Marathon Sans Frontières: Final sprint

When I was a kid there were sports days in school. I was entered in the 800 meters. Of course I wanted to win the damn thing so I set off like a hare as soon as the whistle went. My strategy was to run as fast as physically possible for as long as possible to extract the very most I could from myself. All the watching kids, parents and teachers roared as I raced clear. But then I was knackered after 100 meters and all the other kids ran past. I was last, long after everyone else. Everybody laughed. I never ran again until I decided to do something for Syria.

I’m running the Madrid Marathon on April 23 to raise money for Médecins Sans Frontières in Syria.
This is something I decided to do in November 2015 out of a feeling of absolute helplessness, as my belief in humanity was shaken while the world continued to ignore Syria.
Death is daily life in Syria and has been for the last six years. Marie Colvin’s last reports from Homs before she was killed, watching helplessly while a baby died from shrapnel with its stomach heaving, and her desperate appeal for help that never came made a lasting impression on me in early 2012.
I didn’t know what to do. Later I was volunteering as trains of refugees arrived at Schönefeld but again it felt helpless. There’s only so much one can do – really it takes many more to make something happen.
It’s why I resorted to trying to coerce others into helping MSF, whose doctors and health workers have defied indescribable horrors – many have literally paid with their lives – to help those caught up in this vicious cycle of cruelty. They’re still there, doing all they can.
I’m a parent. I love my son more than anything and it breaks my heart that there are other kids like him who had the bad luck to be born into a hellish world they’ve done nothing to deserve.
So far I’ve raised €2,080 for MSF and I hope to raise more. None of it will go to waste. Every cent alleviates someone’s suffering in some way.
I’ve run 1,777 kilometers, not all at the same time of course, but in preparation for this marathon and the Berlin Marathon last September.
I wasn’t able to run that due to a torn meniscus and cartilage damage in my right knee – my own fault, I over-trained. A bike-crash two nights before quashed any lingering delusions of running it. Broken finger, busted hip, wounded pride, but at least I survived to run another day.
So I signed up for Madrid. Training was going well till I got bronchitis from running in minus temperatures and then injured my left knee in an effort to protect my right. Iliotibial band syndrome. I’ve been doing physiotherapy. She found issues with my ankle, back, hip and neck – all on the left. Apparently that crash had a greater effect than I thought.
I altered my training schedule to take account of the setbacks and have been doing absolutely all I can to make it still. I’ve been eating salads and fruit, no tea, no coffee. I’ve been taking vitamin and mineral supplements. I haven’t had a drop of alcohol for 11 weeks.
I honestly don’t know if I can do it. I ran a half marathon in pain, but had to cut short an attempt at 32K last week. My latest fear is that I’ve done in a ligament in my left knee. We’ll see.
I know it won’t do anything for anyone if I screw my knees up permanently. Other people need them too – it killed me to tell the young fella I couldn’t play football with him when I wasn’t able to walk.
He doesn’t think I can run it. “You’re too banjaxed,” he said. I have to show him anything’s possible. There’s one week to go.
People tell me it doesn’t matter if I do it or not, that the money for MSF is the main thing, and that’s true, but it matters to me. I intend to keep my side of the bargain. Please please do all you can too. It’s not for me. Many thanks.



Thanks again to AP for permission to use the photo above, taken by two-time Pulitzer winner Muhammed Muheisen, of Syrian refugee Zahra Mahmoud, 5, from Deir el-Zour.

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