Letting Next Year Become This Year

For the last five years, I’ve section hiked a portion of the Appalachian Trail. Every year I’ve said “I’m going to hike the Appalachian trial next year”. Social media memories remind me of this every year.

Before and after these “shakedowns”, my posts were so certain that NEXT year I would do it. As the time came to take the leap and commit, I always found an excuse.

Held back by Conditional Excuses

The Repetitive Road of Excuses

Every excuse I came up with was just a repeating pattern of “I need this condition before I can go”. I need more money, different gear, better physical strength, a buddy to join, more experience. They all seemed like justifiable reasons to wait for “one day” to never come.

Making excuses is easy, but these excuses were self imposed. Following a repetitive road littered with doubt, I was beginning to believe the continuous echoing of, “You aren’t good enough”.

There was no one to blame for not meeting any of these conditions except myself. In reality I was just letting my fears of finances, loneliness, and ill preparedness hold me back.

Validation of Fears

In the beginning of 2017, I was at my highest weight. Pushing 275 pounds, I was bloated and broke from over a decade of craft beer and a diet dictated by  convenience. Anytime I exercised, my knees hurt from the strain of my body weight. My back hurt constantly. The thought of thru-hiking was moving to the back burner.

I was uncomfortably settling into a life of comfort. Simultaneously, I was letting both my former and future selves down. I needed to take action; I had to transform.

This realization brought with it a whirlwind of emotional turbulence. Beginning March 2017 I began to focus on my diet and slowly started losing weight. It turns out dieting also became a great way to save money and my savings steadily grew while my other excuses continued to shrink.

Before/After: I barely recognize my former self

After losing the first 40 pounds through diet, I started running. I went from jogger, to runner, to trail runner, to ultra marathon runner. My backpacking trips grew longer in distance while shrinking in time. 100 Pounds later, I barely recognize my former self. Fear gave way to confidence, doubt turned to trust, and…

next year turned to this year.

I can pinpoint exactly when I stopped saying “Next year” and started saying “this year”. My lifestyle changes were getting me physically, emotionally, and financially ready to take on a thru-hike.

The money I saved by meal planning and cutting craft beer out of my life added up fast. Discovering ultra running, I was running 30+ mile races to test my physical and psychological limitations. I took every opportunity to get on a trail in 2018 either backpacking or just running locally.

For New years 2018/19, I decided to take advantage of the work holiday and do my first thru-hike, The Carolinas’ Foothills Trail. I completed this 77 mile trail in about 80 hours. This was no record by a long shot (the Fastest Known Time was set by William Wells at 21h 39m 17s about a month before I hiked it).

Carolinas’ Foothills Thru-Hike

Through ultrarunning, I’ve discovered the only competition I have to face is the one against my personal internal voice of negativity driven by fear and discomfort. These runs began to shape my self-esteem and acceptance. Running away from self-deprecation, I was finally embracing myself.

During this enduring journey, the mind was given many opportunities to unravel and fall apart. By persevering through wet foggy nights, challenging trail conditions, and hours of solitude, I opened doors to a new perspective as I hiked into the new year.

Dreams never com true if “One day” never becomes “today”

The simple act of ending one year and starting the next year backpacking caused me to wake on January 1st and “Next Year” became “This Year”. The subtlety of diction is a peculiar thing.

Two trivial 4 letter words representing future and present. By allowing present tense, I am finally taking action and committing. No longer am I going to hike, because I AM HIKING!

On July 10, 2019, I am summitting Katahdin and will begin hiking the Appalachian Trail southbound from Maine to Georgia. Dreams never com true if “One day” never becomes “today”.

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Comments 2

  • Ruth Anne Collins : Jun 1st

    Fantastic! Can’t wait to follow your blog!

    Reply
  • DWife : Jun 2nd

    Truly impressive! You definitely have discipline and fortitude.

    Reply

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