Supporter Story – London Marathon Runner Piotr Szawarski

Supporter Story – London Marathon Runner Piotr Szawarski

“There it was… A letter of acceptance. Arriving on a murky October day and instilling joy and a slight concern. Didn’t the original marathon runner, Pheidippides, collapse and die after delivering the happy news of Victory over the Persians? But there it was… a race number 6480. A magical number perhaps? I almost got used to the rejection – a brief pang of regret followed by a dose of relief. I have always applied through the ballot for the race together with my very fit and beautiful wife. She got in four times and had always run the race effortlessly. Our hallway is decorated with her multiple framed certificates and medals. I have never thought myself an athlete, but having witnessed the glamour and the exhilaration associated with participation in this big event – I have felt jealous. I ended up being a runner by proxy… Few achey halves, few 10 milers – but I have never tried the Big One. Now it beaconed.

Having gotten in through the ballot I could have stayed under the radar, training quietly and keeping to myself, but that did not feel right. A couple of years back with great sadness I said farewell to a friend, Vijay, who fought his demons and lost. He took his life. He was an amazing guy, kind and happy and extremely fit. We climbed a very big mountain together in Tibet. Experiences like that bond people in an inexplicable way. In his eulogy, his top performance during Marathon de Sable came up and then I thought to myself – if I was to ever run a marathon I wished Vijay could had been my pacer. I imagined that he would run 26.2 miles chatting away and gently encouraging me to keep up. I decided to dedicate the race to him. Perhaps in some way I expected him to be there. He loved kids and, as I have two myself, I know that child’s laughter and peaceful healthy sleep are the greatest treasures we can hope for. Sometimes children are ill and what’s better than to help them by helping those who look after them. This is why, guided by my wife, I have set up a JustGiving page dedicated to Children’s Critical Care Appeal in association with Frimley Health Charity.

4677 minutes of training later and 2 days after my 44th birthday on the 22nd of April 2018, there I was – at a start line. The sun was blazing from abovein what was going to be the hottest London Marathon on record. The”proper” start, where the Queen was to push the big red button initiating the race was out of sight. After 40 minutes of waiting (after the official start) we were finally running. It was suddenly a reality. A leap into the unknown… would my body cope? Mile after mile I ran through the familiar streets. I have lived in Greenwich, I have worked in London, my daughter’s first nursery was in Canary Wharf. I have cycled Jamaica Road to work. I have reached mile 20 on schedule, still hoping for a time to match my wife’s most recent effort. Then I hit the wall. I heard about the wall, but did not know what to expect. If you hit the wall, I thought, you probably bounce off… not so! It was more like an encounter with the Hulk saying “smash”! I felt I was “smashed” into the wall leaving a cartoon like imprint. I was drained of all energy and running became next to impossible. I tried to run with my brain. I tried to talk to Vijay. I tried to avoid the fate of Pheidippides and focused on slowly moving forward and staying out of the reach of paramedics lurking among spectators. Last 6.2 miles was a monstrous effort, but eventually at 5 hrs and 13 minutes I have reached the finish line. Success! Of course my wife’s record is safe. Reflecting on the event it is a noble endeavour fueling the spirit of community, the economy, the charity and bringing people together. It is humanity at its best, battling the odds, caring and daring. It felt good to be a part of it. It felt good to help the charity. It felt good to raise the glass with my family, to celebrate my Virgin London Marathon 2018.

V for Virgin, V for Vijay and V for Victory.”

There are plenty of opportunities for you to take part in an event for Frimley Health Charity and just like Piotr, make a real difference in improving patients lives and their families.

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