My lovely sister-in-law, Suzy, asked me recently how far I’d be walking, so I tried to give her some context. Knowing that she has driven several times from New York down to her folks’ home in Orlando, a distance of about 1100 miles, I said “it is basically the drive from Brooklyn to Orlando and back again, but up and down mountains instead of I95.”
I’m not sure who was more awed by this context, Suzy or me. I knew it was 2185 miles and I knew it was over mountains (I even recall vaguely that we peak over 100 mountains in New Hampshire alone). However, having made the drive from New York to Orlando a few times myself, I realized that I had articulated the trip to myself for the first time in terms that were accessible to me. This is a long way, by any standards, and I am suddenly more in awe of those who have completed this multi-Marathon and I must say that it gave me pause for 5 minutes.
From reading many books on the subject, my sense is that most people only have a vague idea of the distance when they begin the trail. They obviously know the mileage as a number, while also knowing that it should take about 5 to 7 months, but they can’t truly see it for what it is – a massive undertaking from a physical, emotional and mental perspective all at the same time. I’m sure, as I take those first, hesitant steps, I’ll be taking in my surroundings, breathing in the smell, indeed, the taste, of the woods and mountains and experiencing everything in a way that can only be done by taking those first steps. Reading all the books in the world, hiking 10 miles locally at a time, cycling 30 miles, none of this is going to actually help me with those first, tremulous paces as I step out, alone, into a whole new world that is beyond my current thinking.
How cool is that?