Her name was Sophie, and she was the best friend a person could ask for. The most generous, warm-hearted, beautiful human being I had the privilege to know. When I run this race it will be almost five months since she died.
I first started running when I had gone through a really bad break up, and found myself in the Lake District for a long stint of work. Being around nature really helped, I felt like I could breathe again. Over the three years of this relationship I'd started having panic attacks, and anxiety was never far away. Sophie and I lived together at the time, and on the days when I would collapse on the kitchen floor crying, she would help me up. When I couldn't stand she would sit on the floor with me until I could.
I ran my first race (the Spotlight 10K challenge) a year ago, and Sophie sponsored me. In thanks I wrote the most ridiculous rap about her, which I performed after one too many glasses of wine. Another evening of silliness and laughter, one of many many joyous memories.
On the days when I would collapse on the kitchen floor crying, she would help me up. When I couldn't stand she would sit on the floor with me until I could.
A month before she died, she sent me a message, which read, "thanks for being proud of me but remember how proud I always am of you. Work successes are one thing, but really we're measured by how kind we are to other humans...you're an amazing friend and so funny and wise and brave."
I certainly don't feel like that most of the time. But she reminds me all the time to ignore that horrible, judgemental, damaging voice in my head. She is the person I would call, day or night, and know without doubt I was loved. What an incredible human she was, and how lucky was I to have a friend like that.
So, in my grief, the training for this race has consisted of coffee, cigarettes and booze. And I don't even smoke. I have cried and cried and cried, and still the void her absence has left feels impossibly empty. But it's her belief in me that gets me up, gets me running, helps me back on track. Don't get me wrong, a lot of days I do none of these things, but I know that I'm trying my best and sometimes that's enough. Sophie helped me to realise that.
She is the person I would call, day or night, and know without doubt I was loved…how lucky I was to have a friend like that.
Going to therapy has really helped. I started off with a bit of counselling last year, again talking to Sophie was the nudge I needed to go. There's that stigma that's attached to it, but you don't need to be completely broken down to seek help. In this modern world we have so much clogging up our minds, no wonder we might get a little stuck.
Running has been a huge part of improving my mental health. It has helped me gain a huge sense of inner strength, and been an amazing tool to actively help myself feel better. In short, it changed my life.
I told Sophie that I had signed up for the Royal Parks Half Marathon 2017, and that I was raising money for Mind. A charity that meant a lot to both of us. Over 17 years of friendship we saw the best and worst of times, and having the ability to talk meant we could help each other. And she certainly helped me. I hope by raising money for Mind I can help people who weren't as lucky as I was to have a friend like Sophie on speed-dial. She had said she wanted to sponsor me, so now I hope I can honour her with your help, and raise money in her name. And to anyone out there who is struggling, just know that you are not alone.
I hope by raising money for Mind I can help people who weren't as lucky as I was to have a friend like Sophie on speed-dial.
Race day is going to be tough. Physically, emotionally and just everything-y. But through her family, boyfriend and friends, I have had the most amazing encouragement and support. Some of them will be down on race day to cheer me on, and I really couldn't imagine doing it without them.
The last month has been a bit better. I've had a few jobs come in and with routine my training has got going. Even now I reach for my phone, thinking ooh I must tell Sophie about this article, she'd be so proud...so for the most amazing friend in the world, who made me laugh for almost two decades, even if I have to walk the race for most of the way, this is my way of trying to say thank you. For being my friend.
Emily will be running (or walking) the Royal Parks Half Marathon in memory of Sophie on Sunday 8th October. If you’d like to sponsor her, you can do so here.
If you’re interested in running your own race, take a look at our running events here.