There may be some mention of the business of running on my Insta feed from time to time. Not because I’m brilliant at it and super-sporty, quite the opposite. I bunked off PE at school, forged perfect sick notes (for prices click here), spent my 20s and 30s joining and then ditching various circuit groups.
In Singapore I took advice from a friend in our condo gym and went from half-hearted treadmill running to tarmac jogging, much to the astonishment of my very sporty husband, and anyone else who knew me. I loved it and I still do, but it’s like running through treacle about 95% of the time. Music helps, I find it almost impossible to run without it, and some tunes more than most. One such tune popped into my ears just now, while struggling along on a stormy morning after a night of no sleep, a side effect of the busy festive season.
The song became a running tune for me in summer 2017 when we had just come back to the UK. A best friend was ill, and we had all realised she was much further along her path than anyone first thought. In fact it had got to a point where The Thing could not be avoided any more. We gathered in groups, sent watery messages, lived with our breaking hearts in our mouths through late summer and into autumn.
The person for whom it mattered most preferred not to think of her own situation, a technique also adopted by my late mother. It’s a not uncommon approach and one to be respected, which we did. So when this tune popped into my head and spoke to me with regards to The Thing, even though I knew my friend would love it I decided I couldn’t send her the link. It wasn’t just that the lyrics were close to the mark, but the simple fact that there was anything reminding me of her in ‘that’ way meant that I just couldn’t share it.
Coldplay is a band over which the world is split, rather like Marmite - you either love the soaring ballads or hate the queasy-listening. Our friend was a fan from the start. When you heard them you thought of her. She attributed a song from the first album to me and her. She saw them live. Most poignant of all, her two children ended up choosing a favourite to remember her by when the time came. Well, during the Summer of Her, one such song was all over the place, painting pictures of her wherever I went, in the car, in shops, getting under my skin and into my running ears.
That summer I’d signed up to the Park Run at my keep-fit-fanatic husband’s advice – five grisly kilometres every Saturday come rain or shine, with a big hill loop in the middle. For my first ever one, during that ghastly uphill limp, I had The Fitness Fanatic running backwards beside me shouting ‘you can do it’, and that tune playing in my ears (just past the four-and-a-half minute mark where the violins come in and make you feel like you’re in Chariots of Fire), and I got to the top without a pause. Couldn’t see for tears, couldn’t breathe, but did it.
The song has had a strong effect on my running ever since and now sits deep in my bones, pulling me along on cold grey runs, making me pat my pockets for tissues but giving a strangely powerful charge to whatever miserable run I’m attempting. It’s my power tune. It really does lift me along.
More than a year has gone by since our friend went through her own final passport control. I know many of us still feel like we never had the chance to let her know how much she meant to us. But talk to anyone and they’ll tell you how they still hear her shouting from the sidelines now and then, urging them on, ‘advising’ them as she always did.
It’s a comfort that she continues, somehow, to dispense the wisdom for which she was so well known, and for which we loved her all the more. And it doesn’t really matter that she never knew about the song, because isn’t it just the simple recollection of her that keeps us all motoring on?
It was dark. Now it’s sunrise.