Run for the 96

Driving effortlessly and nippily down the M62 is a phenomena rarely witnessed nowadays; unless you have the privilege of owning
a BMW (they can drive however they like can’t they?) or it’s very early on a Sunday morning.

As we approached the entrance to Queen’s Drive, I could almost feel my scouse accent warming up and I had the sudden urge to utter words like ‘chicken’ and ‘lah!’

Not the usual football visit today though!  Today, I was on my way to run (yes run!) in memory of 96 football fans who (unlike me) never came home.

After negotiating the normal ‘let’s set a car park up anywhere, even if it is on a rubble site’ scenario, I made my way to Stanley Park where the atmosphere was already electric.

To stand amidst a sea of red and blue t-shirts, the emblem ‘never forget’ almost became irrelevant as people turned up in their thousands to do just that.  Despite the unity of the morning, I was suddenly drawn to the familiar flash of the yellow and blue vest in the form of Haze Pearson (who I think somehow convinced me to sign up for the Chester Metric and Hell Runner!)

As the start time approached, we gathered around the podium and I stood with mums and dads, children, teenagers, nanas and
granddads, dogs (also wearing their t-shirts) and an array of different sized Jürgen Klopps (even a police officer sporting said mask for a short time!)

I do not think I can put into words how we all felt when Rafa Benitez made a surprise appearance, echoing his support for the runners and the 96.  You could cut through the silence when the brave and courageous words of encouragement and support jettisoned through the crowds from Margaret Aspinall.  And just when things could not get more emotionally charged, a menagerie of runners stood shoulder to shoulder to bring the early morning alive singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and clapping through the Z-Cars Everton anthem.

Out came the sunshine (and dried up all the rain!) The countdown was on and as I ran over the start line, determined to make this a pb course, I watched.  I watched wheelchair users powering through the park, I watched children of all ages running hand in hand with
mums and dads.  I watched elderly couples walking, arms linked. I watched disabled youngsters clapping and cheering fellow runners.  I watched as a group of blind runners were led by their guides chanting ‘justice for the 96’ and I stopped.  I didn’t stop
running.  I stopped looking.  I stopped looking at my pace.  I stopped looking at my distance; because in that moment I realised. It’s not always about how fast you can run something.  It’s not always about achieving a ‘personal best’.  Having a reason to run,  feeling supported, uniting for a cause, being a part of something inspirational and achieving goals you never thought were possible make each and every one of us triumphant achievers!  WRC has helped me to achieve in just this way.

I am so humbled to have been part of this amazing run today but, moreover, I am constantly reminded by every stride I take with WRC that I am part of an incredible community of runners.  The 96 will never ‘Walk Alone’ and at WRC you’ll never run alone.