The Race for Life
Four-eyes, fatso were among the nicknames I was given when I was at school while a virtual verruca stayed with me for 3 years, conveniently excusing me from school sports. I didn’t have a model’s figure and was embarrassed in front of my peers.
Years later, I am a regular at the gym, an intermediate in Pilates and quite adept at Tai Chi. Diets have come and gone, calorie counting proved anti-social and starvation was unpleasant and definitely not recommended.
Last year I strolled into Hyde Park and into a sea of people dressed in pink. Thousands of women had congregated to take part in the annual Cancer Research Race for Life. Mother, sister, aunts and children, of all ages, heights, and size were there. Rabbit ears, wigs, grass skirts, funny hats and pink ribbons gave light meaning to the seriousness behind the reason for the race. Each entrant was proudly numbered while pinned on every back were individual messages, sad memories and names of those lost. “For my dad, my aunt and best friend”, “for all who help to fight the disease”, “for my mum who fought so hard but lost”. All moving words.
The next day I registered online. Eleven months later, panic set in. I started to think about upping my fitness level. My efforts in the gym trebled. I jogged, ran a little and walked faster and for longer, motivated by the cause and for those who kindly and generously donated money.
Sunday 31st July arrived. I was up early and felt very apprehensive. I had never taken part in such an event. Would I fail? Could I do it? What if I was last? Those names from my childhood were flooding back – where was that verruca? I was reminded that it was not a competition; no one would judge but support and value my contribution.
The sun was shining and Hyde Park has been rearranged for our race. Pink was the colour of the day and again thousands attended, some in groups, in twos for support and individuals who had their private reasons. The runners were going off first, followed by the joggers and then the walkers. There was the option for 5k or 10k, an achievement for everyone.
I approached the start line, nervous and slightly claustrophobic as we crowded onto the park road, hundreds deep. Rick Astley followed by Petula Clarke led my iPod entertainment which became my upbeat companion throughout the 10k course. Emotions welled as I was aware of the suffering many had faced as they whizzed past me and when, on the occasions, I overtook them.
The park proved the perfect backdrop and distraction from the effort required to complete the challenge I had set myself. I ran past the Serpentine Lake and the Sunday morning strollers walking with their dogs. I passed the Albert Memorial, it too a poignant reminder of the loss of loved ones. Queen Victoria commissioned this monument in memory of her beloved husband and Consort. and was unveiled back in1872. But it was the18ft bronze statue of Achilles, the Greek hero of the Trojan War, who was my target and mascot. Standing high and proud, carrying a sword and shield with his armour beside him, he was a welcome sight, located just 1k from the finishing line. After a nod to him, joy and relief spurred me to the finish line, ahead of some, behind many.
I achieved my goal and was honoured and humbled to be amongst so many fighters for life. So many played their part and continue to do so. We are a nation of givers proved by the many events which take place around the country throughout the year. I finished the race.