CAPTION: Philip Sourbut says Naomi's death has made him more adventurous

Reverend runs half marathon as “act of defiance” against grief

Posted: 11th October, 2019

A Church of England minister who recently completed his first half-marathon at the age of 61 says he took up running as an “act of defiance” against grief.

Reverend Philip Sourbut completed the Great West Run in Exeter in two hours and five minutes.

He said he was “disappointed not to do the race in under two hours but relieved to have still been running at the end.”

The Director of Mission and Ministry for the Church of England in Devon only started running 10 months ago.

He did the Great West Run in memory of his daughter Naomi, 26, who died suddenly in 2017.

“The running started by accident in January, I thought I’d have a go one night and got slightly addicted.

It’s become quite connected with my bereavement journey,” he said.

“The running has become really quite cathartic for me. It’s a place where I get some space, where I get in touch with the feelings I hide from the rest of the time.”

“Naomi ran a bit and we had joked about doing the Great West Run together.

“I then began to think, we can’t do this together but maybe I could do it in memory of Naomi.

“The running has become really quite cathartic for me. It’s a place where I get some space, where I get in touch with the feelings I hide from the rest of the time.

“It’s a space to put some of my anger, but I also describe it as an act of defiance.

“I am running because I am still alive. I want to do this because life has kicked me pretty hard and it’s a way of fighting back.

“I find running is a time when I can pray and grasp a sense of God-given life.”

Philip says, while his faith has helped, it has also made grieving more difficult.

Philip says Greenbow Running Club has been a supportive community

“There’s a sense of not being able to get away from the God whom I followed for many many years and, at the same time, being pretty angry.”

Philip says he was encouraged to think about physical ways to process his feelings on an Active Grief weekend he and his wife Elaine went on in 2018. It was run by the Good Grief Project charity.

“A lot of the experience was about continuing the bond with the person who has died but also doing something active with the grief.

“We did stuff with photography, with writing, but also with physical activity – including boxing. It was incredibly cathartic to let go of that energy and emotion.

Philip thought, at 61, he might be too old to take up running, but says he was welcomed along to Exeter’s Greenbow Running Club with open arms: “I found it to be the most encouraging community imaginable,” he said.

Running is about continuing that bond. Naomi is still, and always will be, part of our lives.”

During a 10K race in July, Philip says he was “really struggling at about 7K” when a “big angel in a blue running vest” came alongside him and said “Come on buddy you can do this”.

“I finished the race, but it also felt like a real metaphor for my life. It can be pretty awful but “come on buddy you can do this”.

Philip did the Great West Run in aid of the Good Grief Project and carried a small photo of Naomi in his pocket.

He said: “It would have been great to have done the run together.

“She is still, and always will be, part of our life.

“Naomi was adventurous and since she’s died she’s made me more adventurous.”

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