#0023: Like Father, Like Son
Updated: Jun 2
When I first visited the Secret Coast, I was with my dad.
It was November 2011 and we were here for a party. On the second day of the trip, we climbed into his car and set out to explore Cowal. It was cold, and it was wet, and we were both worse for wear from the night before. That day, I only saw grey when I looked out of the car window. Not my dad though. Even on that most miserable of days, he saw the Secret Coast as I see it now. Full of beauty, and wilderness, and adventure.
That was him all over.
Dad was, simply put, an extraordinary man. An extremely accomplished and well respected climber and fell runner, he won the Karrimor Mountain Marathon, Fellsman Hike and High Peak Marathon. In 1981, he finished the first London Marathon in two hours, thirty five minutes and forty seconds. Shortly after that, though, our lives were turned upside down when my entire family was involved in a car accident which broke my dads leg, bringing his running career to an abrupt end.
But he wouldn't stop.
It wasn't in his nature.
When he wasn't able to run anymore, he'd take his camera to the hills so he could photograph the races instead. His style, taking in not just the athletes, but also their place in the environment, and the strength and speed with which they moved through it, earned him a global reputation.
On the stroke of midnight, when 1999 became 2000, one of his photos, enlarged to the size of a wall, was displayed in the Millennium Dome, representing life in the mountains of the north of England.
In 2005, he became the official photographer of the Everest Marathon.
Along with photography he took up cycling, crossing the Pyrenees, the Atlas, and the foothills of the Himalayas on his bike.
He skirted the Sahara and cycled through India, from the mountains of the north, to the beaches of Kerala.
But to me, growing up, he was none of those extraordinary things.
He was Dad.
He was the one who would play the Indiana Jones theme in the car when we went on adventures. He was the one who, when I decided I wanted to dress up as a knight, made me a suit of armour, a sword and a shield. We leapt from waterfalls together. We kayaked the Ardeche gorge. We got locked in a chateau in the south of France and had to climb over the portcullis with our bikes to escape.
Dad never made it to Smithy Cottage. Within twelve months of my moving in, he was gone. But I know that he'd have loved it as much as, if not more than, I do.
Besides, it's difficult to really consider someone as gone when you can see so much of them in yourself.
My love of the outdoors. My eye for a photo. My excitement over questionable, experimental cooking. It all came from him.
If you are able to speak to your dad this Fathers' Day, then do. Pop round. Give him a call. Say thank you.
If, like me, you're not able to do that, then do this instead... Accept these words as a big hug from me, and remember to never let go of the memories.
First posted 16th November, 2014:
My sister and I grew up assuming that it was everybody's dad who climbed the Matterhorn, ran the London Marathon, cycled across deserts, took them canoeing down rapids and was the master of fancy dress.
As we got older, we realised how lucky we were to have such an inspiring, supportive and loving dad. His optimism and enthusiasm for life inspired nothing but kindness.
Yesterday, our dad's fight against cancer came to an end.
Our heads are full of happy memories which will last forever, so please don't be sad for us.
He's just off on his next big adventure...