Growing up I was a daddy’s girl. I followed my dad around the farm, ate what he ate, drank what he drank (like drinking tea at aged 4!). My dad was a hard working, ‘salt of the earth’ farmer and a father to 5 children. But under his tough exterior he was a softy and even though he rarely expressed affection, I knew deep down he loved me and was proud of me. Whenever I came home and went to the local butcher or newsagent, they could tell me all about what I was up to or congratulate me on my latest achievement.

Whilst I’ve always been active, I only started running 5 years ago and whenever I visited my parents I would head out for a run. My dad would always comment on ‘what a waste of energy’ running was, or ‘you’ll wear yourself out’. But he also came from an era/upbringing of working long, hard hours where there was no time, or after a days work you were too tired for sport or recreation. Dad never stopped me playing sport as a kid and later on helped mind my kids so I could go out for a run.

My amazing father

Last year I decided to challenge myself and run a full marathon, something a couple of years ago I would never think I was ever capable of. During the middle of my training, my dad had a what was meant to be a simple elective surgery. Unfortunately he became very unwell, and the doctors flew him to Melbourne and he arrived very septic and fighting for his life. He put up a great fight and recovered enough to be able to talk to mum & us kids. For 3 weeks we took turns sitting by his bedside whilst dad drifted in and out of consciousness. During this time I kept up my marathon training, often running around Melbourne when I wasn’t with dad. My running kept me going and gave me an outlet during this very dark time.

But dad’s tired old body had endured enough and he couldn’t fight anymore. I was very blessed to be able to climb up into his bed for one more cuddle whilst I said my goodbyes. His last words to me were ‘oh, my darling girl’.

The next couple of weeks became a blur, but I had to be strong for my kids and my mum. My hubby was such an amazing support, as were my friends and my ‘RMA girl gang’ and I continued to run, often past farms and ‘ugly crying’, as this was my only chance to lower my guard and truly grieve. Not long after dad passed away I ran passed a farmer swearing at his sheep dog for chasing the cattle the wrong way and a cow was stuck in the ditch. A scene I had seen many times before as a kid. I stopped to help him out and he thanked me, and apologised for his language. What he didn’t realise was at that moment in time, it was exactly what I needed. I’m sure it was a sign my dad had sent me to say he was ok.

Two months after dad passed away I ran my first marathon. My mum, hubby and kids were all there to cheer for me, and my RMA buddy Tracie ran the last 10km with me. It was unusually hot that day and things didn’t go to plan as I starting cramping around 32km but I continued on. When I had 2km to go, my dad’s funeral song ‘goodbye’ by Kenny Rogers randomly came up on my playlist and I was so overwhelmed with sadness, yet this amazing strength welled up from deep within.

My dad’s first anniversary of his death is coming up in a few days and this time of year is always tough. I first started running the day my friend Renee passed away from brain cancer, as I promised her I would raise money & awareness for ‘cure brain cancer’. 7months later on July 26th 2014 I ran my first half marathon in her honour. Tomorrow would have been Renee’s 40th Birthday. Until you have lost a loved one, grief is truly hard to explain. For those who are going through loss, it doesn’t get easier but you learn how to get through the tough times. Hang in there….

With my family after my race

I am so thankful I found running as it has taught me I’m tougher & braver than I ever thought, and also it has given me the chance to cope with loss and grief. Running (& especially RMA) has brought some beautiful people into my life and I know I can conquer anything with my ‘tribe’ behind me.

my tribe

Carmen Drake.