Running through grief – a recap on four marathons in four weeks
A few weeks, maybe a month or so before I decided that I would run four marathons (or greater distance) in four weeks, my friend and band mate died.
When I started this project, it seemed very unrelated to this fact.
What had prompted me to do this project was a Facebook post by Help Save The Furry Ones regarding their vet bill and the fact that the bill was so high the vet would not do any more procedures until it was reduced. I wanted to help. I couldn’t stand the thought of injured animals in pain all because of a lack of dollars. My fundraising attempts through running had been quite successful in the past so I thought maybe this was a way I could help.
The first two runs were in New Zealand, the first being the Tarawera Ultra, a 60km event with something like 2500m of elevation (the final course was altered at the last minute due to a cyclone so I’m not sure what the exact profile ended up being). There was a moment out on the course, about 10km from the finish when the rain was really coming down and the trail was so slippery. I was moving so slowly which meant 10km seemed so very far away. I hit a real low point. That was when I thought of Gwak. At first I felt a sadness so heavy. Then I felt an anger at myself for grumbling and complaining. I was alive. What can make you feel any more alive than running an ultra marathon in another country in a cyclone? I won’t say I was suddenly filled with hope and sprinted to the finish line because I didn’t, but I kept moving forward and the mental entanglement of my thoughts kept me preoccupied until I got to that finish line.
A week later as I made the drive to Auckland, I started to get really angry. That particular day was the day that Gwak’s memorial gig was being held in Melbourne and I would miss it because I was here running, in New Zealand. I was filled with an incredible rage that lasted hours. When I finally stopped the car to stretch my legs, I pulled up along side a work site. I opened the car door and in streamed Learn To Fly by Foo Fighters. It was blaring from the work site. When I think of Foo Fighters, I think of Gwak. It was a very strange coincidence. I wasn’t angry anymore. Not that day anyway.
When I got back to Australia, I was excited to get back to CrossFit. My body was beat up but I was enjoying the challenge of the work out, that was until There Goes My Hero by Foo Fighters starts blaring in the middle of the workout. Who the fuck plays Foo Fighters in a CrossFit work out? Wheres the Five Finger Death Punch? The Pantera? I wanted to scream at my coach to turn that fucking song off. I was screaming it in my head. Tears started flowing down my red hot cheeks as I continued to deadlift my pain away. I just kept lifting and screaming in my head. I knew if I said the words out loud I’d have to explain “they played this song at my friend’s funeral.”
The next two weeks were odd. I spent a lot of time driving in my little pink car – to races, to training sessions. We drove that car to Adelaide when we toured. Gwak had sat in the front passenger seat while I drove. Anyone who knows Gwak knows he loves a good chat and anyone who knows me knows I can be an inpatient cranky bitch. I was really worried how that drive to Adelaide would go – 20 hours in the car in a 48 hour period. Well Gwak was pretty bloody awesome.
I, being my cranky self, couldn’t handle to conversation that was going on in the back seat so I played Dimmu Borgir most of the drive. Every time the conversation started in the back I would just jack the volume up on the stereo. Gwak sat there reading his book most of the drive hardly speaking (which is rare!). Then he turns to me. The stereo is pretty much as loud as it can get – blast beats ahoy and he says with a big smile “diggin’ the choice of tunes on this trip Tash.” Then back to the book.
Gwak definitely had a presence. It was a really comforting presence on that road trip to Adelaide. As I drove around from race to race and training session the last few weeks, I felt Gwak’s presence in that front passenger seat.
After the Roller Coaster Run, run 3 of 4, I knew he was with me. When I first moved to the Dandenong’s Gwak had told me that there was a panther in there and that I needed to keep running, preferably at strange hours of the night, to try and find that panther. I wanted to tell Gwak that I had just run 44km though the Dandenongs and not seen the panther. I think he would have told me to keep running.
After race 4 of 4 – the Buffalo Stampede, a marathon with 3000m of ascent from Bright to Mt Buffalo, I had a four hour drive home. The sun had set. I hadn’t even had a shower or washed the sweat and dirt of the race off me before I had gotten in the car. I drove with a quiet sense of accomplishment. I looked to the passenger seat and thought of Gwak. It didn’t hurt so much. That sharp stabbing in my chest had subsided (or moved to my legs – that’s what four in four will do to you!).
This weekend is my first weekend off. I did something I don’t often do and went out for a while last night to catch up with my music family. My Adelaide music family were in town and I was asked how my music was going, what was I doing? Without thinking the words that came out of my mouth were “my drummer died.”
The thing is, both Gwak and I had left that band before Gwak passed away so that wasn’t the reason I took a break from music, but I think that is the reason why music won’t ever be the same.
Music had always been my outlet for pain. This time, it wasn’t available to me. I didn’t realise it at the time, when I put this project together, but that was what the four in four project ultimately became – not only an outlet for the pain, but a way to work through the pain.
When I drove home from the gig last night, I felt Gwak’s presence in the passenger seat again.
Bands are like relationships, you go through quite a few in your time and not all of them are good experiences, but those special ones, they change you forever. To Gwak and the rest of the guys in Shut Up And Choke Me, thanks for the good times.