Written by Jack, a Winston’s Wish Content Creator
It’s the final 100 metres. Crowd cheering. Heart racing. Feet gliding. And after two hours and 30 minutes, I fly through the Manchester Marathon finishing line. I look to the sky. I pat the words on my chest – ‘For You Dad’. I pump my fist.
The time makes me qualify for an elite spot at the 2022 London Marathon. Five years prior, I was lacing my running shoes with no idea it was the start of something I’d love. 10 years prior, I was unhealthy, unfit and lacked any goals or ambition. What changed? I embraced my superpower.
Now… let’s go back to 2004. I was 14 years old and my hero, my dad, died in front of my eyes. The days that followed felt like a bad dream. The weeks were a struggle. The months I found suppression. The years became destructive. By 2014 I felt something… a comeback, stronger, more focused and determined than ever.
“I embraced my superpower – grief”
I found running though my partner. Prior, I had played tennis and football in my teens, and I ran no more than four runs a year prior to turning 25. But at 25 years old I decided to run a marathon in memory of my dad. It was the beginning of processing my long battle with grief. I raised thousands. I found love and kindness. I found my voice. I found my superpower.
I became addicted to running, quicker, happier, more focused, more healthy and fit. PB’s started to arrive with regularity. Races I could finish without walking, each one stronger and happier. Then I came first in a parkrun. Then I broke a course record. Then I won an official race. Then I qualified for Good for Age across the super 6 marathon’s across the world. Then I won more races, podiums and PB’s. And then crossing that finish line in Manchester, I gained an Elite Championship spot at London Marathon.
I didn’t do this with a coach or a background of running. I was in my 30’s, growing and competing against people who had raced their whole life, raced in clubs, raced with coaches. What happened when moving from the destructive decade to success and happiness? I embraced my superpower – grief.
“I turned my bitter enemy of grief, into a companion and power”
I knew I could dig deeper than I ever could have once dreamt. I knew that with my dad’s name strapped across my chest that I could overachieve and beat any obstacles and challenges placed in front of me. I knew I could keep getting quicker, keep pushing harder, and keep reaching above and beyond my optimum, all because I turned my bitter enemy of grief, into a companion and power that only those who have suffered could relate.
Prior to that final 100 metres at Manchester Marathon I started to doubt myself. It was at mile 23. I felt a slight drop of pace. I felt my joints starting to strain. I felt my mind tell me that I still had over 3 miles to go. Around me was a collage of people stopping, people overtaking and people breaking. I felt this could be it… that was until someone in the crowd shouted ‘Do it for your dad!’. I tensed my jaw in an attempt to hold back the overwhelming feeling of exhaustion. I thought of the destruction in the decade following 2004. I thought of my son waiting for me at the finish line. I patted my chest, looked to the sky, and said, ‘This is for you, dad.’
You might also like to read…
“Running hasn’t been the only positive I’ve taken from grief”
My energy picked up. A PB was calling my name. And as I hit that final 100 metres, my heart was racing. I had dug deeper than I thought possible. The end was here. I had done it. Only because I embraced my superpower.
Running hasn’t been the only positive I have taken from grief, far from it. Writing has become a love, including teaching myself the guitar, how to sing and performing on stage and busking. My song writing about my life led to BBC airplay and festivals up and down the country, all, only possible through recovering from the loss of my dad.
I also strive to be the best dad I can be, with the understanding that life can be tough, people make mistakes when their backs are against the ropes, love is easy to take for granted, but having learned the hard way, every day should end with hope, care and guidance to your loved ones and beyond.
“Grief is hard, but that’s what makes you special”
The first times I laced up those running shoes, I never dreamt I would be able to achieve what I went onto deliver… and I still am only touching the surface of what I want to achieve. But whether it’s writing a song, running a parkrun, hugging a loved one, drawing a picture, learning a new hobby, being thankful for life, your superpower is just waiting for you to find it.
Adversity and unimaginable heartache can be the foundation of being a better person each day whatever your outlet. Grief is hard, but that’s what makes you special.
How to speak to Winston’s Wish
If you’re struggling with grief right now, Winston’s Wish is here to help and here to listen. Winston’s Wish provides support for grieving children and young people (up to the age of 25). We offer one-to-one and group support sessions. We also have lots of online resources and a Helpline, email and live chat service where you can talk to bereavement professionals.
If you need urgent support in a crisis, you can contact the 24/7 Winston’s Wish Crisis Messenger by texting WW to 85258.