A Woman Who Could

When I conceived of the idea of the Women Can Marathon less than 12 months ago, it felt a daring, ambitious plan, not unlike running a marathon itself.

Family and friends are hugely important in helping runners get through the arduous training, comfort after the physical hard slog of putting in all those miles.

Chief of my support camp in this regard was my mum – always positive, ready to help, offer words of advice, encouragement, thrilled at every little step forward, sympathetic if the training schedule went a little awry, getting me back on track, heading towards that end goal.

Just seven days ago it felt like I’d reached the last 10km on the course – much hard physical effort behind me, a burst of energy required to push on the final six miles.

With a “head coach” like mum, I felt ready for the final part of this challenge, a drive on to the finish, mum shouting the loudest cheers and encouragement.

She fell ill last Sunday, and it was like I’d been knocked off course, stumbled. But mum remained steadfast, still behind me all the way. Despite being unwell – her main thought not her own poor health, but me completing my challenge.

“Don’t worry about me, go for it,” was essentially her message.

I pressed on as best I could, confident of her recovery, a bounce back to become main cheerleader before I reached the finish line. She was fighting my corner even from her sick bed.

You can hit a wall in a marathon and edge painfully over it, but when an earthquake erupts on the course and the road ahead explodes in front of you leaving a cataclysmic gap, then it’s impossible to keep going.

To use a military analogy, no plan can survive contact with the enemy.

Mum’s illness turned out not to be the “wall” but the earthquake. The enemy not a sniper, but an army.

She collapsed and died on Wednesday night.

I have been buried in the rubble, the fall out ever since, my marathon progress halted, no head coach to pull me out.

My own personal race support team – the rest of my family around me – we’ve all taken a massive direct hit and are reeling from it, shell-shocked.

With the dust slightly settling, I can dimly make out that the course is intact. Other members of the marathon organising team are out there working hard to clear the debris, help me forward, keep things on track.

I want to lie on the ground and abandon any personal attempt on my part to try and reach the finish line. Bail out, be written down as DNF, Did Not Finish.

But the words of all the best coaches don’t leave you. Death cannot remove the influence and guidance that coach played in your life, even when they are gone.


The last picture of mum, taken two weeks before she died and on the second anniversary of dad’s death.

So I’ll pick myself up. I’ll press on, however, hard these last few miles are. I’ll give every bit of my energy to reach that finish line.


The rest of the marathon organising team I know will try and make it as easy as they can, do their best for this incredible, inspirational event. My family will rally and help each other get through.

And that’s what mum would want, because she was a woman who could, also fearless and strong to the last.

*This is the first post I’ve written that mum won’t be here to read. She read every single blog I’ve written from the start and was always the very first to “like” it, write some comment of encouragement. Mum I miss you already SO much. But I know you would say: “Come on, pull yourself together. You’ll be fine.” RIP my lovely, beautiful mother. X



5 thoughts on “A Woman Who Could

  1. Monika

    You are so you are Thanks to this brave, hard-working, courageous woman! I’m sure she’s reading this blog now and she will be with you at the marathon and always! X

  2. Marylyn Hofmann

    That was lovely Jo, you made me cry when I read it as I could hear her saying all the things you said in your blog. She was a wonderful woman and I shall miss her, as well. x

  3. Hannah Ramsey

    What a moving tribute to your mum. She sounds like an amazing woman. My mum died suddenly at the end of December. I had already signed up to run this (my first) marathon and had begun to gradually build up my mileage. All that stopped. A lifelong cyclist, my Mum was slightly baffled by my taking up running. This didn’t stop her supporting me when the children were tiny though, she would often turn up to babysit so I could head out for an hour and clear my head after a day of toddlers but not before greeting me with “you’re not going out in this, are you?!” “This” could be rain, wind, heat, snow or nothing in particular – I’m not sure what she would have considered perfect conditions; maybe that was the point: she’d never done it so didn’t realise the weather doesn’t really matter. Her other concern was making myself too tired after caring for young children all day but she did always concede when I explained it was a different type of energy I was using and it actually made me feel better not worse. Latterly when she was physically frail, she accepted it was part of me and just loved hearing about the sights, sounds and smells I’d encountered on the moors and trails.
    So after my dust settled, friends picked me up and got me out running again. I have faltered, some days are really hard and consequently some runs are too but just getting out there, watching the seasons change, seeing life bursting forth out of every little green shoot, has helped. East Devon is an area I associate with my mum and her sisters (she was the last surviving of four) and for me this marathon has somehow become entwined with my mum and helped me by creating a focus when the often the thoughts in my head have felt chaotic. The loss of a parent is hard to bear and when it happens suddenly it is so much worse for those of us left behind but I think that it will, in time, gradually become less raw. Take care, Hannah

  4. CarolW

    Lovely tribute and I think I was not the only one to have a year in my eye last Sunday on the start line. I believe those we love never truly leave us as they are part of us. She will remain forever in your heart spurring you on. Thank you for such a wonderful marathon xxx


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