Every year on this particular day I feel a sense of loss. I recognise once again that my days as a runner are a thing of the past and that nothing other than a miracle will enable me to run the London Marathon again. Running was for several years an important part of my life. During my first sabbatical, in 2000, I ran a marathon, a half-marathon, a quarter-marathon, a ten mile race, two six mile races, one five mile race, and two fell-races. I'd been an enthusiastic runner for some time, but over those few months I was able to indulge my enthusiasm in a way I hadn't experienced before, and I loved it. However, although I was a member of Melton Mowbray's Stilton Striders' Athletics Club, I'm not a natural athlete. My body wasn't designed for long-distance running. And as a result of three marathons in a year, the last being the London, I sustained a foot injury which in the end even surgery hasn't mended. Ahhh!
Coming to terms with this was an instructive experience. Elizabeth Kubler Ross in her book, 'Death and Dying', speaks of five stages of loss, which applies to death itself, the experience of dying, but also other losses. The first is denial and my immediate reaction to the injury was, 'what injury?' and I just kept on taking the ibuprofen. The second stage is anger, and when I recognised that it wasn't going to just mend, I got cross, after all, 'I'm in a pressurised job and this is my stress-buster; it's the one thing that I do for myself, blah, blah, blah'. I then decided to swim 'for a season', but this didn't work as I can't do with getting wet. And then I bought a bike with a view to transferring my obsession, temporarily. This is the third stage – bargaining. Eventually, I experienced depression, the fourth stage. Don't misunderstand me, this wasn't the sort of depression that I've experienced in those people among whom I've ministered, but there was a sadness, which was reinforced when I realised I really wasn't going to run again, and even now when I'm out on the bike and encounter runners, and particularly on London Marathon Sunday. The final stage is acceptance, which isn't about saying that it's fine but acknowledging that it is a loss and coming to terms with it.
Just in case you feel sorry for me, please don't! In the providence of God, I wouldn't have been able to sustain the sort of running that I was doing even if I'd remained injury-free. But every now and again, and especially today, I wouldn't mind just a little jog! Maybe I'll post a blog on long-distance running as a metaphor for spiritual pilgrimage.