It's February in New England, which means it has been wintery for months and the ground is covered in cold, wet, white stuff and has been for what feels like eons. By now, the frozen mud is peeking up just a bit between the rivulets of icy paths that try to pass themselves off as sidewalks. And worse than the wintry ground cover has been the darkness. This time of year, I have almost reached my wit's end waiting for the sun to return.
But at last, just when I honestly thought I was going to break from the sadness of winter, the sun is finally beginning to come back into my life. This is the time of year when I really begin to understand why our prehistoric ancestors danced their caveman jigs when they realized that the days were finally getting longer. "The sun is not leaving us!" they surely grunted in their cave-speak.
And so I can begin my own dance of celebration. After months of allowing my sneakers to hibernate, I can dig them out from behind the winter boots and invite them outside with me. My sneakers have missed me and I have most certainly missed them. At long last, there are dry paths to walk on and there is just enough light at the end of the workday to squeeze in a few miles. At last, I am restarting the most significant habit in my life.
In the warm light months, I walk at least 20 hours every week. Seriously. At.Least. For 9 years, training for The3Day Walk has been a central focus of my life. I have learned that training for The3Day means walking, walking, walking. If you want to have a happy healthy walk, you must practice walking. Of course, I already know how to walk. I've been doing it for more than 4 decades now. But The3Day Walk is 60 miles of walking. Even at 4 miles an hour, that is 15 hours of walking; and even when I start a day at 4 miles an hour, I can't usually finish it at that pace. So figure on at least 20 hours of being in my sneakers and asking my feet and legs to do me the biggest favor they have ever done. Well, if you are going to ask your feet and legs for that favor in the summertime, you had better do them the favor of helping them get ready for it!
And so I walk lots of training walks. But it really is more than just training. It is more than just getting my body ready for the event. It is more than breaking in 3 pairs of sneakers every year. Just as The3Day Walk is a whole lot more than just a walk, my training walks are more than just training. They are a gift to my heart, my head, and my definition of who I am. They are the moments in my week when I get to listen to my thoughts.
When I am walking, I get to think. I get to do more than just watch the world go by; I am really in it. I get to take my time and remember who I am. I get to know myself all over again. Walking slows you down. Suddenly I am in the scene that I usually drive past at 40 mph. I am noticing plants and critters. As I walk, I get to think about all the walks that have come before. I spend quiet reflection on that day or on a day years ago. I have hours to reflect on the reasons that I walk. I have time to spend catching up with my partner, instead of rushed conversational snippets we try to sneak into our week. Hours of training walks: it is time that I must commit to The3Day, but really it is time that I am spending on myself.
Every walk is a new adventure. There are new sights along the way, there are new memories to be made. There are conversations to be had and silences to reflect upon and within. Each walk is a chance to rejoice that I am here to walk. To rejoice that my body carries me so well.
No wonder I ache for my walks in the winter. And no wonder I am dancing the caveman dance that it is finally time to get back into my sneakers and onto my feet.