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Aug2WedMore than fitness was involved in my running of the London Marathon. August 2, 2017 by Major Wayne Bungay
When my brother passed away in 2007, it was as if the bottom fell out of my world.
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- Faith & Friends
Like me, Roy was a Salvation Army officer. Though he was 16 years older, we’d always been close. And even when his duties took him to far-off places such as Singapore, South Africa and Papua New Guinea, we stayed in touch.
Roy was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2001 and fought a brave, hard battle for six years. He was convinced he’d make a recovery, but when he was beyond the point of no return, he focused on the fact that there was life beyond death. His courage and faith inspired everyone around him.
Especially after his passing, whenever I came across a problem or wanted to share some small theological riddle, I’d reach for the phone for his wisdom. I really felt his absence then. But when I’d think about it, I’d be able to dial back to a conversation we’d had maybe 10 or 12 years before and recall something he’d said that would have some bearing on the matter at hand. And I’d feel better.
Ready to Run
I’d wanted to run a marathon in Roy’s memory. But I only got serious about it last June while attending a leadership course, and I came out of that with the marathon as one of my priorities.
That month, I started training. I’d never run before and I am by no means a natural runner, so I had to develop a technique and rhythm. I consulted written and online resources to help me run faster, farther and smarter.
Even so, that first mile was excruciatingly painful! It took almost two weeks but soon I was able to run a full mile without stopping. Then two, three and four. After a couple of months, I was up to six miles and before I knew it, I had reached 20 miles. I was as ready as I was ever going to be.
My sights were set on the London Marathon on April 23 of this year. While I was too late to register, I was fortunate that Team Sally Army still had some open spots. I committed to raising £2,000 for The Salvation Army’s Gloucester House, a drug-and-alcohol rehabilitation centre in Swindon, England. I used social media, emails and telephone calls. Friends and family from Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom generously sponsored over and above my goal.
In the meantime, my training proceeded apace. I pounded the pavement for 10 months, eventually logging 400 miles in preparation. I ran on cold, wet mornings and on long, lonely nights. These were the times when inspiration had to kick in and I kept going because I knew I was running for something. And someone.
Running provided great benefits. It made me stronger mentally and emotionally, and gave me time to pray and reflect. It was also beneficial for me physically. I weighed 250 pounds when I started running in June and I shed 57 pounds in the process. I was in better shape than I’d ever been in my life.
Crossing the Line
By the day of the race, I couldn’t wait to get started. My wife and I were staying with friends in the centre of London, so we took a train to the starting area. We were alone when we departed but by the time we got to the station, dozens of people had joined us in our journey. More than 100,000 people were at the three official starting lines. Everybody had similar stories or goals. It was almost as if we were one huge family.
Bang! The starting pistol went off. It took a couple of miles before I hit a good running pace, but then I was off. The 40,000 runners all kept up a good pace, and we helped and encouraged each other throughout the run.
Not only that, but it was estimated that 750,000 people lined the route, cheering us on. As well, I counted about 20 different bands, from Scottish bagpipers to rock groups and Salvation Army brass bands. The noise was unbelievable!
However, by mile 20, I had hit the wall, as runners call it, and I had to dig deep. My legs were cramping and I stopped a couple of times to stretch them. It was then that my thoughts of Roy were clearest. In a way, he was running with me and cheering me on as much as anyone on the route. Even so, I ran the last six miles on sheer determination and perseverance.
It’s hard to describe how I felt when I crossed the finish line. Exhilaration, yes, and accomplishment. But satisfaction most of all. I did what I set out to do. I ran for Gloucester House, for a great cause, and I ran in memory of the brother I love, and still miss today.