Tomorrow I am participating in the Geneva 20 km run. The last time I participated in a distance like this – approximating a semi-marathon – was 2019. The year Julia died. I remember that event so clearly. It astounds me that it was already three years ago. And yes, COVID happened.
The Lausanne semi-marathon is an event that Mike and I did each year for many years. To honour the time of year (end of October) that we had started going out together, back in 1987. We did the semi-marathon together, but separately. He’d always finish ahead of me.
The last one we did together was in 2015.
In 2016, he had already felt the “tuggy ache” in his abdomen that, a few days later, spelled pancreatic cancer. I ran that event alone. Scared. Very scared. Bravely innocent. Innocently brave. I remember the H O P E I still had that nothing much was up with Mike. I was so wrong.
In 2017, for what would have been the 30-year celebration of our being together, and six months after Mike died, I ran the semi-marathon alone. I was greeted at the end by Helen, Mike’s eldest sister. She and I went out to commemorate our almost 30 years, (because “celebrate” becomes “commemorate” when someone has died), in our favourite restaurant, Rita & Albert. I was so numb.
In 2018 and in 2019 I also ran the event, but I scarcely have a memory, other than feeling lonely, cold, shell-shocked. More numb.
Then COVID happened. 2020 was cancelled. 2021 too.
And now we are 2022, and I cannot be bothered to get my arse over to Lausanne. But I do still want to run. I do still want to try to keep moving faster than when I walk, covering distance in forests, fields and around lakes, that I wouldn’t be able to do just walking. It’s a different feeling. Even though my running is slower than many people’s walking by now.
I have slowed down. Enormously. My deceleration has accelerated. I was sub-2 hours for my last semi-marathon in 2019 (1h54 I seem to remember). And tomorrow, judging by my recent training runs up in the forests above me, I will be lucky to be under 2h15. Which is just fine. Though of course, I have entered far too fast a wave. Not to worry. I will let them all go past me. One thing I know how to do is not be pulled along by people faster than me. I stay in my bubble pretty much from beginning to end.
I am looking forward to it. I am looking forward to what it feels like to be towards the back of the pack. To not even aim for a time (because before I did always aim to be under 2 hours…).
My first 20 km was back in 1980, in Brussels. I was 13. My time, I remember (and my dad has all the records anyway), was 1h38. On no specific training other than my then weekly regime of ice-skating, swimming and orienteering. It was so effortlessly fast!
I rapidly increased my time – as in, I slowed down – as I hit puberty, when “being fit” became more effort – to around 1h45. I hovered there for a decade or two before nudging up to the “just under 2 hour mark” in my 40s and early 50s. And now, mid 50s, I will be well and truly over the 2 hour mark. So be it.
And to me that deserves all the more accolades. All the more cheers. I remember, when I did my first marathon, back in 1997, a friend, Paul, who was aiming to complete in 5 hours, said, “I think it’s those people who take 5 hours for a marathon who should be getting the medals, not just those who are a smidge over 2 hours! Surely 5 hours is much more effort?” There is some truth in that.
So again, I ask for accolades, in the form of sponsorship.
There have been many good causes that I have invited people to sponsor over the years – from Habitat for Humanity to other humanitarian organisations we volunteered for as a family in Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Ghana and Laos; for Pancreatic cancer, Glioblastoma, Child Bereavement, Widowed support, La Maison de Tara… and others.
But today my overriding passion, concern and focus is on helping our planet survive. Regenerate health and clean air. Attempt to slow down the over-heating. By planting and growing trees to absorb some of the CO2 that is at such devastating levels already.Much needs to be done at COP27. But even if agreements are not reached, even if leaders, politicians, and each one of us remains incapable of putting in place the measures we need to minimise further damage, I still believe in trying. I still believe in faith. I still believe in hope. Otherwise I might as well curl up and spend the day in bed.
So please help plant trees. Here’s a summary on how they help us survive and thrive.
Reforest’Action is the organisation I have been supporting most recently:
https://www.reforestaction.com/ is the main link
https://www.reforestaction.com/en is the link in English
Pick a place you’d like to plant trees, and donate as many as you can. Perhaps one for every kilometre I run? 😉 https://www.reforestaction.com/en/i-plant-my-forest
And I would love to know how many trees have been planted thanks to all of you, and thanks to my 20 km run. I include here the Google Doc I set up for the 13 km swim across Lac Leman in the summer (which I didn’t quite complete), and the 30+ day walk along the Pyrenees just afterwards. This will be my last event in 2022. I would love to see what we can do to help our planet keep breathing.
Favourite running areas above where I live, with my dog