World Mental Health Day Tues 10th October

I wrote this article in 2013 a few days after running my first Darkness into Light for Pieta House.  At the time I had no understanding of the trauma that affects the families who have experienced suicide, I was however still incredibly moved by the event having struggled for many years with my own darkness.   Since writing this article 4 years ago I now unfortunately have an understanding of the trauma and devastation that families and friends have to come to terms with when a loved one takes their own life.  

On this, October 10th 2017, take the time to check in with someone, a text, a call, a smile, a nod, let someone know that you care.  A simple gesture can make a huge impact on a persons day.  

DARKNESS INTO LIGHT 

A few weeks ago a friend of mine asked me if I'd like to run the Darkness into Light event for Pieta House (see below).  As a newly converted runner I readily agreed to get up at 2am on a Fri night to run 5k at 4am!  Was I mad? What was I thinking?  Roll on a few weeks later and lots of training to get up to 5k and the day arrived... funnily enough my friend decided she wasn't ready for 5k and opted out of the challenge. 

So at 11pm last Friday I got into my bed and stared at the clock, and stared and stared, finally after no sleep I dragged myself up at 2am, got running dressed and drank my very strong coffee.  Now I may add at this point that since I gave up drinking over 4yrs ago it is a very long time ago that I have seen 2am!   Armed with my headphones and kicking 90's tunes I headed off into the dark to drive across town to the Phoenix Park where one of the 20 different runs simultaneously coordinated around the country was taking place.  Driving at that hour of the night is eerie - I passed taxi's driving revelers home, people walking from late night pubs to later night clubs and the odd fox scurrying across the roads.   There is a strange quietness to driving late at night when you haven't slept.  I arrived at my destination slightly apprehensive as to where exactly I had to go - I know the Phoenix Park as Dublin Zoo is located there but I've never been to an event at 4am in pitch-black darkness!  I should note that my drive through town was lite with streetlights but upon entering the Park other than car lights there were no lights.

As I rounded the corner to enter the Park I came to an abrupt stop as I took my place in the sea of cars/buses/mini buses/walkers all trying to get into the Park, what had been a silent journey from my home was now a journey of buzzing activity.  I couldn't quite get my emotions in check - sitting in my car waiting for the stewards to wave me through the main gates I watched couples walking hand in hand, parents pushing buggies, parents holding young children’s hands, grannies, grand-dads, dogs on leads, people dressed for walking, people dressed for running, just hundreds of people.  I was over whelmed by the sheer volume of people all heading in the same direction.  It reminded me of a large concert except that these people were on a mission, that mission being to get to the start line in time. 

40mins later and I'm parked and realise it's 3.50am - I've 10mins to get somewhere, I still don't exactly know where that somewhere is, all I know is fall in with the mass of people and follow, alone I see a few women jogging and feeling like I don't want to miss the start I follow them and jog the 3k to the main area.  I have my registration with me so I can exchange it for bright yellow Pieta House Darkness into Light t-shirt so I too can look like the 6,000 amazing people all up at 4am in the morning.    I think that it is at this point I started to feel a specialness I have never felt before, it's just after 4am and the runners start at 4.20am so I make my way to the start line and wait while the speeches are said, I was surrounded by people, in front of me, behind me, either side of me, everywhere were people all chatting about various topics.  I was standing beside a group of woman discussing a major home renovation, another group were discussing a previous run they had done a few weeks prior in training for the Dublin City Marathon.  I felt very voyeuristic listening to all these conversations as such close proximity and not being part of them, and more strangely not wanting to be part of them.

It's 4.23am and off we go, I've my music all set and I'm part of the wave of people running into Darkness.

I say this because I don't think I had any idea what this event was going to be like for me.  I ran and I ran and I ran, I ran in total Darkness on a route I never ran, I could barely see the person in front of me.  Some people were wearing head torches and flashing bike reflectors, which gave an even more surreal feeling - the torch lights gave the effect of strobe lights at a nightclub coupled with my headphones blasting 90's dance tunes into my head.  I had flashing flash backs to mad nights in my 20's, my senses were heightened even further by not being able to hear (headphones) or see (darkness) someone behind me, in front of me or over-taking me.  But I knew I had to keep running, I am quite competitive with myself and having said I was going to run this event I sure as hell was going to!  And run I did, I ran faster than I had ever run in my life, I ran like something was chasing me in the dark and I had to get to the light, I ran to get away from the fear, I ran because I knew all I wanted was to get to the light.

As I got to 3.5k dawn was starting to shed some light on the surrealness of what I was doing I was faced with a steep hill - my legs were aching at this stage as I was running each kilometre faster than I'd run before and like life I plan for the surprise of steep hill in front of me, I had no choice but to push myself up that hill and not give up.  At the top of that hill in yet another not quite real moment was a gospel choir dressed in full robes singing beautifully.

The dawn is getting brighter and I can see the end in sight, what a relief - I focus on the Dad in front of me who is holding hands with a boy who can't be more than 10yrs old and they are running - I mean really running.  The energy around me is incredible, the sea of yellow t-shirts I can now see clearly not like 30mins earlier.  As I finish my race I can't hold the lump in my throat any more and the tears start to flow, not because I've run 5k at 4am, not because I'm chuffed I actually got up but I am now surrounded by candles on the ground spelling out the words HOPE, large canvases are on the ground where people can sign their names and/or write a note to a departed loved one.

As I walk back silently to my car I reflect on what has just happened, the incredibly moving experience I've not just participated in and but also been a spectator to.   I have had my own experience of going from Darkness into Light; I've had a tiny glimpse of the darkness that can engulf anyone.  Darkness doesn't care if you're young or old, rich or poor, male or female.  But neither does Light, and the sun does rise every day so no matter how dark it can be the light will come.