It’s the day before the race. I’ve washed my kit, written my sign, checked the route, checked it again, checked my shoes, packed my bag, set up my 5am overnight oats and I am about to have a hot bath and then an early night. There are hundreds of thousands of people doing the same right now. The Great North Run is one of the most popular half marathons in the world. It’s going to be a great day, I’ve worked hard. I am not a natural runner and I’m over weight, but that’s the challenge isn’t it, that’s why fatties like me choose to take on something painful and difficult, that’s why people choose to take on the challenge because even though I’m looking forward to it, I’m not running for the fun of it. I’m running for my little girl, who would have been eight years old this year. In another life, I might well have been running it for fun, with my daughter and her dad cheering me on, and who knows, the other two pregnancies we lost might have gone on to be two more children, a whole family of cheering faces. What would it be like? It’s a guessing game, a pointless one at that. In my idealised imagination it would be burgers and milkshakes afterwards, my red headed girl would be cheeky and bright, maybe she’d be in a book reading phase and barely register my crossing the line, or a youtube fanatic like our goddaughter. She might have been engrossed in her iPad, she might have been having a sulk or turning her og out. Perhaps we’d have had a crap night’s sleep in the run up to the race because she would have been playing up all night, excited by the change of routine. We’d have been setting off early, the day after, to get her back to school on time in the morning. Maybe Matilda would have cried when we left the dog behind in kennels and maybe she’d be reluctant to leave the new kitten. I might have despaired over the state of her bedroom when I went in to get her up and dressed at five am, I might have sworn as I stood on a chunky doll, or a piece of lego. I might have cursed, trying to get her to be quiet in the faint early morning light. We would have bundled into the car, I’d be tense in the passenger seat, my husband would be quiet because he’s not a morning person. she might have been bored, she might have been excited, we might have listened to her choice of songs or sung ourselves, or talked. Perhaps Matilda would have snoozed on my lap while we waited for the metro taking us to the start. Perhaps she’d have waved from the Tyne Bridge as I ran proudly across. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
She’s doing none of those things. We’re doing none of those things. Instead, I will rise quietly, in my quiet house, and go about my business quietly, and I will drink my coffee watching the sun struggling up over the cliffs. We will get into the car tomorrow and I will not need to look to the back seat to make sure she is safe/behaving herself. I will be tense and quiet, as will my husband, though we’ll be in high spirits holding hands as we walk down to the start. I’ll run the race and I’ll struggle at about mile seven, and get a second wind around mile nine, and then struggle again and think I can’t do it at mile eleven and I’ll think of my daughter, my beautiful, perfect baby, I’ll think about those red curls and her perfect little rose bud mouth and I’ll think about how loved she still is, and the life she could have, should have had and it will push me on and on to the crest of the hill and the view of the sea. I will see my husband cheering me, and I will run across the line and I will cry, for my daughter and all the other babies whose lives could be saved, I’ll cry for that other life we might have had, and I will feel proud to have raised the money, proud to have achieved this thing that might well be a nothing thing to some people but is a big deal to us. And I’ll hold it in my heart for a long, long time.
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