5,173 miles, 341 days on the road, £21,000 (and rising)…
Decked out with bunting and balloons, The Park, where Ecologia is based, is brightly colourful and festive as a crowd of people and photographers gather in the late afternoon sunshine. It’s Wednesday, July 5th 2017, and Simon Clark is about to return home, on his 58th birthday, after running over 5,000 miles around the entire coastline of mainland Britain to raise much needed funds on behalf of our work.
As he approaches, the drumming intensifies, until we hear the strains of the bagpipes and know that he is just about to round the corner:
I’d imagined this moment months ago and every time I do I’ve burst into tears of joy and connection; of relief. I’m running with young Niamh’s warm right hand steadying my nerves, and, sure enough, as we round the road-corner to the droning, reassuring sound of Rory’s Irish-pipes, the tear-jerk-rush starts; my hand rises to meet the people-waves, and I’m overcome.
Waving and whistling; cheering and welcoming; holla-ing, smiling; radiant sunbeams of celebratory, human affection; the day’s heat at its peak; the sunshine of the people and universe synchronised; a people’s willow arch before me, as happened on the day I left 15 months and a week ago; cheers and shouts filling the air. Then slowly, Niamh, the Sea God’s daughter, and Hermes enter the ceremonial funnel; familiar faces blur by, all too fast to clearly register – breathing deeply, feel it; photographers click at the tunnel corner; we turn right and onto the village Green.
The atmosphere completely changes with the processional power of men with drums; an orchestrated, pumping heartbeat; a pummelling rattle-tattle of warrior spirit to announce and celebrate the arrival of a King: my homecoming – at last.
I embrace my dearest friend Steve and there ahead the Charity Queen and her trustees extend their welcome with flowers and open arms to, for the moment, the village hero, the Running King. I turn from their sweetness and herald the now horse-shoed crowd, showering their collective love on this community newcomer, and I lift my arms and roar in triumph; then crease my eyes in tears of overwhelm and relief – I’ve done it: everyone knows, I’ve done it!
The day itself was incredibly special, thanks to the efforts of so many: Liz, Simon’s sister, who travelled all the way from Suffolk to surprise Simon; the drummers and musicians who kept the crowd entertained; Naomi (and her team) who baked and decorated the amazing post-run/birthday cake; the kitchen team who cooked us all up a delicious celebratory dinner; Miele’s of Forres and the Phoenix shop who supplied ice-cream and strawberries; and all who came along to cheer and holla and be there to honour Simon and his achievement. Thank you!
We are also deeply grateful to Simon for taking on such an extraordinary challenge on our behalf. People are often moved to run for charity because of illness or grief, but Simon has kept going on the strength of one single conviction: that we can all, with our own unique skills and passions, do our bit to help at least one child who needs us, every day, at any time. If you would like to honour his achievement and enable us to reach out to more children in need, please visit his fundraising page.
And if you are interested in doing your own fundraiser on our behalf, please do get in touch. As Simon says, all you need is faith, dedication and the desire to be the very best you can be!
What to say? A microphone is placed under my nose. I initially acknowledge myself, the ability to keep going, even when mind and body refuses, and repeatedly negates the mission; the ability to recover and go again, day after day after day; a triumph of faith and dedication, of determination to keep going come what may; the need to succeed, the fear of failure; the wish to be seen in the best light, the desire to be the very best I can be; the wish that if I can, you can too.
Thank you Simon, and thank you to all of you who have so loyally supported him throughout!