Walk Gently

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walk gentlyI’ve always loved Paul’s outburst to the Corinthians, urging them to “run in such as way as to get the prize.” But in these last few days I’ve been thinking about that in a new light.

I tried to step up my game last week, wanted to keep up with the European 60-year-olds, and pulled a couple of 20-miler days with something like a 30-pound pack, food and water included. I did OK, rubbed some new blisters, sweat out any remaining toxins and had only one hysteria breakdown when I couldn’t find gluten free food in the small no-restaurant, no-grocery-store village where I’d stopped for the night. All in all, I thought I’d stepped up to a new level. But then my feet wouldn’t stop hurting.

After a day of rest and a short Monday, I was still hobbling in flip-flops, and I discussed the problem with some veteran walkers. “Take another day off,” they advised, “or get a taxi to carry your bags.” To my grimace, they added, “If you injure yourself now, you won’t finish.”

The I-haven’t-yet-checked stat backing up their warning was that only 3% of pilgrims leaving Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French Way actually make it to Santiago. Yikes…

I dumped some extra weight (down to just one hiking outfit now) and took another slow day. Today I’m resting in a yurt in a campground with a swimming pool, a trampoline and trees. Not bad.

I think about John Bunyan’s Pilgrim and his progress sometimes. Am I getting distracted, having too much fun on this journey toward the cross? Or are fun and rest part of the pilgrimage too?

My conclusion is that, more often than not, it’s better to stop, bandage the feet and call a friend. I want that prize, yes, and that’s why I’m making sure I stay in shape to finish.


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