Well, the obvious start would be for me to drone on about the London Marathon; why I and five other raving lunatics will be running, walking, crawling or shuffling the 26-plus miles through London’s streets, for and on behalf of, Fishing for Schools.
An obvious topic but I will not be doing that yet. First, I would like to celebrate the life of a dear friend to me and Fishing for Schools.
Sally Merrison passed away on 23 August very gently in her sleep and left a monumental chasm in the country sports world. Sally would hate all the fuss. She was that sort of human but as I will not get a 'ticking off', I would love to bring you a tiny little fragment of this rather extraordinary women’s character.
Sally lived in a picture-perfect Mill aside the River Dever. A river that she lovingly shared with so many of us. Just a phone call was enough to encourage us to “pop in” where you would be met with a clamour of various dogs – in the early years her beloved Greyhounds – gazehounds. In this area of activity, she was consummately knowledgeable and the undisputed first lady of the sport she loved.
Thereafter there would be tea – or coffee – always the offer of lunch, dinner… anything and nothing was ever forced or too much trouble. Ever. Even a bed for the night.
Now if Sally said she was busy, she was busy. Sally was the gentlest, most genial and cheekily jovial of characters – yet dressed up in an iron clad exterior full of determination and grit. She was for me the absolute personification of the beloved Grandma - kind and generous but robustly firm when the need arose. The archetypal English lady. Magnificent. Stoic.
She was the best confidant you could ever wish for, someone who always told the truth and never patronised or flimflammed. But when the chips were down, she was there with the right word and the right tenor. And always, that mischievous twinkle.
Her commitment to fishing and young people was profound. Days to help funding or raising awareness, but it was Sally’s commitment to Fishing for Schools that was very special – and will be sorely missed. When my son Alex was part of the England Youth Team, Sally had no hesitation in inviting more than 14 young people to fish her glorious little chalkstream – and, naturally, hosted the parents, served food, coffee, tea and just threw open her doors, garden, river and surrounds to welcome, just an extended part of a family that she hadn’t got to know.
That was the Merrison way. I doubt if we shall see ever her like again.
Unique. That was Sally Merrison.
Now... the Marathon!
This is it for me… and I know that I have said “this is my last” several times, but the abject disappointment of crumpling and collapsing at mile 19 during last year’s Virtual Marathon still haunts me. I don’t do failure. Last year I failed.
Time to put that right, for you, the supporters of what we do. For Fishing for Schools and all the young people whose support I carry with me. For the amazing team who have assembled and agreed to run this year for the Foundation and F4S, but mostly… it's for me.
One final flourish and I am done! There will be other events, other distances and other challenges, just not this.
What people don’t see, and why should they, is the dedicated training one has to do. An evening 5K, a trip to the gym, acupuncture to help niggles, twinges and ouches, and the getting up and tugging on running clothes and trainers when you would far rather curl up under a warm duvet.
A marathon isn’t just about the 26-odd miles on the day, but the hours and miles that lead up to it. That, to some extent, is what you celebrate and support when you lend your help to what we do.
So, one last time you lovely people… One last time.
To support Charles on his FINAL marathon, please visit his JustGiving page.