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A few years ago, if you told me I was going to be the runner I am today, I’m pretty sure I would have not believed you. But in the last few years, running for leukaemia charities has become a big part of who I am. In November 2011, my father lost his battle to acute myeloid leukaemia after several years of fight. To say that my father was some kind of hero to me is probably a huge understatement, and when he was diagnosed I realised that he too was only made of human, of cells and tissues.
My father himself had always been a runner, and my childhood had the daily ritual of him coming home after work to throw on his old shoes, old shirts and old trackies (he wasn’t one for gadgets – and would often reuse old mustard bottles as water containers for his long runs). He would sometimes leave frustrated from his day and then come home smiling and sweating and singing, sharing stories of what he’d seen while running. It didn’t matter where we would go, he always ran.
When he fell sick, he couldn’t run and I knew he hated that the most; that his body couldn’t do what he wanted it to do. While he was in hospital in Brussels during some of the good patches, I would go for a jog with him in the park. It is there that I began to appreciate what it was to have a healthy body, how I was lucky to have one that would let me be alive without thinking too much about it. It’s from there that I started running, slowly but surely.
I can’t say I loved running at first. A lot of the time, I did it so I could come back to him, smiling and sweating, to share the stories of what I had seen on my run. When he died, I stopped running. It reminded me too much of him and, for a while, I tried to forget a lot about what happened during those years.
And then in the summer of 2013, I was convinced to put my name down for a half marathon. With two months to train, I decided to run for a leukaemia charity and set the tentative figure of £500. In a few weeks, I had reached my target, and by the time the race came around it had tripled. That was in September 2013. Fast forward to today, January 2017, and I’ve done three marathons and ten half’s, a bunch of shorter races, many, many, many miles of training and raised (to date) £5,871.58. And through all of it, I’ve completely and utterly fallen in love with running.
I set myself the objective to raise £10,000 by the time I hit 30, and as I enter the last lap of my 20s this February, I know that I’ve got a way to go. £4,128.42 to be exact. I’ve set myself the challenge of running at least one race per month, hit 1000 miles in 2017, run several marathons and my first ultra.
Last year, I ran the London Marathon for Leukaemia CARE and I really wanted to do it again this year. I don’t often feel proud of myself, but when I came across that finish line, having run that city, it was incomparable. London isn’t where I was born, but it’s my home by adoption and it’s a city I’ve come to love. It’s also the city where my father passed away, and where I have run countless miles across its streets; in rain or sunshine, through grief and heartbreak, through all of the many daily emotions of life, and often when I didn’t want to be running at all. But if I’m totally honest, when I’ve come back from every single one of those runs, smiling and sweating, I’ve never once wished I hadn’t got out of that door with my trainers. And I know that in those moments, when the rhythmic balance of breath and pace gives way to something else, some altered state of being; I get to run with my dad again.
Fundraising page: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ClaireMalaikaTunnacliffe