I cannot think of many sports scenarios sadder than the one I am about to describe.

Imagine deciding to run a marathon for charity, in honour of a loved one’s heroic fight. You train hard for a year, running three or four times a week, over progressively longer distances and eventually reach the twenty-mile mark, three weeks before the big day. In those discipline-focused months, you lost ten kilos, feel fifteen years younger and enjoyed many ‘looking great’ comments from friends, family, colleagues and strangers.

Race day arrives, you’ve never felt better, and you set off amidst cheers, festivities and tens of thousands of equally determined seasoned runners and first-timers. At the twenty-mile mark, you suddenly become aware that you are approaching new territory.

You’ve never been this far before, your legs are hurting, the thrill of the carnival has waned, and each breath takes more effort than the relief it gives. You try to master the thoughts in your mind: I’ve trained for this, I am doing this for my friend, I know there is not much further to go.

Imagine if, after all that effort, you quit on twenty-five miles – with only one more to go? I don’t know if that scenario has ever played out for real.

I hope not. But it often does in other areas of our lives.

Good news on the horizon

The news of effective Covid vaccines is probably the best Christmas present any of us could have wished for. I don’t need to repeat the reasons for 2020 being such a challenging year for everyone.

But I do feel like we have been through the hardest yards of a marathon – and we can see the end in sight. And in this post, I would like to encourage you to keep on going and see it through to the end. If you have survived the last eight or nine months, commercially and personally, you can probably get through anything.

One of the best things to come out of the first lockdown was the idea of being able to form a bubble with someone who most needed it. Usually, this was a family being able to invite a single person into their home for friendship and company.

Well, I am hopeful that all these bubbles will begin to burst and open up entirely in the early months of 2021 – allowing many more people to get together once more.

In the educational space, where we spend most of our time, I know many teachers have found the isolation difficult in other ways. Not being able to mix with fellow teachers, always wearing masks outside of the classroom, having to teach in the most unpredictable and unsettling conditions since we were a nation at war.

The UK owes enormous gratitude to our NHS workers – and rightly so. But we must not forget how much our children’s teachers have gone through either – and how much we owe them for their fight.

Keep on keeping on…

The thing about running marathons on big occasions is that people come out to support and cheer. There is a carnival feeling at the beginning and a festival at the finish line. But what gets you through is the twenty-six miles of strangers shouting encouragement along the entire course. And they are the reason I don’t believe the sad scenario described at the beginning of this post does happen very often. I don’t think the supporters would allow it.

My sincere hope, today, it that you have friends, family, colleagues and strangers around to support you through these last few miles until we see how the ‘new normal’ pans out.

More than that, though, I would encourage you to be a good supporter of others who might be struggling. A lot of what we have seen this year has been tragic. But it would be even sadder to see anyone who had made it this far fall. Don’t let that happen on your watch.

Please feel free to pass my little story on to anyone you think might need it.