Above: A Runner, Another Runner, Me
Well, I never said I’d run the Great Yorkshire fast. In fact, I quite distinctly and explicitly said I’d run slowly, and I did. Slightly more slowly than last year, in fact. However hard I try, I find myself falling back towards the rear of the last wave of runners, alongside people who are in fact walking, and people in cumbersome fancy dress. If I’m honest, I do mind that, a bit.
I don’t expect to cross the finish line to a ticker tape welcome, cheer leaders waving pom poms, reporters queuing up to interview me about the experience. But for the stragglers, those last few runners to stagger over the line, there’s a bit of a sense of anti-climax as we stumble on suddenly jelly like legs to grab the last few goodie bags, and head home, as if we’ve arrived at a party after the booze has run out, and the music’s been turned down low.
I like to think, however, that there’s something a little bit heroic about my continued efforts in a field where I am so clearly not gifted. I like to think that the kind and cheery people who still line the route to the bitter end, who call out ‘Well done Catherine, keep going, you’re doing fine’, recognise a certain bloody-minded determination, whether or not they recognise or value the cause for which I run.
In recent weeks there have been cheers and tears for a Somali born refugee who’s proud to say that this is his country and to wear the British flag around his shoulders as he kneels on the track to pray. And as we marvel at the Paralympics we remember also that it was a refugee from Nazism, Ludwig Guttman, who saw that people with spinal cord injuries who had been written off, left to die slowly and in despair could be given new hope, purpose and the chance to achieve through therapy and sport. (And Guttman wouldn’t have been here without the help of the Society for Protection of Science and Learning, now the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics.) This doesn’t prove anything, of course, except that amongst those who make their way here are some exceptionally gifted individuals. But to me it says that a country that is confident enough in itself to be open and generous, hospitable and inclusive, will be enriched by that. If we were to take away from our culture the contribution of refugees, we’d lose more than that gold medal, and more even than the Paralympic Games. We’d lose landmark buildings, high street names, publishing houses, works of art – in every field of business, politics, science, arts, sports, we’d lose. The societies that drive people out because of their beliefs, their race, their sexuality, they lose. And if the displaced and the exiled are not given sanctuary, then those people, gifted or not, destined to be famous or not, will be lost too, along with those who never got the chance to escape.
So, actually, I do like to think that I can use not only something I am quite good at (writing, communication) but something that I’m really
rather rubbish at, both for the same purpose, both to support the same cause, because more and more I believe that it is one of the most
important things we can do, to support refugees.
If you’d like to help, you can sponsor me here: http://www.justgiving.com/Catherine-Annabel0
Find out more about the work of Refugee Action here:
- Why I run, why I run very slowly – and why I run for Refugee Action (cathannabel.wordpress.com)