Karen Darke – Silver Moments

I’m sat at the hospital waiting for a routine scan to check that the 3/4 of me I can’t feel is healthy…and wondering where the three months since the Paralympics have gone. Train, plane, automobile…school, charity, business…the medal has been taking me on tour! At last though I’ve had 5 whole nights in a row in my own bed – woohoo, the longest run since July. I’ve only got one silver medal calling me for duty, so I wonder what it’s like for other athletes who’ve got 4 golds! Don’t get me wrong. It’s a privilege to listen to the eight-year old boy tell me how much he loves riding his bike and wants to be an Olympian, or the fifteen-year old lad sharing his goal of running in Rio (he’s in the top few in the country for his age, so it’s not a long shot). The funniest thing about travelling with the medal, is that every time I go through an airport security, I get stopped. The first time they said there was a strange metal box in my bag they needed to check, but my the fifth time I realised the security team just wanted a peek of the medal!

So training has been lower key for a while, but I was at the gym the other day. Time wasn’t on my side and I dumped by bags next to the bench press, and began a warm up until the bench came free. Ten minutes later a guy sitting recovering between reps stopped me.

“S’cuse me love” he started, “ I’ve just got to say to you…” he stuttered a little, “Respect. Real respect.” I assumed he was talking about the Paralympics, though couldn’t figure out how he’d know I’d been in it.

“Errr, how come?” I smiled back.

“No-one would ever leave their bags next to us” he replied, “but you did. You trusted us. Respect for that.”

“Oh…” I tailed off, surprised. “It didn’t cross my mind.”

“Exactly. Respect.”

I can be a bit naive at times, and there’s not much crime in places I’ve lived, but why wouldn’t I trust them?

“There is something really valuable in one of those bags though” I couldn’t help myself. “Do you want to see it?”

“No, no way. Just respect.”

I think they were the taxi drivers I know train there every morning. Maybe some don’t trust them, but they seemed like top guys to me. I dug out the medal anyway, and a gang of blokes quickly gathered round, nodding and saying stuff like “Respect. Silver”

The other ‘silver’ moment of the month happened this weekend, when I went back to visit Mytholmroyd (try and pronounce that), the village I grew up in. My mum had organised a coffee morning / book signing of Boundless and it happened to coincide with the official switch on of the village Christmas lights. The community had given me amazing support during the Paralympics, but they really went all out this time – with the only official silver post box in the country! A man from the Post Office came especially all the way from Newcastle, armed with silver tape to dress the box. Unfortunately he started on the wrong box so ran out of tape halfway through the big pillar box – but it got finished off with silver foil until every bit of red was covered. Very cool! Not sure it will last much longer than the Monday morning post pick up, but I’m moved by the thought and effort.

If there’s one thing the silver medal has taught me (apart from how to nearly kill myself in training to get it), it’s that there are some AMAZING people in the world with big hearts and generous spirits. Thank you all.

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