‘Even though the flower dies somethings by it’s side
a helping hand or a kiss goodbye, to ease it on it’s way…’
Valentines day is back in the place. insert glitter, rainbows, shoes & sex here
I knew I wanted to do a post about love but not that faux kind. A kind of love that is exempt from ego, lies or pomp. A love that exists long after an argument, betrayal or subsequently, untimely death.
My Fathers birthday, (which at an early age was moved to Valentines Day to avoid any need to celebrate a love, I don’t think he wanted to achieve) came and went this weekend, without me so much as shedding a tear. Not because I am not sad but it no longer cleanses me. I would rather celebrate.
And to join me in my celebrations, are the anecdotes of two people, I very much admire and confide in. They are a part of my personal ‘ Where’d my Daddy Go?’ council. Audacious in their quest to not become their circumstance, but poignant enough to understand that sharing their own personal journeys, have helped me understand my own.
The incomparable Musa Okwonga has been a silent partner in the ‘Reconstruction of Candice’ for a while now. As accomplished as I am, I literally have now words to describe the ambience he sets when he walks into a room. So I will leave it to him…
My father, Wilson Okwonga, is one of the greatest inspirations in my life. Though he died when I was aged four, he and my mother are my two leading influences. I get my work ethic from my mother, and I think that I get my idealism from him.
I never really knew him to be honest, so it feels like I’m always playing catch-up, piecing his life together whenever I meet someone who knew him. I know that he died at 42, in a helicopter accident in 1983; he was the military physician to Oyite Ojok, who was part of the coalition who overthrew Idi Amin. He died in a struggle against the current Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. I am a pacifist by instinct, and I don’t know the nuances of the conflict, but he was killed for a cause that he believed in, and for that I will be forever proud of him.
I was angry at him for years for abandoning me, my mother and our family, until I realised why he did what he had done. I have come to understand that his early death is one of the reasons why I feel so driven now. I have a sense of unfinished business, of having to achieve things as soon as possible because we can never be complacent about the time that we have on this Earth.
My father was one of the first black consultant surgeons in England, if not the first, and by all accounts he was a kind and gentle man. I was in Uganda a few years ago and I met someone who had known him. He told me: “Your father was a man without blemish”. I miss my father so much, sometimes more than I realise, and I hope he is proud of me. I want one day for people to say that I was a good man too.
Rochelle Bugg is also part of said council. Her tenacity and strength constantly remind me of the woman I would like to become one day.
Pretty soon I’ll have spent more time without you around than I got to spend with you here. Lots has changed since I last saw you … I’ve grown from your little girl to a lady (if you ignore that holiday in Zante!) What’s remained constant throughout is my love for you and your unfailing guidance as I try to make my way through life. Wherever you are now I guess you have no use for one of those “World’s Greatest Dad” mugs so instead I’m writing you this letter. I’m not sure what the post is like where you are but I hope someday, someway, somehow you get to see this.
The other day I found a file. It was filled with letters people wrote to you in hospital, newspaper cuttings from your younger years and cards laid with flowers at your funeral. I pieced together a whole new side of you from the memories pressed between those pages; joining up the dots between old stories I half remembered and photos of moments I’d never witnessed.
Flicking through I realised how similar we are: So many words scrawled on those tear stained letters were achingly familiar; they’re the same words I’ve seen on my school reports and heard in encouraging conversations with friends. At first this angered me: Why aren’t you here to tell me your stories yourself? Why aren’t you here to advise me, guide me, let me learn from your mistakes and make this whole thing easier?
But then I thought maybe it’s enough simply to know that you DID get through it? I’m privileged to say (without need for a Jeremy Kyle DNA test) that I’m half you. Tattooed within my DNA I have those qualities I admire in you. Maybe not fully formed, but they’re there. That is the greatest gift I could ever hope for. You’ve given me a leg up, a head start. If you were strong enough to make it through your trials then surely by the laws of biology I too can make it through mine?
Someone once told me we choose our parents. I think I found you in the catalogue somewhere between Richard Branson and Mr Miyagi! Enterprising, entrepreneurial, determined, visionary, hard-working, tenacious, charismatic, risk-taking, charming, intelligent, comforting, spiritual, full of perspective: That was, IS, you. If it weren’t for the fact I’m part of the story I’d never believe it …
Born to a travelling family, education was never a priority. Your severe dyslexia in an era when it was barely recognised let alone treated, meant it was little wonder you never saw inside a classroom much after age 13. You couldn’t read or write but firmly spelt out your children would have the upbringing and education that eluded you. You did just that. You achieved more than you would have dared to let yourself dream of.
Dad, you were my superhero: invincible, capable of anything.
You achieved the unthinkable living a life that wouldn’t be out of place in a Hollywood blockbuster. You knew your ‘cryptonite’. You acknowledged it, turned it into a strength and used it to drive you to success: You couldn’t spell, instead you memorised the patterns of common words; learning how to move the pen to draw the right shape needed to spell a word. At work you were captivating, charming, quick-witted and sharp. You joked, flirted, bonded with customers, creating elaborate stories, improvising to get around you not being able to write; unknowingly unlocking your greatest strengths and key to your success in the process.You weren’t a superhero were you dad? You were just a man trying his best. To me that makes you more remarkable than any comic book hero.
You built yourself up only for destiny to sweep it all from under us.
The memories of the hardship have faded but what remains is the lesson that as long as I have people I love and the ability to laugh then I have everything I need: the rest is minor. You called me, mum and my sisters “my girls”; said we gave you reason to keep going. But now the roles have reversed dad; YOU keep ME going! Sometimes I get muddled; let the positives blur and focus too sharply on the negatives. These dark days I turn to where you should be; think what you would tell me.
You see, mum’s ill. They’ve said she doesn’t have long left with us down here (guess you’re missing her up there and want her back?) I’m trying to follow your lead and make the most of the hand we’ve been dealt. I’m digging around to find the positives and use them to build us a tunnel out of this darkness. You instilled faith in me. I know everything will be ok – not because life’s easy or fair but because you taught me to never give up until I get where I want to go. You always told me;
“As long as you do your best darling that’s all anyone can ask of you”.
So Daddy, I hope you can see I’m doing my best and I’m gonna keep doing my best.
For everything you have done and continue to do for me,
Love always …
The internet is a funny old thing. I met Nathaniel within the land of fitblr Tumblr (i know, I know) I was gaining following and Natty happened to come into my life when I needed him most. I invited him down to RDC and I wanna say the rest is history, but it never quite works like that…
I remember meeting him for the first time at Mile End Stadium. Cute. Tall. Very tall. Smells good. Mmmmm. But apart from the blatant great aesthetics, he was was a hard worker who knew about setting targets and smashing ‘em outta the park.
Almost a year later, I count ColeWorld as a close friend who I can call on anytime (literally, have rang him at 3am chatting fraff) who supports my every endeavour.
I titled this post ‘The Believer’ because Natty has done nothing but believe in me. And I am humbled by his love.
Just so happens that we are both running VLM this year. Epic.
I turn over to the one and only ‘Runner Formerly Known As Nathaniel’
Hello readers! Lets get in to it…..
A couple of years ago, I was overweight and unfit. Fast forward to today and I live a healthy lifestyle and have been given the opportunity to do something that I have always wanted to do since I took the first heavy steps out running in my local park; run the London Marathon.
Right now, I’m working towards the day that’s going to become one of the most important in my life. I can see it now, on the 23rd April, I wake up in pain but with a smile on my face.
Training for the marathon started on Boxing day, so believe me when I say, I have had plenty of time to relax before then! But pain is having a rave in my body right now. Jumping from my right foot last week to my left knee this week. Yet, I push that pain aside as THAT Marathon date is not going to change regardless if my body is hurting.
I was told by a wise man that there are two types of training plans; The have no life plan and The have a life plan. I chose to have no life! I am training 6 days a week, mostly in the evenings.
I would love to say that training has been a breeze and that I am just plodding along the street, racking up the miles with ease. But I am not. Training is hard, running is hard. So why do I do it? It is simple. I graduated as Run Dem Crew Younger this summer. That experience taught me that nothing worth having come easy. I accept these things because I have already aquired the tools of discipline & success. I understand.
My outlook these days is that there are bigger things out there than me and my problems, my aches and pains, my lack of time to myself. Run The World is a perfect example of that. I am happy to be here. With the opportunity to participate in races and run regularly because there are too many people out there that I need to do this for because there’s no choice for them. I need to be the best I can be, for them. My races are a celebration of that.
All this training, plodding along London’s darkened streets and racking up the miles will ensure that I wake up on April 23rd in a lot of pain but with a smile on my face. I’m smiling because on that day, I wake up as a man who has ran the London Marathon.
And honestly, ain’t nothing better than that.
Hiya! Candie here. A few weeks back I mentioned that this space would be developing. A by product of that idea is reading about the experiences of others.
Catherine is an original member of RDC and a absolute gorgeous woman. I remember her rocking up to RDC with the most perfect pregnant tummy and banging out the miles like it was nothing. In awe. I had to know more.
Knowing the fatigue/nausea/craziness brings, I wanted the 411 on how best to handle it when it was my turn. So now I hand over to Mama C and baby Remi as they let us know how it is to have a bump on the run!
How long have you been running and what made you begin?
It wasn’t until a friend told me to get off the treadmill and check out Run Dem Crew in Feb 2009 that I really got into running. From my first session out with them I was hooked. Running with a crew was totally different - a tough work out but also an amazing social and supportive group of people that would enable me to run a marathon 18 months later.
What were your average miles per week before falling pregnant?
I was gearing up for Paris half marathon and it was the hardest I’ve ever trained thanks to my running partner Linda. My week consisted of a long run, tempo run, track and hill sessions, which at its peak was about 23 miles per week. It was lot of running and the winter was freezing but it felt amazing being so fit; I felt like I could conquer anything. That’s what I want to get back to.
Upon confirming your pregnancy did you know that you wanted to continue you running?
I was just two minutes off my target for Paris at 1:42 but I had a great race, made all the better when I later discovered that I was already 3 ½ weeks pregnant at the time. I was high on running when I found out and not ready to give it up, so I was determined to find a way to continue running while staying safe.
Did you seek medical advice before continuing to run while pregnant?
My doctor said it was fine to run, she didn’t have much advice apart from not to overdo it. The best info I got was from Runner’s World Guide to Running and Pregnancy –written by and for runners, it understood my need to keep running and gave heaps of advice on how to stay safe.
In which trimester did you have the most/least energy?
The first was tough – felt tired and nauseous and because I couldn’t tell people yet, I had to fake a knee injury to explain why I needed to run slower. The second was the best – tonnes of energy and was able to go and run 10k no problem.
Do you believe you were able to avoid certain ailments normally suffered by expectant mothers, through the powers of running?
Before I was pregnant I found that running helped me stay fit, positive, confident and healthy. Thankfully it helped me feel the same when I was pregnant. I had a fantastic pregnancy and only really felt weighed down by it in the last couple of weeks.
Would you recommend running as a good way to shed ‘baby weight’
I won’t lie to you, childbirth and the first few weeks of motherhood have left my body feeling wrecked and I feel a shadow of my former self due to lack of sleep, breastfeeding etc etc. I was lucky that I didn’t put on much weight when pregnant but I am looking forward to is building up muscle-tone and feeling fit again.
How long are you going to wait until you get back into running again?
I can’t wait to get back to running - unfortunately though, I had a caesarean so it’s going to take a bit longer before I return and because of the severity of the operation I really do have to follow medical advice to avoid injury. Hoping to start back in March. I am taking inspiration from athlete Jo Pavey – she had a c section but now she’s crazy fit again and on course for some 2012 medals.
What advice would you have for runners who are about to have a ‘ baby on board’?
Make sure you eat and drink enough, be extra careful where you tread and when crossing roads particularly as you get bigger and less nimble, run with people or take a phone and most importantly listen to your body as it definitely knows best.
What are your goals for 2012 in both motherhood and running?
I’m already scouting ebay for running pushchairs so that I can get out and run in spring. As well as getting me fit, it will be a great way for us both to get out in the fresh air and around the parks. I’m also looking forward to running with my crew again and will hopefully sign up to a race in autumn.
Do you hope that your baby boy will have a similar love for running?
We already have a Run Dem Crew playsuit for him, which I am very excited about and Santa will hopefully bring some mini Lunar Glides, soI’m really hoping he will.
We will have him running in no time!
*walks off smiling & feeling very broody*