I didn’t specifically train for this physical challenge because I thought it was enough to be fit and healthy. I was fairly confident I could do it but I didn’t go unprepared. I went logistically prepared and didn’t regret it.
You see, while I believed I was fairly fit to undertake the rigors of walking 118 kilometers in five days, I also believed it was vital that I stayed injury-free from the first to the last day.
I was not certain this was possible. But our preparations and precautions paid off. The entire team completed the hike, not just blister-free but injury-free.
Muscle pains at the end of the day were resolved with just Magnesium spray. No painkillers for me. I focused on nutrition to aid muscle recovery. The Spanish binge, however, started as soon as we reached Santiago. But that’s another story.
I knew it was going to be hard but hard never stopped me from doing whatever I wanted to do in my life.
Besides, how hard could walking 20-something kilometers a day be? I thought to myself. I’ve easily walked 15 kilometers a day going through the shops. But I sorely underestimated this “walk.” Because “the way” was nothing like a shopping street.
In fact, it was one of the most physically challenging activities I’ve undertaken in my life — second only to my ascent to southeast Asia’s highest peak, Mt. Kinabalu, 22 years ago.
That was hard, too. At an elevation of 4,095 meters, the air is so thin that putting one foot in front of the other somehow requires superhuman strength. That’s how I know what being oxygen-deprived feels like.
This walk, 22 years later, was harder than I imagined. It wasn’t so much the distance as it was the terrain that made the walk so arduous. Or was it my age? Certainly, it was nothing like walking leisurely on a shopping street on flat and paved terrain.
The walk pushes you physically but also challenges you mentally. You will definitely enjoy the walk if you are fit and prepared. But you will definitely suffer if you are not.
It is not impossible to do without physical preparation. But it is unwise to attempt to do under such state of unpreparedness. You can collapse from exhaustion. You can have a heart attack doing the steep ascents. You can fall over and injure yourself during the sharp descents.
But being physically fit is only half the battle won. Having the mental fortitude to carry on in the face of extreme exhaustion, painful injury, inclement weather or all three, is what will ultimately carry you to victory.
There are three necessary tools to walk the Camino de Santiago safely and successfully: preparation, persistence, prayer.
Anyone can do it but if right now, you’re already considering taking a cab (because you can) in case you can’t make it, don’t bother to go. This walk is not for you.
November 12, 2022
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