The Journal Pioneer
Catherine Dickson was stunned.
Here she was, prepared to face the challenge of a 10-kilometre walk. She was in Greece with Team Diabetes, ready to do her best and raise money for a worthy cause – and to run in memory of her late sister and mother who had died from complications caused by the disease.
Now, she faced a serious dilemma.
“I didn’t come all this way to do nothing. I want to do this,” she told herself.
Earlier that morning, she and a friend had boarded a bus for the beginning of their walk. What Dickson didn’t know, until it was too late, was that this bus carried marathoners. And the driver was little help, despite her pleas, shooing her off the bus with the seasoned runners.
There, in the pouring rain, Dickson had to decide: run 42 kilometres or quit.
With friend Hilda Seagull, Dickson set out on the gruelling course of steep hills and valleys with a heavy knapsack on her back. The first 20 km weren’t bad. But, with 12 km left, Dickson hit what runners refer to as “the wall”.
Thinking of her family, those who donated towards her $6,100 fundraising goal and of her late mother and sister, Dickson soldiered on.
“I thought, ‘I only have 12 kilometres to do, damn it, I’m not stopping now’.”
Unlike experienced long-distance runners Dickson hadn’t used body glide to lubricate her legs, making each stride more painful than the last.
Then, with only four kilometres left, the rain broke and the sun began to shine. Feeling the presence of her mother and sister, Dickson knew she would finish.
“I knew if I had to crawl it I was going to make it,” she said, choking back tears. “I knew that they were there and that they were cheering me on.”
Exhausted, her inner thighs bleeding, Dickson grabbed hold of her friend’s hand and sprinted to the finish line. After 42 kilometres and seven hours, she had completed her first marathon.
“I was never an athlete,” said the 47-year-old mother of four. “To have someone put a medal around your neck, that was surreal. I was sore but I did it. I set out to do what I wanted to do.”
At the finish Team Diabetes members and veteran runners lauded her as a hero.
“One of the men going by said, ‘you’re bleeding, you’re a true marathoner’.”
Dickson finished ahead of dozens of runners in six hours and 48 minutes.
She says her late sister Clara would be proud.
“I’m going to do it again and I’ll do the 42 kilometres.”
And what would she say to that bus driver?
“Thank-you, I really would. It was a gift. I really didn’t think I had it in me.”