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A good cause and music is enough for the long run

I usually enter a charity challenge, after a large glass of wine that lulls me into thinking I can conquer the world.

I ran the Royal Parks half on Sunday. As the day loomed I felt like a right cowardly custard. And a pesky sore leg meant I couldn’t get ‘the miles on my legs’. I just couldn’t see how a good nights sleep and a well timed bowl of porridge was going to get me through it. And I couldn’t remember why I was doing it at all. Until I got to the end.

Once we were on our way to the start line on the Mall and the usual smell of bananas and deep heat was wafting around I started to get ‘the feeling’. Glad to be ‘in it’ and not watching from the sidelines. And off we go at the starters horn feeling like we’re in our own Olympics. As someone who was near last to be invited onto the captains team at school with all the excruciating ‘wanting to be picked’, wanting to be ‘not bothered’, running a marathon in 1993 was my breakthrough into a new way of thinking. That I could be ‘at the races’ after all.

Once we get trotting it doesn’t take much to realise that I’m touched by almost every issue of every charity represented – from Parkinson’s and a friend affected way, way too young. To MS and remembering visits to ‘sheltered accommodation’ dressed up as normal life masking the waiting room for some not so distant demise. And the cancer charities, with the ‘running for dad’ bib that’s enough to set anyone off – remembering your own family history and someone I know who is living with a terrible prognosis. To Shelter making sure we never think it’s OK, as one of the richest nations in the world, for someone to be living on a pavement. To Alzheimer’s with a once eminent doctor no longer able to put on his own clothes, to the British Heart Foundation and remembering that awful call telling me of a life ended mid-story.

It’s at this point that I feel all emotional and energised. Applauding a society that applauds average plodders like me at mile 1 (really). That raises money for the causes that affect us all. That campaigns for better. For less illness that cuts people off in their prime. For looking after people when they’re flat on their face on the floor. For being awake to injustice.

I smile at the final mile as someone plodding decides to break into a very sudden lopsided ‘sprint’ to the finish line. At the people doing a ‘run walk run manoeuvre’ on the other side of the route with another 6 miles to go at nearly 2 hours in. To crossing the finish line with a silent, thank God for that.

A heartfelt thanks to everyone that has sponsored all the charities out there. And thanks for helping me to celebrate my nearly 50 years, counting my lucky stars to be part of it and happy at the last surprise track from my daughter’s ‘Mum’s Running Playlist’ of Take On Me for my own A-ha moment.

– Jo Youle

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