Some people believe that a sport has to always be about hardcore competition… winning or losing if you will. And on rare occasions – a tie. But this is not the case with all sports, and it does not always have to mean competing with another human being. In fact, I like the kinds of sports just as much where there is no winner or loser. The only way someone can technically lose is if they give up. There is a sport that I enjoyed doing in my early twenties when the discovery touched me like the smell of sweat mixed with roses. That particular sport is hiking! Traveling a road that seems to last forever, although there’s an end in sight!
The reason I enjoy hiking is because the tortoise always wins as long as he or she refuses to stop. This is what they told me at the start of the Appalachian Trail. If you can get through the first trip up Springer Mountain then the rest of the journey is entirely mental. Here are the following reasons why I enjoy hiking and believe it counts as a sport.
The act of hiking makes one feel like a winner and there is a finish line. You may not receive a trophy or always have a crowd of people cheering your name. Unless there are occasionally races, which I have never heard of with hiking expeditions, there are no prizes for completing a short or long hike. Perhaps there are merit badges in Boy Scouts. And if you complete 2,000 miles on the Appalachian Trail then you receive a certificate. But hiking trophies seem few and far in between. The greatest accomplishment is not found in a medal, but within the understanding that you have completed a journey that is very hard and are capable of completing other challenges along the way. The 2,000-mile certificate is on the Honor system, and if a person fakes their accomplishment the certificate is empty and should be used to collect bird droppings in a pet shop cage.
Some people believe the summer is the best time in which to go hiking. But in my opinion, the best time is in the middle of winter. The poison ivy, ticks, snakes, mosquitoes, sunburn, yellow jackets, and other side effects of late-spring and summer weather that can make this sport a nightmare are temporarily extinct. The trees are bare are a burnt up house, but it allows us to view endless miles of scenery that used to be hidden by lush leaves. Water is very necessary in the winter, but the threat of dehydration and constant thirst is not as present in the wintertime. Hiking in the wintertime is uncomfortable, but unless it is minus five degrees, the human body is able to heat itself up like a furnace.
Hiking is a sport that we often call therapeutic. It allows us to be alone with our thoughts while having a destination in sight. I remember when I started hiking the Appalachian Trail it was possible to think all day long but still get things done. I was losing more weight than I have ever experienced and was in the best shape of my life. If I had known how quickly the progress would disappear then I sure would have done a lot more to hold on to the progress in hopes the feeling of accomplishment would stick around just a little longer. If you look at me now, I am over 200 pounds and there is no physical evidence that I once hiked over 2,000 miles. But knowing that I did it in the past could be just enough to get a piece of it back someday. It probably will not be a 2,000-mile trip from Georgia to Maine but maybe the occasional walk in the Pine Bush Preserve on New Karner Road. Or maybe I will complete the 36-mile stretch from Poughquag, NY to Kent, CT. What the sport of hiking has taught me is that we can never plough a field just by turning it over in our mind. Accomplishments have to come by rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands a little dirty in the process. You should enjoy a particular sport because the juice is worth the squeeze. It hurts to run, although it hurts a lot more not to run. When you are competing with others, you may lose. But when pushing to be better, you have a greater chance to win.