Why am I doing this? That is the question that enters my mind as I watch the pavement pound by beneath me for mile after straining mile.
Like a doubting flagellant, I question the purpose of this self-inflicted pain. Here I am, fifty-one years old and training for my first marathon; how did this happen?
I’ve had an on-off relationship with running since I was in my early teens and being tall and narrow framed, this naturally translated into a talent for stamina rather than speed. As a child, I was always the last to be picked at sports and so the solitude of a distance run has long held an appeal, but never before have I attempted anything quite like this. In my mid-twenties I did briefly consider it, back when I was much fitter and carried fewer pounds. An acquaintance, who ran marathons himself, assured me one evening over a beer, that if I could run fifteen kilometres, I could run a marathon and I already knew I could run fifteen kilometres. And so, the seed of a thought was sown, only to be rapidly quashed by the energetic apathy of youth. At that age, there always seems to be plenty of time for such frivolous things though sometimes that turns out not to be true.
That seed thought has never really left me, it merely lay quietly dormant and brooding, patiently biding its time, waiting for the trigger that would propel it forward. A yearning to prove to myself that I can do this remained and if I could have been bothered to write a bucket list, a marathon would surely have featured.
So now, as I face the reality of my middle-age and ponder the inexorable creep towards its twilight, the trigger is found.
I first became aware of Kidney Cancer UK through my friend Ed Gerrard (pictured left, center, in 2016) who had been diagnosed with the disease. He was due to make a speech at a dinner held by the charity at the House of Lords and a group of us decided to go along in support. The evening was excellent and for us, the highlight was Ed’s moving speech about his experience with cancer and his desire to go on for his young sons. This was one of the last times I saw Ed looking truly well before cancer began to overwhelm him. Over the subsequent months, I learned what Kidney Cancer UK had done for Ed and how much he had valued that help. My friends and I made it to the dinner the following year, but tragically Ed did not, cancer had already taken him.
Ed was a very fit man who competed in Iron Man competitions for fun. I remember commenting once, while looking through old group photographs, that he was the only one of us who looked fitter with age. As the rest of the peer group slowly succumbed to middle-aged spread, Ed grew leaner and stronger. Watching someone like that deteriorate under the enfeebling assault of cancer is very hard. The inexorable nature of the decline starkly confronts you with the reality of mortality. To sit with someone as their vibrancy slowly washes away to an increasingly thinning pallor can be frightening. What do you say when the only thing they have seen for weeks is the inside of a hospital? Gone are the casual, taken for granted laughing conversations about the highlights of the week when all their highlights are taken from them. Under these strains, it is easy to begin to find excuses to avoid the visit and being human, on occasion I did. I was not always there when I could have been for Ed, I did not always take the time when I should have. But as hard as it may be to watch a strong fit man deteriorate, it is harder still to be that strong fit man. Ed could not run away as I could. But Angels step in where mortals fear to tread and like that angel, Kidney Cancer UK stepped in. The charity was always there for Ed, the charity never failed to support Ed, and for that I am grateful.
And so here I am pounding the roads day after day. That original seed thought from my twenties combined with gratitude towards those who helped my friend, finally combining to provide the impetus to run the London Marathon. So, I will do this little thing in memory of a man who could do so much more, I will run in Ed’s memory and to raise money for Kidney Cancer UK and if you can find it in you to support me, please do by visiting my page here.
Kidney Cancer UK would like to thank Colin for the continuous support and generosity he has shown to the charity over the years.