The Power of Small
Hello again, and reflections on the Trailblaze Challenge Weekend
I knew I hadn’t sent out a newsletter in a minute, but it wasn’t until I realized I hadn’t actually created a “Newsletter 2022” folder in my Google Drive that I saw how I had neglected you all terribly. I seem to have trouble writing on multiple tracks and with my book deadline coming up fast, all I seemed to be able to do was put my head down and work on that and that alone.
I’ve also spent an enormous amount of time in the woods getting ready for the Make-A-Wish Trailblaze Challenge that took place this past weekend. I’m still processing it all, but one of the things that stood out to me the most was the power of committing to small things. I’ve said in my upcoming book, Inward Apocalypse, that hiking has shown me that there is no action too small to make a difference as long as one commits to consistency. And the same thing struck me again with an addition: There’s no action too small to make a difference especially when we do it together. I raised $2500 with help from many of you. That doesn’t go super far on some of these big wishes that these kids have, and I wondered if it was really enough. Since it was my first year committing to the minimum was the most I felt comfortable doing. But I wasn’t the only one raising at least $2500. There were about 130 hikers on weekend one and the same again will do this in a couple weeks. You get 260 people working together, some raising well over the minimum, some with corporate connections who helped get sponsorships, and by weekend one we were just shy of the million dollar goal collectively set. I’m sure by the time the 2.0 weekend for alumni hikers happens in June, this small group of people will have exceeded that goal.
Make-A-Wish is no longer only granting wishes to kids with terminal illnesses, they grant wishes to any kid who signs up who has a major or chronic illness. And the hope generated by these wishes gives these kids a break from the difficulties of managing or treating their diseases. One kid said that having a chronic disease can erase your personality: you’re treated as your diagnosis instead of as a person. But when her wish was granted, she got to do something she wanted to do that helped fuel her passion and she felt like it gave her back herself.
There’s so many applications to this idea that no action is too small to make a difference if we commit to consistency and especially when we find a group of people willing to do the same. That right there? That can change the world.
I wanted to share a few stories and pictures from the hike this weekend. I didn’t actually finish due to a flare-up of a tendon I’d had some trouble with during training. I’d averaged 24 ½ minute miles on section one, then just over 25 minute miles on section two despite some challenging terrain. I’d hiked 12 miles by 10 am, which is definitely a new record, but I’m not eager to repeat the 2:30 am wake up to accomplish that again until next year.
Coming out of section one was the biggest climb of the day, but also the most amazing view. It was breathtaking, and then around the corner the trail was lined with wildflowers. It was unbelievably beautiful and absolutely worth it.
When I left the second stop (they had water refill stations and people on first aid at every stop), I thought I’d stretched enough, rolled my feet out, iced the foot in question enough that it would be okay but a mile into section four I knew that it would be all I could do to finish that section. Fortunately, it was only about 4 miles as I slowed to 42 minutes per mile pace as the pain intensified. I knew I wouldn’t finish in time at that rate, and I also didn’t want to risk an inflammation turning into a major injury. I’ve always said part of hiking is knowing when to get off the trail.
They shuttled a group of us that needed to stop at section 3 around to the last quarter mile so we could walk “wish way” to the finish line. The last eighth of a mile of trail was lined with flags and signs with stories of wishes granted. I guess they wanted to be sure we were all crying when we crossed the finish line between the emotion and the exhaustion.
An hour and a half ride back to the hotel later, we found ourselves stuck in downtown traffic as there was a football game, a concert and a huge dinner at the hotel next door. There were people everywhere in various levels of finery from football gear to formal wear. We ended up having to park in the middle of the street and bail out of the van: ten dirty stinky hikers piled out into the lobby of the Westin. For some reason, the other nine headed into the ballroom we’d been using as a meeting room. I didn’t stop to ask why. I headed by myself for the elevators.
I was clutching my “comfort bag” which was for items we wanted at the halfway point or end of the trail. It was a small black garbage bag with my name on it in duck tape. I also had my water bladder which had fallen out of my vest, the vest itself, my filthy sun hoodie, and an empty beer can as I staggered towards the elevators with probably a manic look in my eyes as I could only think of a shower and food. My right leg had an extensive scrape and massive bruise on it as I had fallen in the dark less than half a mile from the start.
People gave me side-eyes and a few took a deliberate path around me including an entire elevator full of football fans who piled out as I was waiting to go up. The last man held the door at least. I got up to my room and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and burst out laughing.
It was an amazing weekend and I can’t wait to do it again.
If you’re in the Nashville area, and think you’d like to hike this next year, let me know. I’d like to organize a few folks to train with and head down there. There is no trailblaze challenge in Tennessee, so Alabama’s is the closest to us.
To wrap up, I’d love to hear from you. What is a small thing you’ve discovered in your life that has turned out to make a big difference?
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