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Field Journal

The Hug Run // Part Eight

From The Field
The Hug Run // Part Eight

Morgan Cardiff is documenting the journey of Dave Chamberlain, part-way through the ‘Hug Run’ – a seven-year, 64,000km run taking him all over the world. Read part seven here. Words and photo by Dave Chamberlain.

“Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, And waste its sweetness on the desert air.” – Thomas Gray

Dear Trish,

I was having brunch with a host family when I received your sister’s message telling me that you had passed away. Luckily, at the time I was in another room and was able to gather myself before returning to the table. Their hospitality was too genuine for me to ruin the occasion, so I went numb instead. We finished our meal, chatted to the neighbours, and eventually I headed off.

I ran in a numbness, the news of your death stuffed behind an internal wall for later. I ran for about an hour before I came across a little motel, and there, the awfulness of what I’d read came crashing down upon me. I lay in that motel for two days, unable to move. I didn’t cry during that time. I felt like I could barely breath.

As I lay there, I thought of you. I thought of what it must have been like knowing from a young age that you’d be lucky to turn 40. I thought about how the doctors told you to avoid strenuous, endurance sports, or any activities involving bumps and bruises. I thought about how tempting it was to quit any plans to study, and to live a hedonistic lifestyle, travelling the world on borrowed time.

And then I thought about the ultramarathons you’d run. The triathlons. The MMA training, and your particular delight in practising jiu-jitsu; all the ambushes and rear naked chokes you unleashed on your friends. Being around you was like living the battles between Inspector Clouseau and Cato.

I thought about how you could have majored in quantum mechanics, but chose a life in medicine instead, specialising in anaesthetics, because it had more meaning. I thought about your humour, your incredible love of life and generosity of spirit.

People sometimes said that they felt it was because of your health that you had such joie de vivre. They were wrong. You were who you were in spite of your health. But I… I am who I am because of my health.

At times, this makes me feel like a fraud.

I battle with the gifts of food and offers of lodgings because I’m running. Running is normal. We all do it and we all know people who do it. I’ve simply taken something normal and am attempting something interesting with it.

Except ‘normal’ was never an option for you, Trish. You never got offered ‘normal’, but you still ran with it. You embraced it. But you knew this. We spoke about this often, including during our last conversation shared face to face. You told me that I inspired you. You told me that I wasn’t a fraud. And I believe you. You wouldn’t have lied to me just to make me feel better. You were too good a person to have done that.

And so I run.

For the first time, it’s overwhelming. Eating, drinking… all the mundane events have become a burden.

And I also cry. Every morning when I take those first steps of the day, the sadness pours over me.

Every day, I join the millions of people around the planet who, whether because of sickness or violence, rage against the world at the all-too-soon passing of yet another incredible human being.

Some days it gets too much, and I seek the company of good people, and appreciate the joy that families share between them. On these days, I don’t run. I can’t. It helps soften the sadness, Trish.

But I continue, for now. Mostly because this is what I understand. This is how the world makes sense to me. Partly because I know that if I stop now, no words will ever take away that feeling of ‘fraud’. I don’t know how much longer I can run in America. It feels like a foreign and unfathomable place now. Perhaps it’s time to head towards new horizons. But rest assured, Trish, I’ll keep on running.

In life, you were a legend. In passing, you’ve become a moral compass for those of us left behind.

Rest In Peace, my friend.

Dave is currently retracing Forrest Gump’s fictional run across the USA, extending his global run by another 24,000km (and 2.5 years). If you’re able to join him for a week, a day, or even an hour then please get in touch and we’ll help connect you up with him. Or follow and support Dave on Instagram @thehugrun.

Read Dave’s article, ‘West To The Sea’ about his previous running expedition across Canada. Also, ‘The Penguin Runner’, a story about Dave’s journey across southern Africa and filmed by Morgan Cardiff, was featured in Sidetracked Volume Two.

The planned routes can be viewed here, and for more information about Dave’s Vidamago Foundation visit Words by Dave Chamberlin and Morgan Cardiff. Instagram: @rhys_morgan & @thehugrun.