Gurdaspur to Pathankot, 44km
Josh left us this morning.
It was a sombre farewell – the evening before we brought out a cake and some candles. Pat put on John Denver’s Leaving on a Jet Plane from a tiny speaker and we all took turns serenading him. The girls – Tania and Katie – sounded wonderful, the men of the group sounded less graceful but made up for it with enthusiasm.
Josh in Hindi translates to “energy” and for the 45 days he was with us, people referred to him as Mr Energy – at least that’s what he was telling us.
“You need some Josh in your fuel,” he’d say with a grin. The first time he was ever given flowers they dropped the H from his name and called him Mr Jos. That name stuck with him for weeks.
The former footy player was a bulking man, but by the end of the trip he’d shed 10 kilograms and although he was by no means weaker or unhealthier, he’d shrunk a size. On the huge days where he was running over 30km with Pat, he would drop down another four to six kilograms on top. The first time he weighed himself he freaked out.
Though he was a fitness trainer and knew he was called in to help an ultra-marathoner, he hated running. If he never ran again, it’d be too soon. He joined the crew because firstly Katie had asked him to (on his birthday, no less) and because he was a seasoned adventurer. Katie had been on a few of Pat’s runs, and her stories were always outrageous – it was time for Josh to see what all the fuss was about.
Pat loved Josh. He couldn’t resist his incredibly calm demeanour and though he used to make a living knocking people about, he was a marshmallow of a person. It was a welcomed occurrence that Josh slotted right into the crew the way he did, and after just a day it felt like he was always meant to be there.
Being in a country where large parts of it are poverty stricken was hard on him. We all knew we couldn’t do much about it other than help Pat spread his message. The governments at every level said they were working tirelessly to address the problem, but for the people sleeping on the sidewalk and rummaging through garbage for food scrap they were only words.
Josh was the first to reach into our lunch bags and offer them food. We had plenty but being on the road we could miss them or resign to the fact that we couldn’t help them all. But Josh always saw, and whenever it was a child he’d run back a hundred metres with some juice, sandwiches or fruit. He knew the convoy wouldn’t stop for anyone but Pat; and he never asked it to.
Over time the ache of being away from his children became too much. He loved being part of the Spirit of India and he loved the adventure, but he had commitments with his kids he needed to get back for.
There were times he did lose his calm. His eyes always gave it away – sometimes he’d get frustrated by bureaucracy, other times it was because occasionally people were condescending or disrespectful.
Last night he lost his cool again and though he would never admit it, he came close to tears. We had all become a family over the past two months – we all loved each other. On the days where it felt cramped, where the days dragged on or when our fuses were shorter, it would all roll off us like water off a duck’s back.
Today we realised more than ever there was no one we can rely on more than each other. Though the government officials had our best interests at heart, no one but us understood what it was like on the road. No one understood the incredible toll the run, and everything in between, took on Pat. The people who would try and decide what was best for us were usually sitting behind a desk, maybe leaving and driving out to join us on the road for a few minutes or to meet Pat at a function.
Losing Josh felt like losing a hand and an eye. Pat still had everything he needed to get across that finish line, but things were certainly a bit duller than before. That morning we let him sleep and Dr Grace took him to the airport while the rest of the crew moved on to towards Jammu.
As we reached the 4000km mark, Pat turned the corner out of a tree-line and on the horizon were the Himalayas. Pat ran back towards the vehicle like an excitable child to point it out. Finally, we could see the finish line and later that night Pat would be putting on his next pair of shoes.
“Josh would be kicking himself,” Katie said. He wanted more than anything to see the mountains and stopped less than 20km from it!
The landscape at the base of the Himalayas was endless green. The mountains on the horizon looked majestic and welcoming – since the beginning, Pat was looking forward to running up those mountains.
Of course he might not feel the same way after a few days of it.