Next month, I trek 65km with Waterloo Region Crossing’s event: The Crossing Trek.
When I say it out loud, it seems unreal. 65km in 24 hours in winter? I’d better train. I’d better drink more smoothies, and run more cardio, and hit the gym harder, and do sprints on our property in minus 18 because, 65km.
We live out past a little community out past our city. And every morning we drive in. It’s a bit of a hike, and we have one fairly ominous hill that can be dicey in the winter, sure. I’d say from the city to our first hamlet is a solid ten or so minute drive.
Walking from the city to the first hamlet on the way to our house is a ten minute drive. And there’s a slight incline.
Why does it matter?
Because a week ago, I drove into the city and a man was walking up the hill.
And he was wearing a dirty jacket, and old boots, and he caught my eye because I thought – god, I can’t imagine walking up this hill. Where is he going at this time in the morning, in that direction, when Glenburnie is still a fair way to go. And then I realized he was also carrying two bags with him, too. Could he have come from a broken down car? No, that wouldn’t make sense, I thought, because he’d be headed towards the city and not away from it to find help. There’s no one this way for a few kilometers.
Then I thought – did he run on a treadmill to make this trek?
Did the kids downtown do sprints on their 3km property when it was -18 to build stamina to stave off the cold? Did they get to go back into the house and drink a hot coffee to warm up?
Did the man with the dog and the sign outside the liquor store scour Kijiji for proper footwear, like me?
Did the woman with the blanket, sleeping on the bench, price match winter jackets, like me?
Did that person berate themselves for eating m&m’s, instead of drinking a smoothie, like me? Like how I did? Like how I counted calories, and carbs, and got angry for tipping the scales at 211, and angrily didn’t let Jan post a photo because I thought I looked fat?
How vain. I’m worried I’m eating too much, and I haven’t trained hard enough to do a trek that our most vulnerable do without anything at all.
I’m training to do what they’re forced to do every day – survive 65km out in the cold.
Listen, it’s not about guilt, or shame, or admonishing yourself for having things like a job, or a home, or food on the table. It’s about perspective. It’s about looking around you and being thankful for what you do have, and when you’re putting yourself into an event like this, that you don’t lose sight. You find purpose, and merit and meaning.
“I am wearing a warm jacket, where they aren’t. And I am wearing proper shoes, where they may not own boots at all. And I am doing this because I am helping to raise money for them. So that we may be able to change their narrative. So that maybe someday the person who said: I’m doing this because I want to live, will be able to respond: I am living.”
I don’t know how far that man on the hill made it the other day. My guess is all the way to where he was going. And he did it the next day, too. Because stamina and endurance isn’t built on treadmills or found in the bottom of smoothie cups. It’s created from the purest form of animal instinct – survival.
I see you, February. Let’s do this.
— c ☆