I have a love hate relationship with running. I'm not a natural- I turn such a dark shade of red that strangers have asked if I'm ok. Getting a place in a half marathon meant I was going to have to find something I enjoyed about it though.
My training began with short runs on a busy walkway at the back of my house. I frequently ran past the same lady. Over time I saw her heavily pregnant walking the dog, then with her newborn, and once or twice her partner joined them. This woman remains a total stranger to me but each run acted like a jigsaw piece building a beautiful picture of someone beginning family life.
Having mastered the 5k path, I needed to improve my fitness. It was time to face the horrific hills of North London. Approaching the top of what seemed a never-ending hill, I noticed an elderly man had moved over to the side and was waiting for me to pass. Normally this would be a kind gesture but all I wanted to do was give up and now I had audience. The grimace on my face obvious made my feelings clear because the gentleman shouted "you can doooooo it dear". As I finally approached him he stood back from his zimmer frame to clap and cheer me on, making me feel like I could have run for miles. Sadly that didn't last long at all, but his encouragement was still greatly appreciated.
Forcing myself outside in the cold and rain was miserable. On one occasion I was feeling particularly sorry for myself when I heard singing which turned out to be a huge African wedding. Guests in amazing colourful outfits danced joyfully as the bride and groom left the church. I couldn't help but smile. This was their big day and my run would be over and forgotten within an hour. The rain wasn't ruining anything for them, so why let it get to me?
Race day came and I was dreading it, feeling under prepared and petrified of failing. I was running for Save5, an organ donation cause my godmother 'T' started whilst on the donor list hoping for new lungs. I had only reached 4 miles when the doubt kicked in and I didn't want to go a step further. I was soon saved by another runner who tapped me on the shoulder having recognised Save5 from my T-shirt. She had undergone a liver transplant herself and was now running for a similar cause. Instead of dwelling on her own misfortune she congratulated me and said what an amazing woman T must be. The enormity of 55,000 people all running for great causes suddenly hit me. Why was someone praising me when I had never faced the misfortune of all the people who had inspired charity runners? This was a really poignant moment for me and I didn't deal with it very well, spending the next half mile crying! I will never forget that moment. All thanks to a stranger, but a fellow runner.
They say it's the small things in life that matter but I find it very easy to be stuck in my daily routine. For me, running provided a small window into the people and world that surrounds me everyday. It forced me to stop and notice what was out there and I was amazed by what I found. That's how I ran my half marathon and I hope to run many more.
Author: Olivia Flynn