“At the pool of Bethesda, Jesus healed a man who couldn't walk” – John 5:1-15
Unwell through Autumn 2013, with relapsed aggressive lymphoma, I lived in Belfast City Hospital for nearly 6 months. Over time I lost power and mobility, due to weakness and being confined to bed with up to 6 pumps attached to me for a week at a time.
Suffering from ‘cabin fever’, I recall a precious half hour ‘jailbreak’ in the sun outside the Cancer Centre with son Chris, and Chris Agnew, as we enjoyed a Polly Pineapple each.
By May 2014, convalescence was progressing. Ruth and I could visit Barcelona for our wedding anniversary. By the sea, there’s a spacious plaza and I could barely contain the sheer pleasure of being alive, well and able to walk about freely under the expansive blue sky. Truly, “He had led me into an open space.” (Psalm 18:19)
At Bethesda, Jesus did not say “Get up, take your bedroll and sit down to watch Jeremy Kyle on daytime TV.”
Rather, he asked a question, “Do you want to get well?”, and then directed the invalid of 38 years to “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”
Along with Jesus’ gift of healing came freedom, individual autonomy and an opportunity to move forwards.
On return to work on 1 September 2014, I was still weak. Signing up with a Personal Trainer for two sessions a week proved to be a good decision and I’m now the strongest I’ve ever been. Getting fitter, I resolved to complete a 5k run in 2015 and, on Saturday 5-November, I joined 161 runners to run three laps of Belfast’s Victoria Park. The encouraging words of other runners and onlookers – “You can do it!”, “Nearly there!”, “Keep going!” – remain with me three months later. Of 162 runners, I finished 162nd. But I finished. Exhausted, I sat down. Suddenly, tears of gratitude for running the race. A lingering parkrun volunteer greeted this trailing runner. His presence, positivity and gentle support will remain with me for ever.
In December, I decided to set myself the challenge of running all 22 Northern Ireland parkruns. Then, on New Year’s Eve 2015, Roger Grant encouraged me (that word again!) to run in support of a charity.
So, from March, each Saturday, I will join each NI parkrun to advance the aims of a “Fit For Life” project which include:
- Raising £5000 for local research charity Leukaemia and Lymphoma NI
- Encouraging people to register with Delete Blood Cancer as potential stem cell donors
- Promoting the benefits of fitness for everyone
The first run will be 19-March at Victoria Park. On 16-April at 09.15, I’ll be at Bangor’s Ward Park. You are welcome to come along to run or to cheer people on.
In the words of hymn 739 - “May I run the race before me, strong and brave to face the foe, looking only unto Jesus as I onward go.”
For more information on this project see www.timpagefitforlife.com