Last week on a training run with my local club, one of my fellow runners collapsed and died. It was sudden, shocking and deeply tragic.
I did not know him well, but I do know he was giving his own time that evening as leader of the group, slowing his typical pace to accompany the less speedy runners in the group. I have since learned he was 53, fit and had completed the last two London Marathons. He was also a keen cyclist and had conquered Mont Ventoux, a notorious climb made famous by the Tour de France.
He had a wife and three children. He was a popular member of the club committee and a driving force behind the annual training camp, which attracted more than 100 members. He was active, passionate, generous, adventurous and very much loved.
For people who don’t really understand running, it might seem like a straightforward tragedy and reason enough to avoid running - despite incidents like this being incredibly rare. As a runner, I know differently. Running doesn’t cause death. Running causes life.
Running has been the source of some of my most important lessons in life. It has taught me the true value of honesty, courage, determination and discipline. All human traits most people would like to have - but not actually that easy to acquire.
Running clearly rewards these traits and - I have found - so does life. My personal and professional lives have benefitted directly from the lessons gleaned from running. In running – as in life – the real rewards are also intrinsic. Success is not necessarily those who are the wealthiest or most talented, it is purely personal.
There are races I have finished third and felt I have lost, there are others I have placed 10,000th and I know I have won. Last week’s tragic events brought another lesson, teaching me the value of life. It is so important to live life to the full. It is very precious and might be taken from you at any time. I think Dennis knew that too. He was a runner and understood life better because of it.