Tomorrow I will be covering the farthest distance of my life on foot – just over 30 miles from end to end of the Wildwood Trail. This has been a bucket list goal since I moved to Portland, and training has been a salve on an otherwise rough year.
This last year and a half has been an odd combination of foreign and familiar. Much of it was terrifying and brand new. We’ve never lived through a global pandemic before (or a climate crisis or a civil uprising, and certainly not all three at once), and there were stretches where I woke each morning to check my phone from a crouch, mentally and physically preparing for what fresh horrors arose overnight. On many fronts, we’re coming out of this darkness, but we have lived through more trauma than we’ve even begun to unpack.
And yet this year was also extremely familiar, annoyingly so at times. We were home a LOT. Work, play, exercise – everything happened within the same four walls. I’ve grown sick of my couch and the handful of meals I can cook well. The progress I made finally reading books I bought years ago is tempered by the countless hours lost to the void of infinite scrolling. We sacrificed adventure and variety to protect one another (and if you didn’t, it’s not too late to start making better choices because we’re still in this thing).
Hiking Wildwood is its own combination of familiar and foreign.
Some of my standard pre-race practices and traditions are still serving me well – I’ve hiked every inch of the trail at last once, and I’ve already finished my classic night-before meal of a veggie burrito and hydrating juuuuust up to the point of wetting the bed. I’ve packed my gear and laid out my outfits – what I’ll wear to hike, clean clothes and sandals for the drive home, and the coziest post-shower PJs. These routines calm my nerves and help mentally prepare me for the day ahead.
The location is familiar, but the distance and format most certainly is not. This isn’t an organized race. There’s no shirt or medal for finishing, and no expectation or accountability at all (unless you count sharing my intentions with the internet, and then letting the fear of failure fuel all 30 miles). To date, the farthest I’ve ever hiked is 22.5 miles and the farthest I’ve ever run is 26.2, so tomorrow will be a stretch.
But this year has taught us that we can do hard things. Training for Wildwood has helped get me out of my head and connect with my community in a new way. On days when I’ve felt overwhelmed or paralyzed, there’s comfort in nature and setting a goal to keep moving forward.
And perhaps focusing on this one hard thing has made it possible to survive everything else, one quarter-mile marker at a time.