For once, the tears weren’t (only) mineBy Emma Pearson
September 22, 2023
Main photo by Zac Ong on Unsplash
13 November 2022
Last Sunday I completed a 20 km running event. My first event of that distance (or so) in three years. I wrote about the run’s run-up here.
I have so often been on the verge of tears at various points in long runs – whether they are road or mountain events doesn’t seem to matter. I have started sobbing when I hit a certain point in a long event – such as the half-way point in my first ever marathon in Minneapolis in 1997. I remember wondering, “Heck! If I am sobbing this much now, what’s it going to be like at the end?” only to find that I was closer to laughing as I finished. I have sobbed my way into crossing the Finish line at the CCC and the OCC events that form part of the Mont Blanc Ultra Trail races – shorter events I completed with Mike, back in the time “Before”, in the land before, in my life before. I have even cried with joy and laughter as I swim. (Believe me – it’s not a good mix).
Since Mike died, I have routinely sobbed as I complete semi-marathons – the event we traditionally did together, on an annual basis, for no other reason than to celebrate our “us-ness”. I even cried, relatively loudly, on 22nd May this year, Edward’s birthday, as I completed a short-for-me 10 km, in honour of Ed, and raising money for La Maison de Tara.
For long, and long-ish distance runs and swims, have long been associated with Mike, raising money for charities I care for, and places in the world that we visited as a family to do volunteer work in. In essence, running long distances = memories. Golly gosh – I have just remembered that one of my first ever blog posts, back in 2014, for my professional website, was even about running (not a lot to do with my work at all!) It was called “Running on Purpose”. I still get goosebumps when I read that post – perhaps because of all of what I didn’t know at the time.
So for last Sunday’s Geneva 20km, Medjool insisted – truly insisted – on being there at the end for me. He has twigged that someone being there at the end is enormously important for me. That even though he doesn’t run, that even though he cannot replace Mike, he can at least be there at the end. For me. To welcome me home.
He has to try pretty damned hard. He brushes past my suggestion that instead he have a much-needed lie in, or a good solid walk with the dog up the Jura behind where I live. He ignores my deviously pathetic idea that perhaps instead he can just make some lunch that I will enjoy on my return. Instead, he makes a determined effort to figure out when I will be coming into the last few hundreds of metres of the race, and gets his beautiful arse, as well as the considerably hairier arse of my dog, there on time. So that the two of them can shout and bark and cheer and yelp me in.
I am touched. Truly honoured. It is still such a difficult moment for me. Finishing an event like this. Bittersweet. The pride inherent in completing something big. The preciousness of being met. The effort and sensitivity of Medjool realising just how important, vitally important, this gift is for me. And by now, acknowledging that, while I am slow, it is pretty good that I do this stuff. It does me good – the 20 km, and training for it beforehand. It does my body good. It does our relationship good. It does my dog good. And I even coax people to plant some trees on Gaia’s behalf. Which does us all some good.
Last week, as I finished, in – for the first time ever – a little over 2 hours, I slowed to a gentle walk as I proceeded through the Finish tapes, picking up a hot soup, a piece of banana, some water. Medjool followed my progress along the outside until the runner and non-runner areas came together, then folded me up into his long arms.
He held me tightly. Then held me some more. (Sweaty as I was).
I was holding back my tears and sobs.
I still want, need, to cry as I finish something like this.
Then I noticed that my right shoulder was getting a little damp.
And I heard some sniffles towards my right ear.
And I felt Medjool’s chest shake, tremble, a little, as it reached over my body.
I turned my face towards his and asked, “Are you crying?”
And he said, emotion constricting his throat, tears welling in his eyes and bursting over like glistening drops of dew, “Yes… I am. I don’t even know why. You ran it. I am just so proud of you”.
I feel that Mike has somehow passed the baton of support to him. That Medjool really understands that these events are significant at so many levels. That while the distance I cover might be decreasing year on year from what Mike and I did together, in our 30s and 40s, the larger point is to sign up, to do it, then be met at the end.
To be smiled at and held. Be held. Beheld. Behold-ed. Behold.
To experience a precious moment of pride and glory. And to share in that.
A big little thing.
A gigantic treat.
Thank you Medjool for crying our tears.