When you run a marathon people talk of hitting the wall, the point when you run out energy and only perseverance takes you through.
I’d thought I’d hit that a couple of times this year, but in reality, I think I’ve just begun to hit it.
Since coming back from the DRC and meeting the most strongest and inspiring people I will ever have the privilege to meet, I now feel that I have hit a wall as I don’t know what to do…because they deserve better and I don’t know what else I can do. It isn’t so much that the energy has gone, rather the finish line has vanished and I feel like I’m running aimlessly.
When I left Goma in 2009, I left with the determination to do something, now having ‘done something’ I don’t know what else I can do or should do. I’ve hit a wall. I’m frustrated because I know there is more I can do and others too, but I’m not sure how I turn this energy into action.
Bukavu, the city that we visited was breath-taking. The women, men and children, everyone in fact we met were so kind, helpful and uplifting. You may read about the DRC and think it is hell on earth, the UN call it the rape capital of the world, but what should not be missed is the beauty and hope that exists there- this is something that has left a mark on me. I entered the DRC second time round in an extremely nervous state, but after the short time there I had fallen in love with the country, I didn’t want to leave. I suppose I went to try and find answers, but now I know that all I’ve come back with is more questions. A thirst to understand how people in the UK can connect with those that have suffered in congo, so they see the need to be engaged and active to help and support the millions who continue to suffer hardship, because of a war that they had no control over and no choice about when it ends. Never knowing if there children will ever see stability..seeing this first hand is the most depressing things I will ever witness.
When you meet someone who has lost their, home, family and community and still be a ‘glass half full’ person it leaves you nothing less than astounded. When you hear a women talking about there lives being destroyed by a cowadist solider who thought it was his right to abuse and violate a women, but all she can stress is her desire to make sure her children don’t live through the same plight, what can you say. For me, if someone can go through all that (we’re not talking about 1 or 2 women, but thousands of women) then I just think they deserve better much better, I want them and their children one day get more than what they currently have. I’m not talking about handouts, or aid. Just security, letting a mother know that their child isn’t in danger of being raped because their unfortunate to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sadly in the DRC there are still too many wrong places and this needs to change. The UK Government can and should do more.
But for all that is said there is such grounds for optimism in the DRC, it is so important that people never lose sight of that. It may be far away and a difficult conflict to get your head round, but that shouldn’t mean we shouldn’t be interested or not care. The roads may be potholed, windows battened up and armed UN soldiers manning stations, but when you see the most gorgoeus sunset fall behind barbed wire it can’t help but leave you stunned and upset in equal measures. I can’t write for toffee, and even if I could I could never capture the life and vibrancy of a normal day in Bukavu – you just have to sit and try and take it in. So much industry and energy, literally buzzing.
One of my fondest memories from the summer was playing a game of football with an old piece of polystyrene with a boy who was no more than 6 or 7. Kicking it back and forth to each other and laughing as neither of us knew where it was going to bounce next. The UN soldiers probably thought we were stupid, I got told to go away, but we didn’t let their march stop us, we carried on playing throwing it up and around them as they marched with their guns and helmets. I’ve never felt more alive and content. I think it was down to the point that for that moment we didn’t care about anything else, both so happy. For me that’s all I’ve ever wanted to try and do, make sure that children and families like him, don’t just feel like that for a few minutes, but over time have the freedom and security to able to kick a ball about and not worry about anything other than where the ball is going to bounce next.
Running marathons may seem like quite a macho thing to do, it isn’t, it is tedious, boring and painful. To think I’ve spent over a day running none stop is ridiculous. I would have been better off writing letters to the Prime Minister than travelling around in a pair of trainers and short shorts.
Running has only ever been a means to an end for me this year. And Millie hit the nail on the end perfectly on Saturday when she described it as a ‘conversation-starter’ she’s right. By running some arbitary distance an unnecessary amount of times I wanted to get people to be aware of the Congo and those who have and continue to suffer in silence. I would run 12, 26 or 56 marathons next year if I thought it would make a difference. But what I now realise is that this race is coming to an end for me and I need to look beyond it. I’ve done what I have this year, with the support of some fantastic people, but it is slowly coming to the point where running is no longer enough and you need to finish the race, move on and consider new ways to get people to be interested. I’ll be spending the last 26.2 miles on sunday thinking about how I can do this, because this year is only the beginning.