Running for Finn

This isn't technically a new post, I actually wrote most of it 2 months after Finn died without any idea why I was writing it or what I was going to do with it. I was still in a daze but I had decided to run the Edinburgh half marathon. I know plenty of people think I was/am nuts, but it was a massive help for me. I'm viewing this as a sort of filing system so consider this filed.



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Running for Finn

More accurately my story should be ‘running through bereavement’ but to be honest, which is what I really want to do here more than anything else, I don’t feel ready to see those words in bold text quite yet. Hopefully one day that’ll come but for now let’s take it one step at a time.

Finn is my son, we lost him just over 2 months ago when he was not quite 11 weeks old. He spent the entirety of his short life in hospital. Details aren’t really important so much to say he was born premature, he had complications which we later found out to our complete surprise were due to cystic fibrosis. He had two operations, was recovering well and within sight of coming home when to everyone’s surprise he suffered an unexplained respiratory and cardiac arrest and we lost him. Needless to say, my world fell apart.

So for the running part… I hate hospitals, I always have and I certainly now always will, but suddenly I found myself in one all day every day. It became home, the nurses became my friends, Finn’s little hospital room the only place I could be his mum. I’ve always been the kind of person that struggled to sit and wait, when there’s a problem I fix it, when the wallpaper is peeling I pull the whole lot down and get started repainting before my husband gets home from work, and when I’m tired I run. Sitting still all day everyday being told we just had to ‘wait and see’ how quickly he’d be able to come home was too much. Technically I was still under post childbirth advice to avoid running so when Finn fell asleep at lunchtime one day I gave the nurses a heads up and went for a walk. Fresh air, that’s all I really wanted. Walking was too slow, it felt like I was away from my baby for too long and I needed more so the next day I snuck my running gear into my bag when my husband wasn’t looking and that lunchtime, tentatively and very slowly I went for my first run. Finn was probably only about 4 weeks old at the time but it felt like a lifetime since my pregnant belly had put an end to my running. I fell easily back into the habit.

I was being careful, running slowly and not very far but for that 30 minutes each day I had space to breathe. My eldest son Rory has just turned two so every second I was with Finn I was missing him, and every second I was with Rory I was missing Finn. For 30 minutes each day I was outside, running laps round the meadows in Edinburgh, and I was just me. I was a version of me that was suffering intensely but at least I knew the old me, the one that was more than just a desperate mother of a sick child, was still in there. When I was in the hospital I felt defeated, when I ran I felt strong and determined. Yes I had a sick child but he was getting better, and yes we faced a lifetime of worrying about his cystic fibrosis but stuff it I could damn well handle anything. Of course back then I never realised quite how much I’d have to handle.

Still holding on to that sense of post run determination I decided if I was going to do this I was going to do it properly. I signed up for the Edinburgh half marathon using my phone while Finn snored in my arms. I decided I was going to raise money and it made sense to do it for the ‘Sick Kids Friends Foundation’ given it was the Royal Hospital for Sick Children that was looking after Finn at the time. It was a small way of saying thank you. On top of that I’d get myself back in shape so when Finn got home I’d be fighting fit and ready to be the best mum that wee boy could ever hope for. Finally I had a purpose, I was doing something useful and I could do it while he slept so he never knew I was gone.

Then Finn died.

Even if I had my s@*t together enough to explain how I felt, feel, will always feel, I don’t think that there are words, or you really need to know. It’s enough to simply say my heart is broken. To begin with that was all there was, sadness, sympathy, more sadness. I have a toddler so falling to pieces on the outside luckily wasn’t an option, I bottled it all inside and let it burst when I had a spare moment to myself. It actually didn’t take long to decide I still wanted to run the half marathon. Finn had so little time to make an impact on this world, his only real legacy the impact he had on me and my family and that in itself feels like a huge responsibility. I don’t want people to look at us as broken and whilst they’d never say it out loud, maybe not even acknowledge it in their heads, there’d always be a niggling stray thought that it’d have been better if Finn hadn’t come along. I will never let that happen. That’s the source of all my determination. People will look at me and look at our family and think ‘wow look at the effect that little guy had on them’. It might not happen straight away but I will be better because he existed. The first step and the easiest right now is to raise the money I planned to raise, raise more, run the race I was going to run, and run it faster.

So out I went. And yes I cried. The funny thing is though, it didn’t matter. I realised very quickly that crying when running is okay. Walkers don’t look at you, and runners, well I don’t know, maybe it’s just that they don’t judge you. They still met my eye and nodded like I was just a normal person out for a normal run. I’ve thought about it and figure either a) I just look so unfit they assume it’s good old tears of fatigue; b) my whole face is red anyway so the tears just aren’t that obvious; c) I live in Scotland, everyone cries all the time it’s just so damn windy or d) maybe they’re out there running through their own pain or sorting their own thoughts and actually we’re not really making eye contact at all, we’re just politely acknowledging each other and letting each other have the anonymity that running allows so well. As someone who finds it difficult to show my feelings to others I knew I was getting into a downward spiral of crying alone so my new revelation of crying in public while running actually feels like a very healthy alternative.

The other side to my running was the sponsorship. I tentatively set up a sponsorship website and once my husband and I had agreed we were ready for all our loose acquaintances we never really see to know our story, publicised it on Facebook. We’re both quite private people so that was a big step. I held my breath, pressed ‘post’ and went for a swim. I came out an hour later to find over £700, by the next morning I had more than £1500. For the first time in I don’t know how long I had tears running down my face from something other than grief, I’m not going to call it happiness quite yet, but more shock and disbelief and utter gratitude for the support. My friends and family clearly also needed a way to support us and in putting up that page I let them. The next day I got up and I ran further than I had since before my first son was born and it felt great. It’s so cheesy to say but every penny on that website feels like a pair of hands lifting me up and pushing me forward. Not only that but a hugely important side effect was that I knew I was raising the money in Finn’s name, I knew that’s why people were donating, so for the first time I was genuinely running for Finn. Every step I take is now for him and it’s given me the connection to him that I so badly crave.

I should clarify I’ve never been a hardcore runner. I’ve always run a little, occasionally I’ve had spells I’ve run a lot. I did one marathon, loved it but finished assuming it’d be my only marathon. Right now and over the last few months what running has offered me is space, freedom and all the added benefits I’ve just listed without needing fancy equipment or a lot of time. I don’t know what happens after I run the race, I don’t know where I go to find Finn, I hope he’s still there as I pace the paths and streets but I just don’t know.

Writing this has brought on a fresh wave of pain so with my story up to now complete, the running shoes are going on and I’m going out to find Finn again

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I cried at the start line and for the first couple of miles, I cried in the middle a little, then I sprinted across the finish line and got my new PB.

Two years on and my dad has decided to run the same race in Finn's memory for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. I can't sit back and let him do it alone so whilst I suspect he'd actually rather I let him get on with it, I can't. I'm not a watcher, I'm a doer. I'm planning to run beside him, at his pace (which hopefully doesn't creep up any faster) and I've promised him no sprint finish!

A few links to linked articles and fundraising pages:
East Lothian Courier
ECHC Newsletter
ECHC Fundraising page
Cystic Fibrosis Trust Fundraising page




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