This morning’s Pause For Thought on the Zoe Ball Breakfast Show for BBC Radio 2, because April can be a struggle for all sorts of reasons and the London Marathon is happening this weekend. Listen here.
I tried to run a 10k race once, but when the starting gun fired everyone else disappeared into the distance. I was by far the slowest, chugging along Bexhill seafront slowly in the sun feeling worse and worse. As I passed each checkpoint the steward would get on the radio and say: “Right, that’s the last one, packing up now.”
Somehow I made it almost to the finishing line, just as the big inflatable arch was being deflated. My knees hurt, my lungs were on fire and my brain was scrambled. That’s when my kids appeared wanting to run the last few yards with me, which was lovely and uplifting and kind of their Mum to organise but I also hated it, to be honest, because I didn’t like them seeing me in such a state.
I mention this because the marathon is happening on Sunday, but also because April is a time of year when so many of us feel like we’re just limping along, waiting for the winter to properly end. One minute the sun is out and flowers are blooming, the next there’s snow on the bluebells. It messes with your mind.
Ramadan is about to finish and Muslim friends tell me the last few days of fasting between dawn and dusk can be the hardest, before the celebrations begin. Christians can feel a bit flat after our own big festival but for me the story of Easter and its aftermath is that life is stronger than death, hope beats despair and love wins over cruelty, which helps me cope when the race is hard.
I’m also inspired by the people who run alongside me. One of the kids who finished that 10k with me is grown up now and will soon run a half marathon himself.
When he does, I’ll remind him of the steward who saw me hobble towards the finishing line muttering something about the humiliation of being last and said, in words I would share with anyone who hits the wall on Sunday or who feels like they’re struggling in life right now:
“Keep going. You’ll get there. And you’re not last. You’re ahead of everyone who never showed up.”