazelle. When the sun comes up you had better be running."

Rest in peace: Ged Clarke, Claire Squires, Micah True. 


  1. I think all we can do is make the most of each day and whatever time we have here. When my mom tells me that running & riding is dangerous, I tell her I could die any other way (bus, earthquake, etc.) and when it's our time, it's our time. I would not mind dying while doing something I loved. I'd hope I'd done all I wanted to by then.

  2. What a lovely moving post Rowena. Running is a celebration of life and is in honour of one of the greatest gifts life bestows - the choice to move at will under our own steam, to control our destiny even if only a little bit. It also brings us amazing friends and role models. Stand up Rowena and Lisa.

    We run for those who can't and pity those who won't. Lisa you're right, life is really dangerous - running actually makes it a lot less risky. So let's RUN!