This June, I will be running across The Gambia to raise money for and awareness about the peer health education programs run by the Nova Scotia Gambia Association throughout the country. This, however, is not the first time I have set out to cover a great distance by foot. I’d like to share my previous experience, what happened, and why my trek across the Gambia will be a success.
At the age of 21, I decided I was going to do The Arizona Trail, an 800-mile hike across the state, from the Border of Mexico to Utah. I had some time and was set financially so thought, why not?
In January, 2011, my mother and I began the hike together from the Mexican border. The plan was for her to do the first passage of the hike with me over the weekend, and then for me to continue on my own. It was exciting, nerve-wrecking, and intense. The first two days hiking together went well. We experienced heat and snow, but saw a variety of other people hiking, had reliable water, and returned to the same camp each evening. Then it was time for goodbyes. I was sad to see her go, but excited to continue on my own. And so it really began…
Things started out fine, I trekked along, set up camp, and slowly continued up the state.
Then some curve balls I hadn’t expected came into play: I hiked the entire time without seeing a soul. It was the first time I had gone 24 hours without talking to anyone (or having the option to talk to anyone), and as much as I enjoy being alone, it was surprisingly tough. If you get hurt, no one is going to be there for a while to find you. I also experienced extreme (30 year record) lows, where all of the water sources I planned on using were frozen solid, as well as extreme heat when I decreased in elevation, and the water sources were scarce because they had dried up. I was realizing that dealing with all of these things was a lot tougher when you are on your own.
I continued North for about a week covering about 150 miles of trail. I was doing alright physically, but mentally I was not having an enjoyable experience. I was stressed about mountain lions, rattlesnakes, wild pigs, water, cold, and about anything else that pops into
your head when you are walking alone for hours on end. Lucy, my dog that I had recently adopted for company, was probably wondering what she had gotten herself into. One day, I didn’t have water for the first 10km (every source was dried up) and ended up drinking from the same water some cows were standing in (fingers crossed the water treatment works). This was becoming a lot tougher than I could have ever anticipated.
Finally I crossed a highway, and decided it was time to stick out my thumb to try to get a hotel for the night. Luckily, the second vehicle that passed by picked me and my dog up and dropped us off at a nearby motel. Phew, we were safe and settled for the night. I think I ate three suppers worth of food that evening and slept for 14 hours straight.
Then, the difficult decision had to be made the following morning: was I going to continue or was this the end of the trail for me? I want to prove to myself that I can do it, but at the same time I don’t want to put myself through something that is terrifying and mentally draining. Can I bear to quit?
As you probably know from the title of this blog, I did quit. I had to make the sheepish call to my mother and ask her to return, just two-short weeks after she had dropped me off. I had a pit in my stomach during the phone call, but at the same time a weight was lifted that I didn’t need to complete this huge task. It was extremely humbling to have to recognize my limits and admit defeat.
So why am I talking about failure on a blog where I will soon be embarking on another foot-trek across a great distance? I decided to talk about this here because I think that failure is not the right word. Yes, I didn’t make it across the entire state, but I also learned a lot at the same time – things that will prepare me to successfully complete my run across The Gambia.
The Gambia will be different. Most importantly, I will not be alone. I will have an amazing support team with me along the entire route. This team has successfully completed the trek across The Gambia two times, and I am so excited to work together with them this year. I will have a reliable source of water, food, and the peace of mind of knowing that if some accident does happen, there are people to help me out right away. This amount of support is truly priceless and I know it will be the difference that will make by 427km run across the Gambia an enjoyable and successful experience.
I would also like to thank to everyone for their continuous support as I prepare for this epic run. A special shout out to Greg, Melissa, Cathy, Lauren, Pa, Muhammed, Erin, Jenn, Luke, and Aerobics First for their continual support and dedication to the cause!
You can help out too! Please support me and help make this expedition for health a success. You can donate by clicking on the donate link above. You can also support me by following blog, Twitter, and Facebook pages. Thanks for helping to make a difference in the lives of children in The Gambia!
Thanks so much and enjoy the snow if you’re in Halifax!