And you thought it was all over …it is now!
A return to normal? It has taken a whole calendar month for this final blog entry to be written. Every time I’ve sat down to write, I’ve had nothing, no inspiration, no drive, no reason to write. Plus there have been some brilliant blogs written by others in the ‘Fellowship of the Lake’, that simply left me wordless. The most recent blog post I’ve read has been the stimulus for me to finally publish this one. Richard Rex you’ll probably hate this but you have been the inspiration for this particular blog post since January of this year and certainly since day one of the 10in10.
This was my ‘treat’ on Monday 22nd May. Cheap breakfast but bloody cholesterolly lovely.
Just a word of warning if you intend to read to the end. I’m not editing this blog, it will be straight from heart and mind to fingers, to keyboard, t’internet; I want to try to recapture the last day, the aftermath, the fallout and how reality is now. Therefore it might be repetitive (in places I’ve started to write this several times and failed), boring, offensive (although it is not meant to be) perhaps a little eclectic but it will be unadulterated – which will be the first time that I’ve been that pure in a few years.
Leading up to the last day there were many useful utterances, sage sentences and inspired offerings from experienced 10in10ers; have another ‘event’ to look forward to, expect the ‘Brathay Bump’, be prepared for some marathon melancholy. So I’ve sat on my last post, my last Brathay Ten in Ten blog for over four weeks; my excuse to let the emotions die down, to begin to feel ‘normal’ again, to try to contemplate whether it was such a big deal. As I’ve written before please don’t misunderstand me, I know ten marathons in ten days is a feat but it really is not that special. It is simply putting one foot in front of the other for ten days, that’s all. What about those people in deprived countries who still have to walk for clean water daily, children who trudge to escape war or conflict, children who suffer from exploitation or poverty in this country all hoping for a brighter future, surely what they do is worth more recognition than 20 ‘old people’ running around a big lake. A few people used the words inspirational. Now really, who and how have I/we inspired anyone? The best we’ve done is to hopefully make a small difference to some young people and families, to what end? Well, I hope that is for them to find out and I do sincerely hope we’ve made a difference, we have to believe we have.
Back in January we were asked what was our motivation for entering the Ten in Ten? My answer, to demonstrate change, to believe that change was possible, harking back to the title of the ‘first’ Star Wars, ‘A New Hope’, my attempt to defeat the darkness inside of me, my own personal Death Star.
As selfish as ever, I wanted and expected this event to change my life, I was told it would, I believed it would and yet, it has continued much as it has before, I still leave things to the last minute, I still don’t prepare enough in advance, I am still idle and procrastinate just as much as before. What I thought, was that I would achieve something truly special, like those people who have really attained something that they and their families can be proud of, truly amazing people who have overcome real adversity and who in every understanding of the word are inspirational, like Jane Tomlinson, Claire Lomas, Stephen Hawking, Robert Downey Jr, even my mate Mark Franklin. Then there are hundreds and thousands of ‘unknowns’ out there who battle and beat their demons and have rebuilt their lives after losing their job, suffered a catastrophic injury, beaten cancer, or chosen to beat the odds, or achieve something that ‘normal’ says they can’t or shouldn’t, and on a daily basis. I remember when I began to write this and asked a few colleagues who they thought was inspirational, Rachel (Colligan) mentioned her Dad, Mireya (Castell Fernandez) mentioned Frida Kahlo but something didn’t resonate. My inspiration was (I’ve said it once I’ll say it again) borne of selfish reasons. To prove to myself I could change, which I haven’t as much as I want. To profoundly demonstrate to my ex-partner that I’m a better man; but I’m not (just received a text to confirm it, I’m still as poisonous as before). To be a better father to my children, you’ll have to ask them about that in a few years time, if I’ve not screwed them up in the meantime (Philip Larkin). Equally to show to my Mum, my sisters they could trust me. And finally to prove to my Dad that I was capable of seeing something challenging through from beginning to end.
What has changed? So far nothing, can things change, yes I believe they can. Do I believe that I’ve been inspiring, no definitely not. Do I believe I’m a good man, yes, I do, or at least on the way there. Am I a decent father, yes, I believe I am. A good son? Getting better. I beat some demons around that course but not all of them. Equally I do not think for one moment I’m ‘cured’ nor do I believe I have done myself justice, but we’ll come back to that.
Other things that I wanted to return to ‘normal’ were the hairs to grow back on my legs, the swelling to subside on my shins, the amount of grey hairs that I seemed to have accumulated over the duration of the Ten in Ten to return to their usual dark brown (that’s not happened so maybe I might invest in some Grecian 2000 in the future, not).
Back in January, I managed to ‘catch’ Rexy (but he had already run the course the day previous) on the Saturday reccy run at around 18 miles. Now, as most of my old friends will tell you I am a competitive stubborn bugger. Secretly, Richard Rex became my ‘quarry’, my Ceryneian Hind. Gosh, how up myself can I be? But still I fancied my chances. Just once I wanted to catch him around the course, just once to run with him, to pass him, to think I could almost be equal to a man who I really think is inspiring. Rexy became our ‘leader’, he was proposed as Chieftain of the Day Ten Brathay Battle Cry (and rightly so). There is something about Richard Rex, something I admire in him, just as I admire the other important inspirational male characters in my life (for the record, my Dad, Len Bamford, Mark Franklin, Paul Slater). I want to be like them, I want my children to believe that I’m as brilliant as these five men are. I hope…
On the last day I got thinking about my school days, in particular a certain Neil Venning. I chatted to Dr Katie about him for a good ten minutes, how he could put a ball to feet from 60 yards, how he made things look easy on a pitch, he exuded a quiet and immovable strength partnered with effortless class. Now, Neil always crops up in conversation whenever, Paul, Mark and I get together. We laugh about the time Neil collected the Secondary School League Trophy (even though I was the school football captain) at Gresley Old Hall, we laugh about how gifted we all thought he was at that age, I remember how Neil was my unofficial minder on the pitch, how he once nutted a big bloke (when we were still young teenagers) in Sunday League and subsequently got his marching orders and all because this player had given me a kicking. Neil without question was and still is the best football player I ever set foot on a football pitch with. I remember those days and Neil with great fondness. Unfortunately, I think he wasted his talent on beer. We all have demons, we all get knock-backs, bumps in the road, adversity to overcome, sometimes we win, sometimes we don’t but what we have to do, what we must do is keep believing, keep moving forward, one step at a time, keep hoping.
Neil if you are out there? If you choose to read this, (and I don’t mean or want to preach) it is never too late for whatever it is you want to be, unless of course you want to sit in the pub, then it is entirely up to you.
On that last day running around Windermere I also remembered Stephen Gadsby, my best friend from primary school. At one point we were inseparable, football together, scrumping together, even, dare I say it, stealing penny chews from Pratts Shop together. Almost 40 years later it feels as though that chapter didn’t get properly closed. The relevance of this is that I miss my mates, I’m too far away from them, too removed from Kim (Geering), Mark (O’Reilly), Debs (White), Sakis (Dinas), Mark (Franklin), Paul (Slater) and even the 19+new ‘friends’ that I’ve now met as a result of the Ten in Ten. Perhaps we will stay in touch, perhaps we won’t, I just have to hope we do…
Not sure whether I’ve disclosed this yet? If I have, apologies for repetition (I did warn you) but if I haven’t then excellent, as I need to give thanks. On the morning of Day 9 I lay on the massage plinth and didn’t want to run, not walk, not shuffle, not move. I wanted to give up. I asked why Dr Katie and Aimee were bothering, it was an exercise in futility, I told Aly Knowles as much, I told her I wasn’t worth it, totally pointless wasting their valuable time on massaging my useless muscles and legs. Yes, melodramatic, but then that’s me. But I said it, I can’t take it back. Aly’s response was different, her belief in me unwavering. She told me I could do it, I was worth it and I was worth believing in. Adam Smith (who is as straight as a die) spoke with me and told me that day 9 was a day to conquer demons, that he believed I could do it and wanted me to succeed. Dr Katie explained that day nine was a watershed (how true that was, with the tears that were released that day) and as ever Aimee remained faithful and as hopeful as the first day we met. During day nine four people gave me belief, gave me hope, without whom I would not have shuffled a single step. Thank you.
I also want and need to thank Mac Knowles, Jim Meta, Chris Heaton, Paul and Trudi Dewar. They each contributed to the ten days (I don’t care if you think this is a cliche) in ways they will perhaps never appreciate but their support, their words, their faith helped me beyond measure.
This may sound ungrateful but when I crossed the finish line to the smiles of friends who had travelled miles to see me, to the embrace of my Mum, sister and children, I expected to feel something I’d never felt before. Unfortunately, I didn’t. What was it I expected? Elation? Sure I was happy. In fact I was overwhelmed that Kim and Debs had made the journey. I was amazed they’d bothered for me. They knew how much this meant to me. Seeing Mum and my sister at how proud (I could feel it) they were of the fact that I’d shuffled round Windermere for a little over a week was amazing. But me, I didn’t get it. The finish was an anti-climax, this massive change, this gargantuan shift, this new man I’d expected to become, well, it simply didn’t happen. I’m still me. Even a month on, the same, no different, so what next? Read the last line on the page for the answer.
Now, as much as I hate to admit it (it is certainly not the soundtrack to my life that I’d hope to end this particular chapter of my life so far) but yet it seems to fit, I’d like to leave you having paraphrased Rod Stewart. Equally, I know now I’m not going to be the iconic individual I somehow hoped I would be and certainly no Heavyweight Champion of the World but I will keep moving forward to be the best I can be
Ever since I was a kid in school
I messed around with all the rules
Apologized, then realized
I’m not different after all
Promises made in the heat of night
I wasted all that precious time
And blamed it on the wine Looking for a way to hide my fear
What kind of fool was I?
I could never win
Now you ask me if I’m sincere
That’s the question that I always fear
‘Cause what I’m doing must be wrong
Pouring my heart out in a song
Owning up for prosperity
For the whole damn world to see
I asked Théo whether I should apply for next year’s Ten in Ten? His answer, yes. Why, I asked? His answer, ‘to be better.’
And so, I’ll continue to do more of the same; more sobriety, more moving forwards, more running, and more hope…