‘’One of my last training runs took me over the common in warm sunshine, with shifting clouds, strong wind and the gorse bursting into vibrant yellow colour.
The amazing coconut aroma from the gorse was strong in the air and as I ran I felt connection and synchronicity with the weather, nature, the universe! ‘’
Shared parkrun and Running Through Suicide Loss
(By Annette from FOSL Newly Bereaved Support Group, living in Surrey, U.K.)
On 25th November 2019 my kind, caring, friend Adrian took his own life leaving me shocked, in grief, with so many emotions to cope with. We had known each other over fourteen years and he had always been supportive, a good listener who would quietly share advice and encouragement. He could be trusted to keep a confidence and wasn’t one to gossip. We shared many interests, mutual friends and connections.
I was never going to be a runner…until I discovered parkrun and the community involved and started running 5k in my local park on Saturday mornings with a few hundred other people. I always talked to Adrian about it and he was supportive, encouraging. Having had a lung removed due to lung cancer and also suffering from arthritis he wasn’t a runner.
When I celebrated my 50th parkrun I invited family and friends to join me. Adrian came to support and cheer me on and realised he could get involved as a volunteer and did so the following week. He also realised he could have a go at walking parkrun. Our shared experience at parkrun grew and I sometimes took Adrian with me to various places to do different courses. I would run, he would walk and I’d then run back to join him as he finished walking the 5k. He would usually be enjoying chatting with the volunteer tail walker and we’d enjoy a very social finish followed by cake and a cuppa in a cafe afterwards. Sometimes a cooked breakfast too! When we didn’t attend parkrun together Adrian would always be keen to view my results online and see how I’d got on and we’d chat about it afterwards.
After Adrian’s suicide I continued to parkrun but found our home parkrun emotionally difficult and painful. As I ran my mind would sometimes be processing the trauma and grief while other times I might be escaping. In the early days of bereavement I would cry then have to walk as I couldn’t run, cry and still breathe.
Running alone in nature with the sights and sounds I’ve found very therapeutic, listening to the birds, seeing squirrels and deer, feeling the warm sunshine, or cold rain and wind! Sometimes running the streets, other times on the trails over the common. I never wear headphones and the only music is songs that pop into my head. Since receiving support from FOSL additional songs now come to mind such as Handle With Care by The Traveling Wilburys which was played at the support group one week.
The first person directly affected by suicide I spoke to after Adrian died was Henry (The Bearded Runner). I heard him being interviewed and speaking about his own suicide loss of his brother. That was at a running event in January 2020, two months after Adrian’s death and it was by luck I heard him and braved speaking to him. From this chance encounter a connection, synchronicity, friendship and peer support began, combined with a joint interest in running.
Henry and I didn’t get to run together until September 2020 when I went to support and join him for some of a half marathon he was running on the south coast of England raising awareness around suicide and mental health. I had an amazing time running with Henry and a small group of other runners. He was so inspiring that having always insisted I could never run more than 10k the idea of running a half marathon (13.1 miles!) became a possibility. As I drove home that day running a half marathon with Henry in January became my goal. Then a week later I was injured and plans went on hold.
Injury presented its own mental as well as physical challenges as I couldn’t run and could only walk a very short distance at a slow pace. I started visiting and enjoying the outdoor gym in the local park and working out at home to maintain fitness. Mentally I still desperately needed the physical work outs to continue coping emotionally with Adrian’s suicide. For me the power of exercise, particularly running to help with trauma and grief has been very strong.
In November I came across the Symposium being hosted by FOSL over Zoom from Dublin and it seemed a fitting way to commemorate the approaching first anniversary of Adrian’s death. The feeling of unity and shared understanding within the group was powerful and I was very moved by the experience. I then got invited to join the newly bereaved support group which fortunately I took up. My first evening was the day before Adrian’s anniversary and the postvention ongoing support has been invaluable to me. I am so grateful to everyone involved.
I resumed running in December and began a twelve week running plan. I’m not a competitive runner and had no idea if I would succeed. I never describe myself as determined but I did feel focused and I had support and inspiration from Henry. I also continued to feel Adrian encouraging me on. It was a very personal challenge with strong emotions attached.
One of my last training runs took me over the common in warm sunshine, with shifting clouds, strong wind and the gorse bursting into vibrant yellow colour. The amazing coconut aroma from the gorse was strong in the air and as I ran I felt connection and synchronicity with the weather, nature, the universe!
On Sunday 21st March as I headed out running along the seafront thoughts of Adrian were with me and his memory accompanied me every step of the way.
In perfect weather of gentle sunshine and a light breeze, supported and encouraged by Henry I succeeded in running my first ever half marathon. It was a very emotional milestone in memory of Adrian.