A run for my Dad
Running is an emotional thing for me. I try to build as rounded a fitness routine as I can with strength work, mobility, balance, coordination and agility training; but there's something about lacing up my runners and heading out the door that is hard-wired into my physicality, my psyche.
I've been a runner for as long as I can remember. Okay that's a bit of an exaggeration, but I have been running since I was a young boy.
Over the years my relationship with running has had it's ups and downs and there have been times when I've certainly fallen out of love with it, but it always finds a way back into my heart.
Running has an emotional and spiritual element that I don't find with other forms of exercise. Runs hold memories and when I run those routes, in some way I relive them. It's a catharsis for the tough times and warm nostalgia for the good.
My father passed away in September 2013 after a long battle with Non-Hodgkinson's Lyphoma.
As you can imagine, and I'm sure many of you have experienced, losing a parent is not an easy thing to deal with, and my main method of coping with it was running. Every day through that time, for as long as I could practically manage.
I'm not sure if I was running away from the reality of everything that was happening, maybe I was, but it helped me clear my mind and the upset, frustration and sadness would dissipate as I settled into the rhythm of a run. I'd find a kind of peace, stillness on the roads of the Bryn and the trails of Swiss Valley Reservoir.
Of course it didn't change anything. He was still gone when I got home. There was an absence, a hole where he once was, but running helped, because it was my dad that introduced me to running. It was his gift to me.
My dad fostered a love of the sport when we were children. He was a very good runner. Much faster that me (2:50 marathon, 36min 10k, both the Snowdon and Ben Nevis Marathons). My dad would take my brother and I out to Pembrey Country Park, or any of the country roads around where we grew up, to run. He'd take us to the local running club and to races. He started a running club with other runners (the brilliant Sospan Road Runners). It's what I remember us doing together most strongly.
Among the runs we'd do, there's one route that I always run when go back to Llanelli to visit my Mum. Memory is a funny thing and you tend to embellish or sometimes completely invent, maybe we never ran it at all, but it's everything I remember about running with him when I was younger and everything about him that I keep with me when I run now. It starts from the street where I grew up.
It's winds its way down a country path, past the place where he's buried, then a monstrous climb to a hilltop farm that, if I feel the need to stop and get some air back into my lungs and the day is clear, I can see right across the Gower peninsula.
Flying down the other side on a hill so steep my legs can barely keep me upright. Past the factory where he worked, then round Swiss Valley reservoir where my friends and I would explore, mess around and get into trouble. On the way back, I pass my secondary school and my primary school which has been completely rebuild since I left. Then home to the house.
The entire route is about 8 miles. It's hilly, challenging, exhilarating and emotional. Every step I take I'm running through my past. It's comforting. Like flicking through an old photo album, every pin point-sharp memory is a sense, a feeling. It's complete.
Running is time, running is place, running is people.