I’ve hiked many miles in the last few years and occasionally I count them The South Downs Way and North Downs Way I’ve completed several times. The Ridgeway, West Highland Way, Cape Wrath Trail and my day walks in the UK push the total further.
Three journeys along El Camino de Santiago total 2,500 miles alone. Then there’s the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail (albeit with an early exit).
I don’t calculate the distance often because it gives me a headache but the last time I checked I reckon I’ve put a fair-sized dent in 12,000 miles.
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But, despite covering this distance, and feeling fantastic, it is psychologically where I have grown.
Thru-hiking, as with most physical activities, develops the body to a point where it feels invincible. If the engine is in great shape, anything seems possible. Pushing out a thirty-mile day, and arriving at camp merely warmed up and begging for more, feels euphoric.
I still enjoy this fitness, and I’ve come to realise how it affects my mind. My well-being, attitude, focus and concentration become honed, fuelled by the body’s conditioning. I believe you cannot develop psychologically without putting work in physically. It’s not impossible, just harder.
Once I had my mind sorted out, it not only provided insights into aspects of my life that needed improving, but gave me the courage to change them and adapt.