Dicing with death

Posted on October 8, 2013

largeWe’ve talked about it a few times, Deon and I, whether there’s something sinister about doing hill repeats in a cemetery. Despite it looking a beautifully, peaceful place, with swaying palms, lush green grass and vibrant flowers, it remains the resting ground for those loved and lost. Should it be out-of-bounds then, to runners looking to build up a sweat as they run up and down, between tombstones?

I thought yes at first and declined the training suggestion but on further thought decided that pushing ourselves physically and mentally, raising our bar and finding new limits is surely no better way to feel alive, to appreciate the bodies we have and what they can do. And so doing this in a place that reminds us of how short and precious life really is, must be the ultimate backdrop.

So in the coming days, we shall go running in the cemetery. I won’t know anyone buried there but when I stop to catch my breath, I shall read some stones and think about the people they’ve left behind. I’ll also think about those buried elsewhere who’ve left me behind. And then I’ll resume our run, feeling full of gratitude for being alive, well and healthy.

A cemetery, I suppose, is like a little spiritual and historical oasis, a place to honour life. I won’t listen to music nor will I say much. I imagine I’ll feel at peace and quietly reflective. I also think, that if I were one of those buried there, I would want nothing more than a runner to celebrate life and living, by passing me.

In fact, when digging in to this topic a little deeper (sorry!), it turns out that Ed Whitlock, the Canadian runner with over 70 world records, does all his training in his local cemetery in Toronto. Only last year, at the ripe old age of 81, did he add to his record collection with a 1:38:59 half marathon.

I’m not expecting to break any world records any time soon but I do hope to identify with the words of Mignon McLaughlin who wrote in The Neurotic’s Notebook in 1960 that “death reminds us that we are still alive – perhaps for some purpose which we ought to re-examine.”

Over & out


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