I see all these “take life by the balls” type memes and figure heck yeah… I can do this. I hear Ronda Rousey saying things like “don’t be a do nothing bitch” and again think … shit yeah, I can do this! I blame Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram who force fed me diet of can-do attitudes and “fitspo” and led me to believe that sometimes you just need to put yourself out there.
At the start of April after 33 hours and 53 minutes of walking through rain, thunder and lighting as well as complete darkness and smattering of sunshine, my team and I crossed the finish line of the 100km Oxfam Trailwalker 2016. The four of us had stuck together since leaving the start line in Whakatane at 7am the following morning, walking almost non-stop to finish what was clearly one of the toughest things any of us had done. We slogged it out up hills, along ridge lines, across muddy paddocks, through streams, along kilometres of monotonous train track and finished just as we started… as a team.
While we walkers were pounding the pavement, trudging the trail and strolling the shoreline, our all important support crew were working tirelessly behind the scenes to prep meals, dry clothes, get gear ready, and make their way in the trusty Renault van to the next check point. Our support crew bandaged our feet, changed our socks, topped up our water, made sure we were fed, lifted our spirits and pushed us to soldier on… even when we thought we couldn’t. Even when we said we couldn’t.
My legs felt like concrete, or inflexible wooden posts. My quick step and purposeful stride morphed into a slow painful shuffle as the hours dragged on and on … and on.
At times in the dead of the night, with the rain hammering down and knowing we’d only just passed half way, I did start to wonder if I’d signed up for a never ending tortuous walk. I wondered if marching to Siberia might have been a better option. I wondered whether I could do this, even though I had done it before, I seriously questioned whether I had it in me… and at one point I even cried a little. As time wore on it was clear my sub 24hour target was not a happening thing.
We joked as a team, and rambled on about all sorts of things, sharing stories of reality TV appearances and providing advice on bush bathroom etiquette. We came into each checkpoint and regaled our support crew with tales of giant spiders, glow worms, search and rescue and mud slides. We deliberated on directions, and cursed marshals who led us to believe the check point was “just around the corner“.
Miraculously after a day and a night walking across beaches, down trails and up ridge lines in the constant pouring rain, thick mud puddles and howling wind, the sun came out came and the final day was actually a hot and stark contrast to the day before.
I’ve done this 100km walk before, and considerably faster too, ten hours faster even. But I’m prouder of this, I’m proud of dragging my tired feet and sore knees for almost 34 hours just to cross the finish line. I’m prouder of continuing when quitting would have been a damn sight easier. I’m prouder of digging deep when I needed to. I’m proud of continuing on when quitting would’ve made so much sense. I’m proud of my team mates and support crew, my life long friends, who all persevered when it clearly didn’t go as planned and who pushed on.
I didn’t do it to win, although I did kinda do it for the participation medal. I did it to push myself and to step outside my comfort zone. I did it to remind myself “You’d be surprised at what you’re capable of, if you just step a little outside the comfort zone”. I did it to remind myself that some of life’s greatest lessons are just outside my comfort zone.
Would I do it again? You betcha, I think it’s important to not let this beat me and go after my sub 24hour target… even if it’s my third attempt.