I had a Dad who was my worst critic! He picked out every mistake and hardly ever mentioned the positives after every football game he came to watch. At the time I couldn't understand this and it made it difficult to talk to him after every football match I played. What I've realised since, is that all he wanted was to see me be the best I could be and it was his words that made me better, stronger and more determined to be a winner. Although at times I didn't appreciate them, now I do....but it's too late!
I have many regrets towards the relationship I had with my Dad and now it's time to put it right. This is my chance to tell you why I want to run in memory of such an incredible man......
When playing for Walsall F.C 7 years ago, my Dad was fighting a battle with cancer for the third time. After being a footballer himself, being very fit and never smoking, my family and I were devastated and never thought it would happen to him. He lived on the south coast of England so I didn't see him often as I lived a couple of hours away, which meant he couldn't get to see me play for Walsall much and when I lifted the League Two Championship Trophy as the captain of Walsall FC, he wasn't there to see it. Like I said, he was my worst critic but all he ever wanted was to see me succeed! At the time his criticism made me scared to speak to him too much about football over the phone, as he always picked out my errors, but little did I know there would come a day SOON, when I could only see his name on my phone but not be able to call him and hear his voice, as he's not there anymore! His name and number still remains on my phone to this day.
Towards the end I received a call telling me he had been taken into hospital and it was time, so I dropped everything to get there before it happened. He never opened his eyes again so I never got to say goodbye, see him smile or just see his eyes acknowledge me one last time, but he was still breathing when I arrived.
The doctors told us he had enough sedatives to sedate a horse just to get him to sleep so he was comfortable, as he fought so much! My family were already there so I know he was waiting for me to get there. I sat next to him and held his hand for long periods through the night until the sun was rising. It was an amazing red sunset which was so fitting and we all took a photo of it which I still have on my phone, it just seemed right! (The picture is in the photo's and was taken shortly before my Dad passed away) After the photo we all sat back round my Dad and opened the back door of his room which had a beautiful green just outside. It was very peaceful and as my Dad was a nature lover it was something he would have wanted, to be able to smell the fresh air. It seemed like my Dad was a magnet to all things beautiful and with the doors open, squirrels began to creep through the door searching for food. My Dad would have been in his element and this was just what he would have wanted.
Minutes later whilst holding my Dad's hand he took his last breath. I can remember thinking as my eyes filled up "Come on Dad, one more breath, inhale again.....don't leave me!"
My Dad passed away at the age of 58 on 10th September 2007 and my world stopped....I was crushed! I had so many regrets that I never put right, one of which was that I never thanked him for all his help in my career, but most of all, I was too much of a man to tell him I loved him and I was proud to have him as my Dad.
My gift to my Dad was to achieve something and give a little back, so at his funeral I buried my Championship medal with him. That was my thank you for the lessons he had taught me and for making me who I am today.
Since that day I've lived with regrets and I've realised that life is too short to say "I'm thinking about doing it!" when you might not get the chance. I have been talking about the London Marathon since I was a boy and I used to watch it with my Dad. Football always prevented me from taking part in it. Since retiring through knee injuries it looked even less likely that I would be able to do it. But last year I grabbed my chance and was ready to prove I could do it and raise as much money for Macmillan Cancer Support to help the people and the friends and families of those that have had cancer or are fighting the battle. The London marathon didn't go according to plan as an injury struck me down, but I hobbled the last 8 miles to complete it in 3:46:38. It was such an emotional day and my way of saying goodbye. What made it better was the £4700+ I raised to help Macmillan in their fight against cancer. Since then I did another personal challenge running 100 miles in 10 days starting on the date my dad passed away and raised another £300+, taking my total to over £5000 in 2012.
I have decided to dedicate at least one challenge each year to raising money for Macmillan in memory of my dad, until the day I die! This year I have already run as part of a team in the Adidas Thunder run 24 hour race. As a team you might not think this was too bad but as every team member needed to do at least one 10k lap, over the 24 hours I ended up running three in some horrendous weather, which meant I ran almost 19 miles, with short rests in between. Not an easy challenge, especially when running through the night in forests, up steep hill and bogs which followed the floods through the night, with just a headlamp for light! I conquered it and raised another £625.
Doing these challenges is my way of being close to my dad and remembering a GREAT man and the BEST dad I could have wished for!
Now it's closing in on the day he died 6 years ago, 10th September, and I'm determined to do another challenge. This time I will be running, cycling and swimming 58 miles, one for every year of his life. I've had no real training, so running 15 miles before a 40 mile bike ride and a 3mile swim(192 lengths of a 25m swimming pool), is going to be gruelling for me. I WILL do this and I WILL succeed....I was shown how by a special man!!!
This has always been a very personal story and one which I have never shared outside of my family until last years fundraising! All I ask is that you support me in my fundraising and donate as much as you can spare to help me run for such a worthy cause. It doesn't have to be a lot, just what you can afford and I guarantee, I WILL NOT LET ANY OF YOU DOWN!
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