When a friend is taken from us too soon, of course we’re sad, but we feel robbed, cheated, angry, even. It’s not fair. It’s just not fair at all.
The first time I saw Ben, it was from behind at one of my first ever parkruns. Seeing runners from behind is my usual experience, I’m not speedy and I’m very chatty, definite ingredients for being at the back. I didn’t know him then, but I knew his story, it was on his shirt. ‘Visually impaired runner, grade IV brain cancer, 2 x brain operations, radio and chemotherapy, more chemotherapy – AHEAD OF YOU!
Time and again, I saw that back and called out to him ‘come on, big fella’, at 6’5, he was a bigger fella than most. What’s more he had a big heart and a brave heart, all his friends called him The Lion.
He fought like a lion and his friends fought with him. He and his family were well-known and well-loved at our parkrun and the other local events where he both ran and when he couldn’t run, supported those who did. The fight ended this past week when Ben passed away peacefully, he was only 38.
The thing about parkrun is that it’s for anyone and everyone. You register, you run 5km at 9am on a Saturday morning and it’s all free. It’s also a place to make friends and be part of a larger community that runs, volunteers and drinks coffee. On Saturday that community celebrated his life. We pinned his picture to our vests, we painted our faces, we clapped and cheered and we ran, or we walked. We laughed and we cried as his widow Nicola, wearing his shirt and little daughter, then his mum and dad crossed the finish line. We were the poorer for losing him, but were the richer for knowing him, his family and friends. Sleep tight, big fella.