By Miriam Palmer
*Miriam Palmer is a social orienteer and shares with Hanny her love of wild places, although at a somewhat slower place.
Hanny Allston’s autobiography Finding My Feet is a definite read. Especially in these uncertain times when you might be facing unexpected challenges, reflecting on what life is all about, or simply feeling stir crazy, trapped at home and struggling to focus. Maybe also, you want to run faster, push yourself further or stop hitting the wall on your own epic adventures. There really is something in Finding my Feet for everyone, and in ways you might not expect.
If you haven’t already heard of Hanny Allston, at just 20 she became a world champion orienteer. From Australia, she was the first and only ever non-European to achieve this feat. Then over the next decade Hanny went on to run Olympic marathon qualifying times, and to smash numerous trail running records. Along the way, she also established her own business, Find Your Feet, to support others to achieve their running goals. And which has now grown, as a partnership with her husband Graham Hammond, to offer trail running tours in wild places in Tasmania, Australia and around the world, and also as a boutique outdoor adventure store. But Finding My Feet: My Story is not just another book about ego, winning or success, rather Hanny takes you behind the scenes and on a deeply insightful personal journey which she has shared to help others grow. It’s a story about shedding expectations and finding self-compassion, and through this, the freedom to fly, to traverse mountain ranges with ease.
Finding My Feet will quietly draw you in and keep you captivated, because for Hanny, despite the glitz and glamor of podium finishes, awards and magazine covers, her life has certainly not been all peaches and cream. In fact, her life at times has been extremely difficult. Just months before her first world title, Hanny’s idyllic childhood - growing up on a small farm on the edge of Hobart, the capital of Tasmania - was ripped away from her when her father experienced a mental health illness. In hindsight, there were signs her family had been living in a pressure cooker, but at the time these things have a habit of creeping up on you. And so, when things finally exploded, what had been a close-knit family united by a love of adventure and delicious homegrown food, imploded. At a time when her peers were starting out at university and on their paths to aspired careers, Hanny totally lost her sense of security. She began clinging to her own high expectations of success as a form of escapism and became obsessed with the goals she had set for herself as a child – to be an Olympic athlete and to become a doctor.
As Hanny’s journey unfolds, and she shares her struggles and achievements, you will relate to much of what she says on a meaningful level, and from which you can reflect and grow. In talking about herself, Hanny explains why to perform as an athlete, being in the right headspace is just as important as being fit and having the right nutrition. She makes you question why you run, and reflects on how for her, finding this answer meant reaching a peace within herself to not be afraid to set her own direction in life. Hanny exposes the pressures on young female athletes to be light. She openly admits that for many years she shared her life with an eating disorder, who she has personalised in the third party as “Anorexia”. Anorexia negatively imposed herself on close relationships Hanny treasured, as well as impacting on her training, results and love of running.
Today Hanny still runs, and fast! But now for joy – to play wilder. She sets herself challenges that for most of us seem completely nuts. Like running Tasmania’s 92km rugged South Coast Track in 12 hours and 20 minutes (most people take a full 8 days). Recently she completed a 19 day solo traverse for 700km across the French Pyrenees Mountains.
In writing Finding My Feet, Hanny has worn her heart on her sleeve, but not in an indulgent way. Rather, with raw honesty which is much welcome at a time when we know, shared experiences and talking make us stronger.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.