When we moved to the back of beyond the word ‘sport’ was thrown around a lot.
“Do you do sport?”;
“Why yes I do, what did you have in mind? Netball, table-tennis, basketball? I even play the occasional badminton!”
This response invariably elicited a rather blank stare, much like that on the faces of Trump supporters when they hear the words ‘racist’ or ‘bigot’. Either they have no idea what it means or they don’t think it applies to the topic in question.
So what is this ‘sport’ they speak of. Well, its skiing and hiking and umpteen variations of the same. To me hiking is just walking, much like skiing is just falling. So as luck would have it we got invited to our first hike by well meaning colleagues who, in all their good intentions, completely neglected to tell us anything about it. Namely the fact that it is uphill without any respite. So on a balmy Thursday evening (I think it was), after a long day at work, I turned up at the base of our ‘house-mountain’, which is a measly 971 m above sea level. Suffice to say I made it up and down in one piece, shaking knees and bleeding toes notwithstanding.
Yesterday I voluntarily organised a hike. I’ve come a long way since that first evening.
- One of the first life lessons that I learned from hiking is that it is a marathon, not a sprint. You absolutely cannot expect to just give it your all for a few mins and get it over and done with. Mainly because just when you think you’ve given it all you have, the mountain is still rising above you.
- The uphill climb is a battle of will and wits. That first hike was all about keeping up and not looking bad in front of others. Which, in hindsight, was a huge mistake. The single most important thing for me going uphill is to tell myself, constantly and consistently that it is one step at a time and that I can do it. And this is not easy. Every time you resolve falters, so do your legs.
- There is a point where you feel like you will die or alternatively kill yourself. Take a break at this point. It’s all fine after that.
- There is no shame in nausea, pain or even tears. There is also no shame in going up on all fours at times or coming down on your butt every once in a while. Whatever gets you there.
- The downhill hike is plain physical. It takes it toll on your knees, back, ankles, feet, toes and muscles that were lying dormant since birth.It’s the hike downhill that you feel for days to come. Much like life.
Much like the uphill climb in life, hiking is a solo activity. You can have people around you for advice when you need it, a hand for support or a shoulder to cry on but for the most part you are on your own. It teaches you to be in your head without getting inside your head. It clears your mind like little else can and most importantly it keeps you wanting more.