Run 80 : USA – Berkeley


Please give generously to Cancer Research :

Date : 13th August, 2016

Time :  1h 5’ 22”

Total distance run to date : 800 km

Run map and details :

My mother was born in 1934 – she was never quite sure where – and grew up in Suffolk and, during the war, various RAF camps. She didn’t have the easiest of childhoods. After the war, her parents, my grandparents, separated and, as she once said to me, “We often didn’t know where the next meal was coming from.”

With the help of a scholarship or two, she went to school in Ipswich and then to Oxford. One of the few women of her generation to do so. She met my father there when, as legend has it, he arrived at a party by climbing in through a window. They had many happy years, and three children, together living in Oxfordshire, New York, Bangkok and Geneva.

It was while we were abroad that my mother gained her reputation as a linguist. This was probably best demonstrated one afternoon when we were skiing in the German speaking part of Switzerland. She skied at a different speed from the rest us and hence was on her own when she got onto a T bar with a local. (For those unfamiliar with T bars, they were a type of ski lift for 2 in the shape of an inverted T.)

T bars promote a certain degree of intimacy and my mother, who believed that the essence of good manners was putting other people at their ease, felt that she should strike up a conversation with her T bar partner.  No easy task when you can only think of 3 words of German – ‘schnee’ (snow), ‘Mittwoch’ (Wednesday), and ‘weiss’ (white).

To break the ice, she tried the 3 words individually. “Schnee”. “Mittwoch”. “Weiss”. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was no response.

And then came her masterstroke. She wove the 3 words into a single sentence. “Mittwoch, Schnee ist weiss”.

“Wednesday, snow is white”. Genius. The conversation flowed from there (not that my mother understood a word of  it…)

She then made the mistake of telling us the story and, inevitably, we teased her about it mercilessly for the rest of her life. And thereafter called her Mutti in recognition of her fluency in German.

Very sadly, some years later my parents split up and Mutti returned to the UK to reconstruct her life. The silver lining was that I got to see more of her until her death in 2013 from the cruel disease that is cancer.

She’s the reason I’m running round the world raising money for cancer research. She’s also the reason that 14 (+1) members of her extended family gathered one sunny Saturday morning in the hills above Berkeley.

From left to right in the picture below : Elliott +1 (grand daughter-in-law + great grandchild in utero) ; Jessie (granddaughter) ; Austin (granddaughter’s partner) ; Artemisa (son-in-law’s son’s wife) ; Chris (son-in-law’s son) ; Maya (great granddaughter) ; Charlotte (granddaughter) ; Matt (son) ; Sienna (granddaughter) ; me (son) ; Charis (daughter) ; Philip (son-in-law) ; Freya (granddaughter) ; Liz (daughter-in-law).

The run itself went through the woods with great views over the bay area and frequent encounters with family members who were variously walking,  running and pushing buggies. Organised by my sister, it was a lovely run. If tinged by sadness and memories of my mother who I still miss terribly.

Mutti, all my runs are for you. But this was a special family run and I hope that somehow, somewhere you could see us all. Together as a family and enjoying the countryside that you loved so much.


About Run the World

I'm running 10 km in every country in the world - a total of 205 countries - by the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. I'm doing the Run the World challenge to promote the benefits of sport and physical activity and to raise money for cancer research following the death of my mother from cancer. If you'd like to donate to Cancer Research - - then I know they'd be very grateful.
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2 Responses to Run 80 : USA – Berkeley

  1. Marit Selmer-Langaker says:

    What a lovely story about an amazing person. Thank you for sharing it with me. X

  2. Charis Thompson says:

    tears of sadness, of happiness, of memory, of gratitude for family and for Mutti

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