Fit? The Best? Everest… #roukenglen
Okay so actual Everest is snowier, windier and less local, but this is Everest nevertheless. It looks quite beautiful here, but it is the ugliest path in the park. The ugliest, widest, grittiest, longest and most depressing.
If you don’t believe me, run up it with me.
Here is the start. Why are we here? Perhaps we feel like trying to run up Everest. Maybe we are on a trail run. But here we are, and the top is only a few minutes away. It looks as if it is going to be flat to begin with, but experience tells us that there is an insidious, gradual incline that will sap everything from everywhere.
It is all in the mind. Well, mostly. The thought of going up Everest is worse than going up Everest. When you realise you are going to run up Everest, the body and mind go into talks and come up with a plan. You can’t just run up Everest. You need to decide to run up Everest and take appropriate action. If someone unwittingly headed off up the path not knowing it was Everest, they would never get to the top without breaking into a walk.
So you set off, steady pace, remembering to breathe. And not to go too fast. Going fast is a mistake. Going fast means you might not make it. Tortoise beats hare.
Well, of course the tortoise doesn’t actually beat the hare, going up Everest. But within the one person, the inner tortoise beats the inner hare. As my companions gazelle their way to the top of the hill and down again, around me as the last man and up again, they too, I suspect, are fighting the battle internally between speed and endurance.
Halfway up there is a psychological obstacle – a signpost and a path leading away from Everest. Can we take this one? No. We can’t quit until we get to the top of the hill. In your mind, you sob quietly as you pass this sign, trying not to get too Robert Frost about the path not taken.
The second psychological obstacle is a mean spirited corner which masks the true length of the hill from view, while disguising a change in gradient. If you have reached the corner without walking, that’s pretty good. If you are walking, holding onto your thighs and working your legs with your hands, this is not so good. You were going too fast. Keep going, keep going, one foot in front of the other. The others are turning back now, bounding downhill towards us, looping behind us and visiting the top again. As we group together we are nearly there and then we have reached the top. We break out of the wood line, leaving Everest behind us, knowing that, no matter the ups and downs from now on, on balance, it’s downhill all the way home.