I know a woman. She’s had a tough few years. Life hasn’t been that kind to her. She’s had quite a few issues to face, and she will be the first to admit she hasn’t always coped with her problems all that well. Don’t get me wrong; she is one feisty individual, and if you were ever (heaven forbid) in some kind of fight, you would want her on your side. Once, years ago now, there was an incident where I live. Someone threatened me, and when you’ve never been threatened before it can feel very scary. This woman said to me: ‘If you are ever threatened again I am going to punch that person.’ I don’t advocate violence, of any type, even if the perpetrator feels justified in solving a problem in this particular way. But I felt protected, knowing that someone was willing to stand up for me, even defend me if they had to. Up until that point in my life, no-one had ever done that for me (and perhaps a few people really should have).
We all know her type; one minute they are up and you are there with them, tagging along like the tail of a kite bobbing in the sky. Before you know it, they have plummeted into the doldrums, and are crashing about, like a grumpy child who cannot get their way. For years I thought, no, I knew that the one way this woman could control her moods and her angst would be to go for a run. I mentioned it a few times, and even tried to arrange for us to go out for a run together. It just didn’t happen; life was always busy and the weeks would disappear before we got round to going. Yet that thought, that maybe some form of intense, energy-fuelled exercise could be cathartic to her, remained, kicking around in my mind.
For this woman the struggles of life are buried deep within her. Her father left when she was only a little girl, and decided to live as far away as you can on the planet, before you start travelling back to where you started from. I don’t think she has ever come to terms with this feeling of abandonment.
Then the time came – and it always does, doesn’t it? The right time to do something to really try and help someone help themselves. However much we, or others, think we know when it’s best to try something, stop doing something, or even wait for the ‘something’ in question to come along, you just can’t force life.
I admit, looking back, that I myself was too busy for years to really help this woman as much as I could have. Half-hearted tries don’t really stand up to the brutal filter of reflective hindsight. She was experiencing some degree of conflict in life; with her family and her friends. Really, she needed someone to step into her life and help her sort out the problems she found too big to contemplate, let alone solve. I can even remember her saying to me once: ‘It’s so hard being in the middle all the time.’ That was when I came up with a plan.
I waited until a weekend then pounced on her. ‘Let’s go out for a run,’ I suggested in as casual a manner as I could conjure up. ‘I don’t want to, and my trainers are rubbish. I’ll be useless,’ she replied.
‘Come on,’ I insisted. ‘It will be fun!’ (I felt a little unsure about saying this knowing how fiery she can be if she has to do ANYTHING she doesn’t like.)
We almost ended up having a bit of an argument, me saying it will be fine, her saying, I’m just not sure. She didn’t have any running kit, just a pair of old leggings and a t-shirt. ‘You don’t need anything,’ I insisted, ‘just your trainers.’ And then we were off, jogging along the pavement, taking it slow, seeing if she enjoyed it, not really talking or thinking about anything. It was a very simple achievement and lasted for less than 10 minutes. We both liked it, and, more importantly, we both gave it another go together. The second, third and fourth times there weren’t any huffing under her breath. ‘You know,’ I thought to myself, ‘I think she is liking this running thing.’
That was last Easter, nearly a year ago, and this woman now runs twice a week. She joined a club. She’s even done a few races. We still try and run together, when time allows. She still says she’s rubbish, but really she’s not. She’s now in control of her life just a little bit more than she was before. She knows that when she’s having a bad day she can lace up her trainers, go for a run, and after, she says, she feels so much better.
This woman is my daughter. She is 11-years-old. She is a little woman. Put a pair of trainers in her hand and she has become a powerful woman.