I actually spent a lot of 2021 overcoming a variety of somewhat self-caused health adversities. I began the year with a goal of completing a 5km park run, it was a rollover goal as the Covid pandemic had thwarted my efforts in 2020 and it certainly continued to do so for the first six months of 2021.
I adopted what I thought was a sensible regime for a person of my age and health status to get to the required level of fitness, speed and stamina to achieve my 5km goal to be completed in under 40 mins. The first two months I suffered with shin splints and invested in good running shoes and compression socks and then for a couple of months there was no stopping me.
I did really well in the first five months and got to a place where my base run was 3.4km and I could comfortably complete 5km in the 40-minute bracket but just as the summer sun began to shine my desire to hit 20km per week with 4 main runs saw me acquire a hip strain which put me out of running for a full six weeks, just as the park runs opened their doors. I wore it well and used the bike and cross trainer and began a journey into pilates to strengthen my core so that as soon as possible I could resume my running journey.
It was August 4th and it was the day of reckoning, I donned my shoes and out the door, but after a mere 2.1 km had to stop as my right calf was seriously hurting, I limped all the way home, and did every variation of raise ice bathe through a full shift at work before dissolving into a heap of tears at the end of the day and getting hubby to take me to A and E. I explained that I thought I had stress fracture in my tibia, they were busy and triaged me standing in the corridor and thought my story laughable especially as I was still standing and sent me home to go to the urgent walk-in centre the next day.
Xrays, one MRI and 10 days later it was confirmed and they finally gave me a pair of crutches and sent me home with a moon boot. The recovery was slow and I was told in no uncertain terms that running was off the cards for the rest of the year.
What did I learn, I learned that I should have been content with the fact that I was able to run 5km and kept a regime that was suited to me, and not the same regime that everyone else seemed to have adopted. I was part of a FB running group for more mature folk but they were all notching up marathons at weekends and managing the likes of 5km a day and they all had stories, and yet they weren’t natural-born athletes. I didn’t need to run 20km a week though or a marathon at weekend. I liked the fresh air and the rain and the scenery and the exhilaration, the challenge, the sweat, the sweet joy of success, all of which I could easily achieve in what was my base run of 3.4km. I could run 3.4 km two or even three times a week and it was working wonders for my cardiovascular health and self-esteem and I didn’t need to feel that this was inadequate or not good enough. That goal of competing in a 5km park run is still a goal I can still aim for it, but maybe I have to recognise that at my age with my bone health there is no shame in a little bit of jeffing along the way especially if that means my bones won’t break.
2022 is going to be the year of acknowledging me as myself and not as something that needs to be compared to anyone else. I am going to run because I enjoy it, but get to a physical point first where it is going to be possible to do it safely. I have started by looking at running off road as the shock through the bones from tarmac is significant and I am going to ensure that for every amount of running I do I give my body the right amount of time to recover. I have started by gradually increasing my walking and by researching and finding some good off-road routes, they are better walked at this time of year when the winter has rendered most of the local terrain boggy sludgy. Walking takes a little bit more time so I need to make sure I plan accordingly, but already it is bringing its own joys, in my late afternoon walk today I encountered a Hare, some pheasants, two Highland cows and witnessed a beautiful sunset.
In 2021 I learned that it is now time for me to learn about me, the me that lurks beneath. I had pineapple juice with my tea tonight because I like pineapple juice, I have gone back to playing in a band because I enjoy music and I love playing in a band. So much of my life has been centred around caring for and pleasing others that I have had to actually physically take stock of which few moments are mine and which are because they are expected or belonged to someone else. It is a time of experimentation. I have never really had a big sweet tooth, and I can finally verbalise that it is largely because I do have a preference for darker chocolate. I like after eight mints, dark gingers and walnut whips. I like smoky bacon crisps and eggs on toast. I like tomato soup and spicy food. I like a glass of Port and Wensleydale cheese with cranberries.
I like listening to music, making things and learning new things. Today I have been teaching myself how to use formulas in spreadsheets and that’s okay, because I enjoyed it.
So 2022 is a year of liberation and freedom, I don’t have to be an instagram post, I don’t need to be the best at anything at all, I don’t need to win at anything, I don’t need to measure myself against anybody else. It really doesn’t matter. Every moment where I derive pleasure in some aspect of my own life, no matter how simple is a win for me. I have absolutely no idea why it has taken me 55 years to work this out.
We were brought up as hard-working, strong working-class women, we had access to a good education, these things shall be, but there was also a great deal of passivity that was ingrained in our very being and that boiled down to the fact that we always deserved less, somehow we were never worthy enough and someone else always deserved more. The truth is though that we never deserved less, and we were always worthy enough.
ⓒ Alison Jean Hankinson