Kealan’s story: Running for Michael
Last month, our supporter Kealan took on the London Marathon in memory of his best friend Michael after they had seen a poster promoting the race in our Inpatient Unit. One month after the event, Kealan shares his story and what it was like to take on such an iconic challenge in memory of his best friend.
When my best friend Michael was admitted to St John’s Hospice as he needed full-time care in the final stages of his illness, I and many members of his family and friends made regular visits to the Hospice to spend time with him.
For what was a very difficult time for us all, St John’s was an amazing help. Not just in the care that they provided to Michael, but also for providing us with a place where we could dedicate the time we had into making it a positive experience for him and those visiting.
While Michael and I were going on a stroll around the corridors we spotted a poster promoting running the London Marathon as part of Team St John’s. I already had a ballot place, so I suggested that I should join the team to raise some money for St John’s, giving something back for the care they had provided him. He gave his seal of approval.
It had long been a dream of mine to run the London Marathon, but for about 13-14 years I failed to get a ballot place and to be honest, I didn’t have a charity that I had been closely associated with to justify trying to raise a large amount of money for.
As it turned out, the year I finally was successful in the ballot I also had a very good reason to want to raise money for a charity that meant a lot to me. I suppose it was meant to be.
In the lead-up to the event, I spent a lot of time running up and down the Grand Union Canal north of Watford. It was usually quiet, and the runs wouldn’t be interrupted by traffic or crowds. I found it especially helpful to get my head clear after what had been a difficult few months. I’ve always felt that for something like a marathon, you need to get your head in good condition too.
Thanks to the amazing support from my family, Michael’s family, all our friends, and, of course, the team at St John’s, I went into race day ready for the challenge. Perhaps too ready as I took off quite quickly and maintained a good pace for the first half of the Marathon and got to the St John’s cheer station on Tower Bridge much earlier than I’d expected. As it was fairly crowded my wife and daughters hadn’t managed to get there yet but thankfully my brother and his family were there along with Michael’s sister Fiona, and other close friends.
It started to take its toll around the 20-mile mark but on mile 22 I spotted my eldest daughter’s face popping out of the crowd and there they all were. Thirty seconds down the road another group of friends were there cheering me on and again, on the Embankment approaching Big Ben, Michael’s other sister Karen, and her family and friends got me the rest of the way. Again, it was as it was meant to be, they all played their part in getting me over the finish line. None more so than Michael, who kept me company in his own way.
I could run these marathons for the rest of my life, and it couldn’t pay St John’s back for the priceless care they gave to Michael and to us. We know when Michael left us, he was his usual self, despite all he had to deal with. We take comfort in the care and support provided to him and so, to be able to give something back for that gift was something I had to do. It has allowed us to take something positive from such a devastating time and I highly recommend it to anyone in the same position.
We were so proud to have Kealan as part of this year’s London Marathon team and are delighted that he has decided he will be joining us for next year’s race to continue raising funds for the hospice. If you’ve been inspired by his story and would like to sign up to join him and the rest of Team St John’s in the 2024 London Marathon, please visit www.stjohnshospice.org.uk/events.