Two weeks ago my friend Clare passed away and I miss her so much. She was a beloved member of the Up & Running community and a huge part of the last four-and-a-bit years, sharing many globetrotting adventures and thousands of forum words with us.
I’ve been writing down fragments of memories, to make sure I get down all the good things I don’t want to forget.
Like the U&R 5K Course of Summer 2011, when we met. For eight weeks she ran around Glasgow, reporting back wildlife sightings and witty observations, with an uncanny ability to find the positives in even the crummiest run.
The magical Bologna retreat in 2012. A chatty, rainy 6K race with Clare, Julia K and Honor. Dodging puddles and striding along the colonnades, already plotting the next meet-up.
Back to Bologna a year later. I started the race in a grumpy, pathetic mood but walking with Clare and Honor upturned the frown as we made a game of overtaking the competition.
A marathon weekend in Edinburgh, when U&R buddies flew in from all over. I’d found a bargain night at the swanky Missoni hotel and asked Clare if she’d be my roomie, even though it made no sense for us locals to stay in a hotel. Of course, she was up for it. We lounged in the bathrobes, plundered the “free” mini-bar and took all the fancy toiletries home.
A few weeks later, a rainy Sunday cheering on the awesome Paula G for her first Half Ironman. Roomies again, and agreeing wholeheartedly that the pillows in Paula’s cottage were far superior to the Missoni’s.
Barcelona last February, Sunday morning sunshine. The rustle of bright pink pompoms that Julia K brought all the way from Texas, cheering on our marathon heroines. I’ll cart those pompoms to every race now ’til they fall apart.
A year ago this Sunday, our living room here in Inverness. Clare scratched Neighbour Cat behind the ears in a magical spot that made her collapse into a happy pile of purrs. Gareth has got the move down pat, but I can’t bloody do it! And of course, he won’t show me how. I think he likes being the custodian of the Clare Technique.
Our geeky conversations on the joys of organising and spreadsheets and lists and stationery and the art of packing light. Texts before each U&R meetup about what colour we were painting our toenails. The ongoing discussion about the search for the perfect cross-body travel bag. Light enough to walk around a city all day, but stylish enough not to look like a tourist. It’s very important stuff!
I loved Clare’s kindness and compassion. If anyone was going through a difficult time, inevitably the perfect card would pop through the door, with just the right words inside to bring a smile and sense of perspective.
Then when faced with her own illness, she was matter-of-fact, dignified; honest about her fears. Quietly courageous. Hopeful.
I used to hear the phrase they lived life to the full and thought it meant daredevil stuff like bungee jumping or swimming with sharks. But now it makes me think of Clare. The way she filled her life, with purpose and intent. Fully present.
Clare… I’m forever grateful for all the random internet clicks that happened for our paths to cross. And more grateful than ever for my treasured U&R friends and the crazy, precious bond forged over our keyboards.
I miss your calm presence, your thoughtful observations, your wicked wit. I can hear your melodious accent saying the words you’d said in all kinds of situations, Och well. What can you do? You’ve just got to get on with it. But you were so wonderful that you’ll have to let us be with this sadness awhile longer.
I’m celebrating too. All the friendship and good times we packed into those too-few years. We’ll shake our pompoms and raise many a gin and tonic in your name. You will always be with us, along for the next adventure.