We were sitting on the sofa the other night, Noel ranting at something or other on the TV, me multitasking my social media habit, one cat perched precariously on my lap, the other doing what he does best, ignoring us. Noel took a rant break, smiled (yes, smiled) and said he felt like someone who’d been ill, but wasn’t any more, normality was returning, it was time to parkrun.
Noel’s last parkrun was May 18 2019, he ran with me, but he wasn’t feeling himself, something was definitely wrong. A couple of weeks later we knew what it was and the Bastard Cancer journey began. From then on there was no running and very little walking as our wonderful, magnificent, peerless NHS did its bit, first zapping, then chopping the Bastard Cancer out and now healing.
Throughout that time he’d volunteered at parkrun when he could, supported from home when he couldn’t. I would send him photos from the cafe where we would have our post-parkrun coffee. Looking back, he was ill, very ill, but he isn’t any more, he’s now someone who was ill. He’s back and he’s bad.
We suspected that parkrun days would be numbered for everyone as the insidious Covid-19 started to shut down the world around us. So last week he put on his running kit, scraped the none-month-old mud off his trainers, dusted down his barcode, and stood with more than 500 others on the start line at Woodhouse Moor.
We set off together, with Noel intending to walk, though determined to have as much distance in front of the tail walker as possible. Progress was slow, incredibly slow as everyone wanted to welcome him back, everyone wanted to ask how he was, because that’s what happens at parkrun. He even ran for some of it and admitted it felt good. I was smiling so much I thought my cheeks would fall off, though I also wanted to cry, it was very emotional for so many reasons.
It was a personal worst for Noel, though way ahead of the tailwalker, but he didn’t care, this was what he had been looking forward to for so long, a return to parkrun.
This week there is no parkrun, there won’t be one next week and for weeks to come, it’s necessary to combat the global pandemic of Covid-19. But it hasn’t stopped us getting together virtually with our parkrun pals, me the extrovert blabbering away on the video conferencing, him the introvert watching on. We’ll be running, not a parkrun, because that would be stupid, but running somewhere locally, then having a virtual coffee with our parkrun pals. It won’t be the same, at the moment nothing is the same, but it doesn’t take away the fact that Noel isn’t ill any more and he’s parkrun ready when the time comes.