All my life I’ve had people stare at me because I can’t walk properly – my knees aren’t straight, so if I put them straight it means my feet are at an angle. If I put my feet straight my knees point inwards. I was called ‘spastic’ by other kids in school and by people in the street. I couldn’t do sports at school and my PE teacher sent me for a medical because of my deformity (not my words). I did all I could to get out of the continual humiliation of PE lessons – no-one wanted spastic on their team. I avoided people by staying in and listening to music on Radio Luxembourg or I cycled to wherever I needed to go.
Even now, I avoid walking whenever I can. I try and hide my knees, and the rest of my ugly, overweight body. I mainly go to places where I can sit down, or where it’s too dark for anyone to see how I stand or walk.
Last year I did a favour for someone I used to know I’d not seen her for years but her first comment was ‘I’d recognise your walk anywhere’ and she laughed. I felt like I’d been transported back to being the ‘spastic’ teenager I once was.
So why is this relevant now? It’s the context behind why my current challenge is so difficult for me. I’m trying to learn how to run using the Couch to 5k app. And it is a struggle. It’s a struggle physically because I get out of breath walking quickly. I used to have great lung capacity, I played clarinet in the school orchestra. Now I can nearly play a few notes my breathing is so poor.
It’s a struggle because I get shin splints after a couple of minutes and that’s so uncomfortable. It’s a struggle mentally because I’m fighting all the demons of my past. Every time I see someone look at me I think they’re wondering why I can’t run, why my legs go at funny angles and why I’m in tears trying to beat the impossible.
I’m only on Week 1, and it’s not the first time I’ve tried it. I’m spurred on by other people I know that have completed this. I might not make it, but I’ve still got that point to prove from 35 years ago.