In my slightly younger years, I became obsessed with running. I ran home from work almost every day (about 6 miles) and found it to be my happy place in balancing my mental health with the stresses of the job with being at home. I could clear my mind and sort things out at the same time in the space of an hour or so.  

My obsession led to what would be my ultimate physical and mental challenge, running a marathon. In 2000, I ran Dublin. A very good friend of mine encouraged me to join him only to be struck by injury a couple of weeks before, so I found myself alone amongst the crowd on a cold October morning on the start line wondering what was ahead. Nervous as to whether I could really make it 26.2 miles.

The feeling I had then and the uncertainty I felt really chimed with March 2020. The onset of the pandemic brought fear and uncertainty in abundance. This time however unlike my preparations for Dublin there had been no year-long training schedule, no diet plan or new trainers to set us on our way at WLM.

However, seeing the reality of what we might face a COVID specific business continuity plan was written in the first 2 weeks of March at least gave us a route for the marathon challenge of responding to the pandemic. Adrenaline has certainly paid its part and our energy levels and mental strength have fluctuated but we are beginning to contemplate the finish line.

Back to Dublin and a mix of emotions and fantastic local encouragement got me to the 20 miles mark where I hit what is known in Marathon circles as ‘the wall.’ My energy sapped and legs felt heavy and the idea that there was another 6.2 miles to go felt impossible. It was at that point that, as my pace slowed significantly, someone on the side of the road shouted ‘stay strong now, there is just a bit further and you are done’.  

It feels to me like we are at the equivalent 20 miles now in our COVID effort. However ‘the wall’ of uncertainty and fear has hit us at WLM, we have stayed strong as there is a bit further to go and we will move on from dealing with the pandemic. Yet like that person who I have never forgotten, we are encouraging our people, we are pushing to ensure that protocols are followed, we are getting tested to control outbreaks and we are striving to do all we can to keep everyone safe. We welcome the vaccine news with cautious optimism to get us to the finish line of this marathon effort.

I finished Dublin in 3 hours 49 minutes, the last 6 miles were by far my fastest. I sincerely believe that at WLM we can do the same. I look forward to the new year, our new 3-year strategy for 2021-24 and the new races we will need to run to fulfil our mission to empower positive change.

Best wishes,

Roger