In January 2011, my fiancée’s father, Chris Lester, died of S.A.D. At the time he was 45 years old and had a wonderful wife, Sam, and five magnificent children: Chloё (21), Issy (19), Ben (5), Phoebe, (3) and Sophie – just two months.
It was an inexplicable tragedy and caused infinite sadness amongst all the people who knew him – family, friends, colleagues and those he interacted with on a day to day basis at the charity he ran for adults with learning difficulties – Freeways.
When it got to about June of 2011, myself and Chloё’s best friend Rachel Stevens decided to run the Bristol Half Marathon in memory of Chris. We struggled to initially think of a charity to raise funds for until Chloё (Our newly assigned ‘Fundraising Administrator’!) thought of CRY. It went without saying that this was the right cause – knowing that Chris’s condition can easily be passed on to any of his children and that they, along with thousands of others, may need the support of CRY while they are growing up.
When we initially went through the registration process and set up our JustGiving Page, we were on holiday in the South of France! That’s when mine and Rachel’s training really began (see the picture of us on the treadmill!). But seeing as we were on holiday, we took it easy for the rest of the week, and returned to Bristol full of energy to begin our training.
Having never done a long distance run/any running whatsoever before, I didn’t quite understand the motivation and determination required to train. I started a modest 2 mile training run with gusto only to return red-faced and breathless. Subsequently I realised that it was going to need some serious planning and hard work. Rachel would often put up Facebook statuses about how far she’d run at silly o’clock in the morning that would leave me gawping over my breakfast. As time went on and running became a little more natural my focus would turn to Chris as I ran. When this happened my head would rush with his memory and it would feel like I was running on air. It was such a powerful experience and truly carried me through harder training sessions.
Although I didn’t train with Rachel I was lucky enough to have a good friend, Perry, accompany me at the gym from time to time who came along at a later stage to help raise funds by running the marathon too.
When the race day arrived (a perfect September morning) I was trembling in anticipation. Before I knew it the race had begun and I was running for Chris. Constant memories kept me going and the same feelings from when I was training returned. At 8 ¾ miles I heard a huge cheer and looked to my left to see family and friends, trying my best to dish out high fives! Euphoria hit me and I was almost overcome by tears as I carried on. The last few miles dragged and really took their toll, but continued shouts of support rolled across the route and more familial cheers at mile 12 kept me going for one last, big push.
Rachel comments on the event, “It was challenging but was greatly spurred on by what we were running for and I was encouraged by other runners on the way who saw that I was running for Chris and for CRY, overall a memorable experience.”
On reflection – completing the Bristol Half really cemented the gravity of the cause for which I ran. I will be doing it again this year and urge more people to run for charity and to do it for people dear to them. In my case it was for Chris Lester, his brilliant family and all those he loved.