There is a sticker on a barrier in the park. It reads: resist the new world order.
I’m only walking the dog; acts of resistance seem too far down my list of things to do today. Instead, I’m wondering how I’ve recently ended up saying the wrong things and how can I put them right. Besides, I wouldn’t know where the old world order starts and the new one begins. So I plod on. Poppy, for one, is glad that I do for she is busily sniffing her way back down the path that we’ve walked on, and I’ve run on, hundreds of times.
But that tiny sticker nags away at me: resist.
Shay will have run past it around twenty times on a single run recently. Thirty one miles on a loop around the park. His first ultra distance run. Fifty kilometres in well under four hours. Each mile methodically knocked off in seven and a half minutes. His own act of resistance to fatigue and the inevitable desire to stop.
He’s had a tough year of it. His world old world order has come crashing around his ankles as first his mum died last Easter, followed a few months later by his dad. He’s now selling his parents’ home, tidying away the bits and pieces of lives that have been with him for the whole of his. He also turned fifty. He also went to work. He also cooked. He also looked after his family. If there is resistance to be celebrated, it is exactly in that moment when the old world order ceases to exist and the new version of our world isn’t yet clear. Just getting on with living can be an act of resistance: it is far too easy to crumble.
He didn’t fold or crumble. I know him well and I know this: Shay doesn’t give in.
I can’t really remember how or when I met him. One moment he wasn’t there, the next he was. Soon we were exchanging messages about running and training. I do remember one Sunday morning as I was running down Radcliffe Road. In the distance I could see his distinctive gait coming towards me. When we met, he simply turned around and came with me on my long run without explanation. One minute I was on my own, the next he was there at my side and I at his.
I couldn’t be there for his ultra run though because I had to work. I know how much it meant to him. When we run, we are by definition, neither here nor there. As we move through the landscape and past stickers that exhort us to resist, we simply are. Running is about those moments when we are dislocated from our own lives for a while and it can bring us a moment of peace. It was never about thirty one miles. It was, however, his own way of accepting the last year and resisting the pressure to give in to grief, to give in to the mind crushing, spirit smashing reality that we too will soon cease to be.
Being aware of that and still seeing the point to life is the ultimate act of resistance.