7am Saturday morning? I'm climbing back into bed after doing Darkness into Light. Flumpy, my precious dog, is curled up at my feet, and all whom I love are thankfully safe and well.
Over 120,000 people ran, or walked a 5km course at a multiple of different locations in Ireland and abroad this seventh year of the event. It's my fourth time doing it and each time; I forget the emotion it brings to the fore.
Even amongst the cacophony of dog barks (my own being responsible for a lot of it) and the busy hum of chat, or the louder, considered silences, there's the most incredible, respectful feeling of community amongst all Darkness into Light participants. Add the precious personal messages on tee-shirts, or through flickering candles or carried momentoes, commemorating loved ones who may no longer be with us, and the reason for this very special event constantly (but gently) returns, front of mind.
Unfortunately, self-harm and suicide, the key issues dealt with through the hosting charity, Pieta House, are all too common. We hear statistics every day, and as time passes, each of us seems to become more and more aware - sadly often through close-hand experience. We know Ireland has a high suicide rate, we hear how young men are particularly vulnerable, we are told that suicide isn't a desire to die, but more an inability to keep living. Pieta House plays a huge part in educating us as to the signs, so that perhaps we can all help cut those statistics. You can find out more here.?
Processing these facts whilst walking through the darkest hour, and then into dawn becomes hugely significant and moving. The power of people, gathered in memory, bereavement and then possibly hope is so beautifully articulated at The Phoenix Park event where there Dublin Gospel Choir appear, singing joyfully around the uphill climb of the fourth kilometre, just at the stage when dawn is about to break.
It's hard to swallow back the lump in one's throat through the five kilometers, but the Darkness into Light organisers are all over it at the finish line. To accompany daylight, and a job well done, there's a real feeling of celebration; with fruit, water, a few treats and coffee for all. I don't know any sporting event that's better catered!
Those lucky enough to hear Pieta House founder Joan Freeman speak at the starting line at Phoenix Park know she's not a Misery Mary. In fact, she's the opposite ??a bright, encouraging, optimistic voice who's all about taking control and doing what she can to stop, or at least educate us all about recognition and understanding suicide.
Right now, Facebook is exploding with pictures of smiling people in yellow tee-shirts, proud of a job well done. We're shattered, knackered (what ever happened to my ability to party through the night with no sleep?), but it feels good to play a part in something so tangible for such an incredible organisation. The money raised seems almost secondary to the emotional journey, but I know it's not, especially as Pieta House receives no government funding (don't start me).
Congrats to my fellow DIL-ers; may this year bring positivity, light and love to us all.