I was a bit surprised to see the Guardian describing poor Claire Squires, the 30-year-old who died during the London Marathon on Sunday, as ‘inspirational’. Brave, ill-fated, much-mourned maybe, but surely the thing that makes her stand out from the rest of the runners that day is the absolutely terrible fact that she died before finishing the race, at the age of 30, in, apparently, the pink of health and fitness. That’s not inspirational, that’s catastrophic, for her friends and family, and tinged with shed-loads of tragic irony for the rest of us. It’s certainly not going to inspire me to take up running, or any other form of exercise. Rather the reverse. Unfortunately we seem to be increasingly polarised in this country, between ginormous couch potatoes pushing their BMIs to the max, and athletic young things, sadly dropping like flies. Neither side seems a tempting example to follow, though the tubbies are at least staying alive.
It has inspired me to make a donation to the Samaritans, though, who are a fantastic ray of light for anyone who feels at the edge of a precipice. Like all those others who have so far given more than £350,000 in Claire Squires’s name, I was touched by the thought that this poor young woman inadvertently, accidentally, gave her life for their cause. By all accounts she was a lovely person, who recently climbed Kilimanjaro for charity and was bubbly and outgoing – an inspiration in her life, if not in her untimely death.
I hope her family will get some comfort from the surge of warmth and generosity coming from the public, and from the knowledge that the charity she chose will now be able to do huge amounts in her name. I am sure most of us have felt desperation at one time or another. A friendly voice on the phone can make all the difference. Even if you’ve never used them, it’s surely comforting to know they are there and ready to listen. Perhaps the most horribly ironic twist of the Claire Squires story is that the Samaritans are now supporting her own family, as she supported them.