Yesterday, I walked out my front door before sunrise with my headlamp, backpack and no destination. The plan: walk for 12 hours. No phone. No music. No support other than what I carried on my back, no “end”. I arrived back at my house almost exactly 12 hours later, spent and sore, but clear and focused. I also had a tremendous sense of accomplishment and pride having completed another goal.
The 12-Hour Walk was the brainchild of Colin O’Brady. O’Brady holds the record for traversing Antarctica solo, and he tells a riveting story about his journey. He came up with the 12-Hour Walk based on a single day he experienced in a harsh, unforgiving environment while trying to edge out a competitor along the journey. He made up his mind he would walk one more hour than the other guy. When the competition stopped at 11 hours, O’Brady walked one more hour, 12 hours total that day. A couple of years later, during the COVID lockdowns, O’Brady lost his drive and purpose. He set out on another 12-Hour Walk in an effort to rediscover where he needed to go in life.
I decided to do the 12-Hour Walk Challenge in an effort to get back to that dark corner of my mind, that place you have to dig deep and figure out a little bit about yourself. I wanted to push myself to my limits, but also enjoy the crunch of my feet, the solitude, and the serenity of being out in nature all day.
GO FOR IT
My wife kept asking me “What’s the plan?” I had no plan other than try to carry enough fuel and water for whatever may come. I generally knew I was going to head west and didn’t want to see another person. So, at 0600 I walked out the door, turned right, and headed off into the desert. My phone was in airplane mode, there were no sounds other than my feet hitting the dirt, and there was just enough light that I didn’t need my headlamp which added to the peacefulness of the whole experience.
I had started my stopwatch so that I didn’t know exactly what time of the day it was by only referencing the elapsed time of my journey. Sunrise was at about the 0+45 minute point. I got to experience the wilderness “waking up”. Birds chirped, ground squirrels scampered, and the light breeze made the desert plants sway as if they were dancing in time with a good tune. At 1+15 I had a standoff with a very large, very angry black bull. He had his harem around him and he was having none of me interfering with their breakfast. I took a wide berth as he stomped and snorted at me to remind me it was his territory I was trespassing.
About 3+00 hours in I noticed a red cliff in the distance and decided that would be my target for lunch. There was no trail to get there so I took off cross-country following a cow trail down the river. The cliff was on the other side of the river, and I figured the cows knew how to get to the water. I arrived at the red cliff almost exactly 5+00 hours after stepping out my door. The rocks came out into the river at a point, so I scrambled and climbed up about 30 feet, found a perfect bowl-shaped outcropping on the precipice, and stripped down for some sunbathing and lunch.
This 45-minute break was my favorite part of the day. I sat on that perch watching the river bottom, examining the trails on the other side, listening to the rhythmic symphony of the wind against the rocks, and the warmth of the sun on my bare skin. I had a hummingbird approach and hover right in front of my face as if to say, “You are clearly not food, so what the heck are you doing here?” After getting my fill, I knew I still had one more goal for this trip, so I packed up and headed off into the wilderness once again.
The return trip was intentionally difficult, and I did not take the same route as my outbound leg. I wanted to make it suck just a little bit to get to that breaking point. At 8+29, I took out my paper and pen from my pocket and wrote “This is it! Everything hurts.” I had reached that point where my body was telling my brain it had done enough for the day. Toes, feet, ankles, back, shoulders; everything was screaming for me to stop, but I pressed on. This is what I came for.
For 3+31 minutes, I had a continuous conversation with myself about exactly how far I was willing to push and how much pain I could endure. Yes, I took breaks, but only to stretch for a minute and hydrate and refuel. My inner-quitter was yelling at me like a cheerleader with a megaphone pointed in my ear to stop. But I continued, left foot, right foot, until I walked in the front door after 12 hours of solitude. I had walked 23.5 miles.
The distance didn’t matter; the journey was the target. I had reached the goal, explored the corners of my mind, and had several moments of flow and clarity. I lost myself for several minutes at a time meditating on different issues and events happening in my life. I was able to work out problems and find solutions by letting all the noise and clutter go for a few minutes. Being alone with no distractions is a perfect antidote for the day-to-day distractions and worries robbing your ability to focus.
BE A CHAMPION
The whole point of The 1 of 5 Project and the WORK HARD DON’T SUCK program is to get you to a point where you can silence your inner quitter. If you can learn to tell that voice in your head to shut the F up and continue, you are well on your way to becoming a champion of your own life. Champions do what it takes. They put in the work when nobody else will. They do things that others don’t so they can do things others can’t.
Start now training your mind so you can silence that inner-quitter. Tell that voice in your head “Not now” and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Whether you are dealing with a failing relationship, financial problems, or just trying to get into better physical, mental and emotional shape, listening to your inner-champion and silencing your inner-quitter will give you the mental fortitude to press one. Left foot, right foot. Small steps can carry you a great distance if you stick with them and keep moving.
Keep going. Don’t let that voice in your head convince you to quit. Be a champion.
Reference https://12hourwalk.com/ for more info on The 12-Hour Walk Challenge.