Claire Malaika T
Posted by

These are the lessons I've learnt from running

Claire Malaika T
Posted by
16 Apr 2014

For J.

These are the lessons I've learnt from running.

Running has always been a part of my life, you see. As a bub, my mother would pack car, bags, and babies into a beaten Landrover across Africa to support my father in some form of long distance running. One of my earliest memories - largely constructed around a photograph - is in fact from the Comrades Marathon in South Africa, where my young(ish) parents clutch in each of their arms a child, beaming into a camera.

 

Growing up, countries and faces changed, but the one constant was the running. As a kid, my days followed the rhythm of my father returning home after work, sweaty and smiling, running shoes kicked off, and hearing him sing his ridiculous made up songs to himself in the bath. Later, as a teen and then young adult, I ran mostly to make him proud. Because, I didn't really get it. The pull of running. Not then.

 

When he was first diagnosed, I didn't know what any of this meant. "Acute Myeloid Leukaemia" came my mother's voice through the phone. I sat on the floor. I shut down, and let my body go through the automatics. He lived for a while. He fought, so incredibly hard. I watched my hero, be human, his body fail, his mind slip into a coma, to watch death throw its thick blanket. I gripped his hand when they switched his machine off, and in the silence of that moment felt my entire body scream. 10:49. 

 

These are the lessons I've learnt from running.

By the time my father passed away, my running had become a space, in between the hospital and the sleepless nights at home. I ran until the only thing that ached any longer were my legs. When the machine stopped, so too did my running. Running had for too long been him, you see. It turned out that ultimately, in the unbearableness of grief, I couldn't run long enough to make the pain stop. 

 

That was at the end of 2011. In the summer of 2013, I picked up my trainers again having stumbled across an advert for Run to the Beat in London, and the opportunity to run for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. Tentatively, I laced up, and started running. This time, the grief matched my stride as slowly, I built up both the strength in my legs and the confidence in myself. Initially, I aimed for a target of £500. In the space of a few weeks, it had doubled, and by the time the Half Marathon came around, I had tripled my initial target. The love and support and faith I received carried me not only in moments of the run, but in many others since. Two weeks ago, I ran my first Marathon. I wore the same yellow T-Shirt proclaiming to the whole of Paris my charitable intent. Just after the 15 mile mark, a woman caught up to me and in French said that I was doing something really good. At first, I didn't quite understand, before she pointed at my shirt. And then it dawned on me that what I thought was initially strain from the run, were her eyes filled with tears, "Mon papa..." She began, and stopped. I took her fingers and answered, "Mon papa aussi". For a moment we ran in silence, two complete strangers before now timid smiles wished each other luck. 

 

This is the lesson I have learnt from running.

I can control time. As the mind gives way to the rhythmic balance of breath and pace, time is a vacuum. And within it, I run with my father once again.