Close your eyes. Imagine the sound of heavy raindrops hitting the roof, cool breeze sweeping across a dark room, a bed, soft pillows and a duvet to cocoon you while you clinch every clinch-able part of your body. This, the gods have decreed as one of the best pleasures of life. To make it even more divine, throw in these conditions on a Friday night to Saturday morning.
Naturally, it would require a lot of discipline to cut short this kind of pleasure in order to honor ANY appointment — save for, say, an army —where orders are permanent. That was the kind of will power we needed to pull The Ascent off on a Saturday morning like that. I’d promised my best friend we’d take on the challenge even though every bone in my body said otherwise. So I found myself abandoning heavenly peace of mind to take a walk through hell.
That makes for a great story, doesn’t it?
The Ascent is a challenge that dares fitness enthusiasts to take on a 5Km obstacle course at the Teshie Military and Training School. And yes, it’s military style. We dragged ourselves out of bed, put on our gear and drove out. To my surprise, when we arrived at the venue, there were a lot of folks present and looking pumped to take on the adventure. There’s no turning back now Kwame. Wake up!
The Warm Up
We went through the registration process and collected our wrist bands. Not long after, bleating through the speakers, the announcement came for a warm up. Honestly, I thought it was going to be a few stretches here and there. I was wrong chale. I thought this was supposed to prep you for the tasks ahead —not damage you. How am I supposed to do 5Km with these wobbly legs now?
Oh, did I mention this was not a free run? Yeah, you guessed right. I wasn’t going to leave my comfortable bed, drive through rain, pay for an event and chicken out after the warm up. Bring it on!
I’m not new to jogging. I made a conscious effort this year to begin a new jogging regimen. Surprisingly it’s been an exhilarating experience! A month ago I broke out in hives while jogging. This, according to my doctor (google) is called the histamine release (read more on this later). It is very uncomfortable and has resulted in my being dormant for a month. So what made that day different? Well, I made a commitment. I mean I paid… duh.
All the rules were spelled out by the announcer, who counted us down to start the race. Over a hundred people cramped at the starting line, all looking to get a head start.
Ready. Set. Go!
The race had begun. I’d psyched myself to run my own race, by the way. I was doing this for me. This wasn’t a competition. I needed to finish this for me. Hives and histamine release or not, I was going to make it to the finish line!
A few minutes into the race, nature begun to take its course —alas, the itch I dreaded! If anyone reading has ever experienced this, you would know it’s painful enough to make you quit.
But I just couldn’t.
The truth, is I was curious. Yes, I ignored the discomfort because I wanted to see which obstacles I was headed for. Every step for me was an excuse to see the other. The first obstacle came and I thought to myself; “this is not so bad”. Then came the second, third, fourth — after which your boy was panting heavily. I began to have a conversation with myself; “Yo! Why exactly did you sign up for this? Who sent you this early Saturday morning really? You see what you’ve brought on yourself?”
To my relief, I realized I wasn’t alone in the tired boat. Runners ahead of me would slow down to catch their breaths…even walk. Some would come running past with renewed energy. I began to see the fun side of this. This isn’t a competition with others. We all just wanted to make it to the finish line in one piece.
5km, interspersed with log-carrying, tyre-rolling, bitter leaf-chewing, crawling-on-your-belly-through-mud, running-through-stagnant-water, monkey-bar-swinging, etc —and all the while remaining resilient and curious for what comes next.
Finally, the finish line.
I’m still breathing, I’m still jogging. I went through with it. The human body has a funny way of celebrating these things. I felt a buzz of renewed energy, like I could go another 5km. For where?
This was an experience that taught me a lot. I wasn’t only glad I finished the task without giving up; I took these lessons with me;
· Find out what you’re getting into. Knowing your start informs your finish.
· You think you can’t do it until you try. Begin it. Go steady. Keep going.
· When you’re given a challenge, even in a group, your only competitor is you.
· Celebrate your efforts. It’s your fuel for the next task. It’s the little victories that count.
· Don’t overdo the warm up. It’s called a warm up for a reason.
· Make time to breathe. It’s finishing that counts, not how fast. Replenish depleted energy.
· Curiosity and enthusiasm will take you farther than stamina alone.
· Excuses are easy and safe, but have you tried winning? Spectacular.
· Commit. Show. Up. Do it.
· Do it again if the chance presents itself. Take it up a notch. Repeat.
In one’s lifetime, there will a lot of “Ascents’. These, for me, make life worth living. There will be some you’ll be inclined to confront willingly. There will be others that will ambush. See the beauty in the adventure. Take these lessons with you. Go and be great. Welcome to The Ascent. Welcome to Life!