In the UK, this year we are commemorating some pretty big military landmarks. Today is one of those landmarks: it’s the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in France.
I had a friend who fought on the beaches – he landed with the Canadians, and until I spoke with him about it, I never really appreciated what it might be like, seeing scores of men leave the boat, never making it to land. Nor the disorganisation and vulnerability – he told tales of fighting all day to get onto the beaches, climbing up a steep bank which was manned by enemy soldiers, and then having to pitch a tent in a nearby field as there were no barracks or food available.
He went on after the D-Day landings to become a code breaker, and travelled to the South Pacific. What struck me about this is that many years on, these are the memories which stayed with him the strongest. The rest of his life was happy, but this experience was always in the shadows: both literally in that war was the reason why he didn’t go to university (which he always regretted) or figuratively. You only get one life, and his was impacted so young by something that the country as a whole celebrates, but which caused him much private anguish.
These days there are people serving in the armed forces who do much more training than I do, who are stronger and faster than I am. For them, running isn’t something that they do for fun, or to write about on a blog, but something that they might need to rely on one day to survive. So today while we remember D-Day, I am also grateful because I am fortunate enough to run faster and train harder in the name of fun and fitness, and grateful for those people in the forces who train because they can’t afford not to.