Why I walked 5 kms in a gale

Dave Fitzsimons Fitzy
Dave Fitzsimons: an amazing athlete, a humble man

This post was first published on 1 August, 2010. Given that I’ve started my half marathon training, it’s timely to look back and see how far I’ve come. Dave would be looking down, smiling to himself and saying: I can’t believe she’s still running!

Dave Fitzsimons died on 7 September 2008, from non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Today I walked 5 kilometres to honour his memory.

Dave was one of the nicest, warmest, most empathetic human beings I have ever known. I knew him as my manager, a client and my friend. When you talked to him, he made you feel like you were the only person in the world who mattered. He always had time for a coffee and a chat; he was always interested in what I was up to.

I didn’t know he was an Olympic athlete until I had known him for quite some time. He went to Montreal and Moscow as a long distance runner: and he still holds records in South Australia. But it was like him to downplay his amazing athletic achievements.

His leukemia was a shock to us all, and probably, most of all to him. I can imagine that if you’d put that much effort into your fitness, you would feel betrayed by your own body. The good thing, if there is such a scenario, is that he went quickly, and within a year of his diagnosis. I went to his funeral. I don’t think the church where it was held had seen that many people attend a service in years. His son, John, spoke about his father, devastated by a life cut short. He was a young 58.

Dave’s final words to his son were: “Do some living for me”.

Well, Dave, I intend to honour your request. And that’s one of the reasons I walked today in weather that can best be described as crap. Athletics SA ran the inaugural Fitzy’s 5 as a way to pay tribute to you, your favourite race and to raise money for cancer research. You would have been humbled, surprised and grateful at the number of people who attended, some who knew you, some who didn’t.

I walked the course today, but I’ve set myself a challenge: to run the whole 5 kms next year. You are the only person I would do this for. Just like you are probably one of the only people who would have gotten me up and out of bed at 6am on a Sunday to walk 5 kms in a gale.

Dave, I’m trying to do some living for you. I hope I make you proud.

Update: I now run between three and five kilometres, three or four times a week. Dave, you were the inspiration I needed to get moving.

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20 thoughts on “Why I walked 5 kms in a gale

  1. I loved reading this Di.
    I lost someone close to me suddenly nearly 1 year ago and I want to do something in her memory. This just gave me inspiration to start something.

    <3 xxx

    1. So glad that it touched you Han. I am sure your friend would love that you want to start something in memory of her 🙂

  2. I have had this blog entry open to read for a week now, it is so touching. Thanks for sharing! It is really touching and reduced me to tears. It was my grandmothers bday yesterday and she past away at Christmas and this has helped me today, as I prefer to go to the cemetery.

    Thanks Di!

    Kez xx

    1. I’m so glad that it helped you. Interestingly, I am now back in the workplace where I first met and worked for Dave. It’s lovely to be among people who remember him and speak so highly of him. It keeps him alive somehow. I hope that’s how you feel about your grandmother 🙂

  3. 1 May 2012 marks the 7th year anniversary of losing my best friend, and the smartest and most sensitive yet tortured soul it has been my privilege to love. Occasionally I still feel sorry for myself and cry at the injustice of a life that doesn’t have him in it. But mostly, I keep it together because at his funeral, I silently promised him that I would live life for the both
    of us. I keep that promise better some days than others, but I never forget. And in his memory, I advocate for the rights of the gay community and have a zero tolerance policy on bullies. If it was up to me, I might listen to the internal voice cautioning me that it’s more politic, safer and comfortable to keep silent and remain inactive. But in his memory, I speak out against homophobic and bullying behavior. In this small way, I honour our love and friendship. We all have our equivalent of hauling our ass out of bed and running in a gale. This is mine.

    1. It seems that people come into our lives for a reason. How awesome that you too, Kyung, have walked in your own gale. Wish more people would do so because it would make this world a much better place.

  4. Brilliant. What a gift for you to have known a person like Dave Fitzsimons and what an honour that you’d share it. The more I hear of people like this and the more I know, or remember, the firmer I become in my own life goals.

    1. I was lucky to have known him, Cullen. I wish he had been in our lives longer, but he left an awesome legacy. Whenever I think of leaders and leadership in the context of excellence, I always think of Dave. He’s the benchmark of quality for me.

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