On Sunday 14th October 2018 Rebecca took part in the Royal Parks Half Marathon. This is her story and reason for running.
By Rebecca De Jager
I always enjoy October. It gets off to a great start because my husband has his birthday in the first week. Our two sons are at adorable ages right now and they just love it when there is a birthday to be celebrated.
On my husband's birthday morning this year, the kids had the best time presenting their Pappa with his special birthday breakfast and watching/helping him open all his cards and presents! After dinner that evening the celebrations continued with a lively rendition of the birthday song as they helped him to blow out his candles. It makes me so happy to see the joy they get out of celebrating other people's birthdays. They love making others feel special and that gives me a very proud and warm feeling!
Here in the UK, October is very much an autumn month. We live in Maidenhead which is in Berkshire, not too far from Windsor and also very close to lots of gorgeous countryside, spectacular woodland and we are also on the River Thames. As a runner, I am spoilt for choice of stunning places to train. I love autumn because of the stunning colours which are on display, greens are turning to oranges and reds and it feels like there is so much to look at.
I love that it is a little colder too. There is nothing nicer than putting on a big chunky jumper and a pair of boots. I like to feel nice and cosy in my clothes and Autumn is the perfect season for that!
October is also the month in which Baby Loss Awareness Week is held. This year it is 9th - 15th October.
I usually find it really difficult because, as when my husband and I were trying to start a family, I suffered from recurrent miscarriage. Because we had miscarriages several times, I have tried to forget what the due dates were going to be, as I would find each anniversary very hard to deal with. Baby Loss Awareness Week really helps as it is a fixed date on which I can purposely reflect on what happened to us.
As time goes by the pain gets easier to deal with and I don't think about it every single day any more, although it still sometimes smacks me round the face when I least expect it. I find it helpful to have this specific week of collective reflection as sharing experiences and emotions with others who have been through similar, helps me to realise that I am not alone in this.
This October is even more eventful this year as I am once again getting out there and fundraising for Tommy’s. I have done a fair bit of fundraising for Tommy's the baby charity. Last year I ran the London Marathon for Tommy's.
I started running to lose weight after my first baby, and I soon found that it gave me a sense of freedom, of being in touch with my surroundings and of being aware of my own body and what it is capable of. But then I struggled to have another child: several miscarriages made me feel let down by my own body, and I found that running was my escape, but also a way of proving to myself that my body was strong and something that I could rely on.
I'm lucky that I now have two happy and healthy children, but there were some dark times that I went through and running was my solace. When I ran the London marathon in 2017, I wanted to support Tommy's so that the money I raised could be used to help research into miscarriage and still birth: I didn't want any other families to suffer either.
It was brilliant running for Tommy’s – the charity means a lot to me and knowing that I was raising money for such a good cause really helped me get through some hard and lonely, long runs! The charity was very supportive which was fantastic.
This year I wanted to do more fundraising and when a friend suggested that we do the Royal Parks Half Marathon together, I jumped at the chance. When I looked at the date I realised that the day of the event is actually the day before the final day of Baby Loss Awareness Week - it just seemed too perfect. I knew I had to do something different to get people to sponsor me this time. Just running was not going to cut it.
My friend I am running with raised a lot of money for charity last year by doing a lot of her marathon training runs in fancy dress. She agreed to lend me what I thought was her funniest costume and I did the half marathon dressed as a banana!
I've did a few training runs around the streets and at my running club's track night. My fellow club members donated £200 between them for me to do the entire track session. Oh my gosh it was hot.
Race day was brilliant, even though the weather was pants. It rained, a lot!
Thankfully, it didn’t rain all the time, it poured down just before the start, but luckily it stopped, and conditions were quite pleasant. I had been worried about overheating in the banana suit, but I needn’t have been concerned as the weather was perfect for running, cool and with just a slight breeze. However, just after I saw my husband cheering in the crowd at mile 10, the heavens opened. It didn’t just rain, it hammered it down. The banana was very soggy indeed! It acted as a sponge and soaked up loads of water, it started to get quite heavy and drag down, so I had to grab the dangly bit at the bottom and carried it, so I didn’t trip over.
Despite this, I still had a brilliant time, the crowd absolutely loved the banana and they cheered for me and called out “Go Banana” all around the course. It really lifted my spirits and kept me going all the way round. It was lovely to put a smile on people’s faces especially the children. I ran with my friend Rosie who was dressed as the Queen of Hearts. We had an absolute blast, we laughed almost the entire 13.1 miles.
The event itself was wonderful, brilliantly organised and the marshals were fantastic even though they must have been freezing and very wet indeed. I would recommend the Royal Parks Half Marathon to anyone as it is in a stunning location, well supported all the way round and it is relatively flat!
My fundraising has reached £628 for this challenge so far. It has received a lot of attention. I was even in the local paper in my costume. This takes my total up to an amazing £8314.91!
It means so much to me that I have taken the worst time in my life and managed to make a positive out of it. I really believe in the work that Tommy's do, and it is a comfort to me that I am able to help in a small way. For this reason, I am hoping that this October will be massively healing and also lots of fun!
For such a small person, who only had a place in the world for the nine months he was carried, he has brought so much love and is loved by so many people.
This experience has opened my eyes and I want to be part of that change. I don’t want to stand on the side lines. I and other women should never feel ashamed to talk about pregnancy loss.
If there is only one thing you take away from reading my story and Lukas’s, please take away 'hope'.
We've kept the eye mask he wore, to remind us of everything he made it through.
"I hope our story gives couples some reassurance that there is light at the end of the tunnel because after 9 miscarriages we have our miracle on the way"
Born weighing less than a bag of sugar over twenty-one years ago, Harriet has come a long way to today, in her final year of University, writing her dissertation on premature infants.