At 5:30am the alarm went off. It is Norsewood to Takapau day. As I lay there cursing the moment of truth, I could hear the wind noisily swaying the gum trees in front of our cottage. And then the first big drops of rain started to patter on the roof.
Five minutes later and we were still contemplating the situation from the warmth of the bed on this cold, rainy, windy, dark, morning – do we get up and get ready, or stay put? It’s a two-hour drive east, and coupled with a slow run, then wait for prize-giving, plus the trip back, it would take about nine hours out of our day. And on the downside, I was also harbouring a niggle … plantar fasciitis, I was told. Was it wise to run 21km? No. Was it a good idea to get out of the comforts of a warm bed to go run in rainy, cold, windy weather? That’s debatable. Would I be grateful afterward that I’ve done it? Most definitely yes.
But, the warm bed, the time away from home and the fact that the weather was not looking too flash, made us stay in bed a bit longer. I was wide awake. Even made a trip to the bathroom, which was also when Gerry discovered we left the gas heater running all night! That explained the warm and cosy house.
In the warmth of the blankets, ridden with guilt for being such wusses, Gerry’s phone beeped its well-recognised message tone. And if it was not the best news I’ve had in a long time, I don’t know what was: the event was postponed by a week! So, with no more need for the guilt trip, I dozed off with a smile on my face.
But only minutes from getting the best news also came the worst news with the next beep from Gerry’s phone, bringing the sad news of the sudden passing of Stuart. Although we didn’t know Stuart very well and only met with him a few times, he was always very friendly and super talkative. I enjoyed hearing his stories, and seeing his friendly face at running events was always a treat. One of these shared moments was no less, at the previous Norsewood to Takapau event, where Gerry and I had soup and coffee out the back of our car, while, parked next to us, Marian and Stuart had sarmies, muffins, and coffee. My heart sank, as I could not even begin to think what Marian was going through.
At the funeral, we got to learn a bit more about who he was. Marian gave a lovely speech, which was so extraordinarily brave of her. Adding to the Stuart-tale, his brother, son-in-law and also a grandchild gave speeches. And little by little, we learned more and more about who Stuart was. I was astounded at the amount of people who were at the funeral, and so many others stood up and added to the story. I learned that he was a teacher. And that he trained the school’s cross-country team. One of his students got up and said something about his harrier training methods, which sounded so typical of Stuart, the little we knew of him. He obviously had such a significant influence on so many people’s lives and I’m sure he will be dearly missed. I felt like we missed out for not knowing him better.
17 July will never be the same again for some. But the running family is a strong, tight-knit group and I can only hope that all the thoughts that are with Marian, will bring some form of comfort in her time of grief.
Rest in peace, Stuart. Until we meet again.