Miles of smiles

This year’s far from over but I already know one of its Red Letter Days will be doing the Great North Run with my sister.

Miles behind where Mo Farah was breaking the finish line we ran alongside Star Troopers, Supermen, and firefighters sweating in full uniform. It was a day of colourful celebration, personal achievements and incredible fundraising. It also reminded me of an important lesson.

A smile really is the shortest distance between two people

By mile eight I was convinced someone had replaced my legs with tree trunks. They didn’t bend and they weighed a ton. All around, clenched jaws and clenched faces suggested we charity runners had not only hit the pain barrier but would spend the final five miles shoving against it in order to move forward at all.

I’m sure I grimaced with the best of them - but not as much or as often as I smiled. And it was that that made the difference.

You see the streets were lined with thousands of people, but apart from pointing out the occasional Elsa or Mutant Turtle, there were too many faces and stories for the crowds to pick out individuals.

Our smiles became an invitation to connect for a moment, and that was all it took for the spectators to see us and call out our names. “Go Jane. Well done Shirley. You’re doing great girls.”

Their support was like rocket fuel, just as it can be on any day of the week when we are busy, preoccupied, exhausted, down, depleted, on the treadmill or whatever. And then a moment of connection - a smile, a word, someone seeing us or hearing us - changes everything.

A long chain of those moments got us to the finish line and therefore to a fundraising total of almost £1,000 for the Stroke Association who will spend it making other lives better.

Truly, you never know how far a smile can travel.


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