At the turn of the year, it's time to look back; to reflect on what we've done and what we've failed to do. To focus on our achievements, to remember the big events both happy and sad and, at some level, to calculate whether it's been a good year or not. Hopefully we then turn our eyes to the year to come and new goals and dreams.
Running is obviously a massive part of my annual calculation, adding to the sum of happiness and disappointment. Did I set great goals to reach during 2013; goals that challenged and motivated me? Did I give my all to reach those goals? To make them real? Did I push myself to my limits and beyond, into the really memorable?
In my few years as a runner, I've learnt the hard way that it doesn't really matter if the goal is to get out the front door and do that first run; to rebuild strength and form after injury or run a marathon or 12. Watching runners across the world on Twitter and Facebook set and reach their goals, it's clear the only goals that matter are the ones that are deep down and personal to us. Comparison is often futile.
My running goals have changed immensely over the years. Year 1 - run my first half marathon. Year 2 started with injury, my goal was simple, to be able to run, full stop. Last year - run a marathon. Whilst the marathon is the 'show' one, it would never have happened if the clinically obese Sue hadn't had the guts to shoe up and get out there. Next year is not showy, but is critical to my overall goal of a long, healthy running filled life. My goal for 2014 is to re-build the form, becoming a stronger, more efficient runner preparing for a marathon the year after.
So I thought I'd got next year's goals sorted out. But then I had an experience that transformed my thinking about running and running goals forever: I had my very own paradigm shift.
The catalyst was a remarkable organisation called Sporting Memories Network. Sporting Memories Network works across Great Britain using memories about sports to help older people, including people with dementia, to stimulate the mind, body (and I would say the soul). I heard of them through the North Berwick Day Centre that Mum used to attend and I got in touch to find out more.
I was entranced. I know from my own experience of the power of memory; how easy it is to take it for granted that, with a few slips, we will remember the important things in life. If only it worked that way! With a lot of dementias of various kinds in the family, I know how precious our memories are. As dementia took its hold I've watched as loved ones lost their ability to hold onto their thoughts, relationships and experiences; sometimes losing the very sense of who they are. I held their hands as they struggled to express themselves and their emotions, sometimes frightened by the void.
Seeing the face of a loved one light up when they remember something is better than the most beautiful sunrise you'll ever see. Memory becomes a gift, something special to be valued in its complexity and richness. So when I heard about sporting reminiscences and the work they do, I was delighted. Have a look at Bill's story and the way his sporting history reminds us of the man he is and the life he has lived. Bill's story reminds Bill, his family, friends, carers and us readers that Bill has a life to live.
I was out running when it dawned on me that I've got sporting memories now; and that every time I run I'm creating my own reminiscences. Okay, I'm not going to get a gold medal, but I have a sporting story and it's a story that runs like a river of achievement through my life. It's got a few race for life runs; it's got a marathon; it's got injury and recovery; it's got guts and glory. Every run I do is another paragraph in my running story and it's a story that I have created.
I started running because of my Dad, to stick two fingers up at the Parkinson's and Dementia that stole his freedom to move and be himself. I never thought for a moment that my first painful run would end up in a marathon and who knows what next. Dad loved sport and he would have loved the sporting reminiscences: the great days of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, his rugby, his work with young players helping to bring them on. I wish we'd had sporting memories for him. But it's not too late for us to invest in our own personal legacy of sporting reminiscences to inspire our old age and tell future generations about their history.
In 2014, I've got running goals for the year but I also have goals for a life time. What running memories will I create this year? What reminiscences will I have when I sit and look back on a life well run? It's all up to me.
Watch this space!
Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy and joy filled New Year and truly memorable 2014!