Why did over 500 runners turn out yesterday evening to run 3.7 miles along the shores of Lake Windermere? What did it mean to them? I can’t answer that, yet I ran with everyone. On the lead up to the event, and during it, my mind was focused, yet today my mind is a tangled web of emotions. The enormity of what has happened has hit me. I’ve hit the wall. It’s a phrase marathon runners often use, to describe the moment the glycogen levels in their body are exhausted, and they feel weak and near a stage of collapse. Typically it’s around the 20 mile mark in a marathon. Last weekend, when running the London marathon, local chef Matt Campbell tragically collapsed, and later died. He had reached the 22.5 mile point in the race, with just 3.7 miles left to go.
We all had our reasons to run 3.7 miles for Matt last night. For some it was to support his family and friends. For others it was because the running community is so close knit. Fellow chefs turned up in their whites, as a mark of respect. What struck me most, was the many people who ran, who did not know Matt, who had never run, who never did ‘this sort of thing’. These weren’t people who were directly emotionally involved, but they were there in their hundreds. Only now am I starting to understand why perhaps they were there, why so many marshalls turned up to volunteer their time, and why so many great local businesses gave their services for free. It’s too easy to explain these acts as community spirit, but the emotions I witnessed transcended that.
Quite simply we were inspired, drawn as moths to a flame. Matt’s talents as a chef were unquestionable. His presence and personality infectious, even after his tragic death. Of course we wanted to show respect to his friends and family, and to help raise money for his charity, but more than that, we wanted to draw together to inspire others, as Matt had done through his life. In the too short time that Matt graced the earth, he shone bright, but yesterday I saw that his legacy will shine on far into the future. People who had never run before, sat on the minibuses taking them back to the car parks, saying excitedly how they had been inspired to take up running. Children ran the greatest distance many of them had ever run. Families and couples ran together.
Emotions ebbed and flowed. Highs of elation. Lows of physical effort and discomfort. Tears and smiles almost simultaneous. The atmosphere was an incredible emotional roller coaster, and it still is today, perhaps even more so now than during the event. I now think that is the pervading legacy, which has drawn so much attention to other 3.7 mile events, and individuals running this distance, all around the world. Yesterday the rain poured down just one hour before the event, but then the sun came out just before the start. It shone bright, the clouds parted, and we basked in the glorious warmth of a Spring evening. The one emotion I think I saw more than any other yesterday, and I never expected to see it, was pride. Pride to be involved. Pride to achieve. Pride to remember an amazing young man.
All of us who took part yesterday reached a huge banner at the finish line, but what is clear to me is that for none of us is this the finish. We are inspired to run more, to run further, to keep running for Matt. So the call is clear, go and run your 3.7 miles to #FinishForMatt, but then look into the future, and act on your inspiration. Then keep acting on what you have achieved. I won’t use the word legacy again, but perhaps our best testament to Matt, is to harness whatever emotion is what that drew us to the shores of Windermere yesterday, and to nurture that again and again. As for me, twice this morning I’ve driven past that bus stop sign at White Cross Bay, where the run started yesterday, and I know I’ll be running that exact same route again very soon.
As I run past Low Wood, in the evening sun, I will look across the lake to the stark outline of the Langdale Pikes, and I will think of you Matt.
Please donate to Matt’s fundraising page for the Brathay Trust, on his Just Giving page; https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mattcampbell-londonmarathon