Training for Kilimanjaro (I): applying lessons learned

Conventional wisdom says that people who are in good shape (i.e. normally go to the gym 2-3 times/week) only need 2-3 months of training to summit the mountain.  If true, this is good news for me.

At the end of March I ran my first half marathon and did a decent job of it.  It’s not the grandest of achievements, but it does give me that extra bit of self-confidence that I could, actually, get to the rooftop of Africa if I take my training up a few notches.

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The advantage of long-distance running is not just getting in shape, however.   It’s also a great exercise in testing one’s own physical and psychological limits.

Running implies a constant process of negotiation with oneself – after all, it’s an exhausting, highly redundant and oftentimes painful activity.  Hardly attractive.   You have to obliterate procrastination, laziness and self-defeat just by getting off the couch and running those first 5 km. But once you do that, something else kicks in – the impulse to push yourself to the limit.  When you become utterly exhausted during a run, you have work at convincing yourself that you can go further.  You have to make yourself believe that you can reach the next kilometre mark; and the next, and then the next.  And then you have to make your body follow.

The next day, you start all over again – and push yourself even further.  Luckily, the feeling at the end of that run is pretty damn amazing – a feeling that keeps you running every day thereafter, until you reach that 21.097 km mark.

This is the lesson learned in the last eight months of running that I will take with me up Mt. Kilimanjaro, and which will hopefully help me reach the summit when exhaustion kicks in (and it inevitably will): half the challenge is in the brain.

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