5Ks and Big African Mountain Climbs

In approximately ten hours, I will be running my first ever 5K race, having logged absolutely no training hours whatsoever. I haven’t even run, really, since high school (which is scarily enough fastly becoming “a time in my life” rather than a collection of recent memories). I’m doing it partially to assuage this growing sensation of self-doubt that is beginning to plague my every decision and partially because my coworker assures me that I’ll be “surprised at how easy the first mile is and the rest is a breeze.” To rationalize my nerves, I keep thinking about all of the things that I’ve done to my body before, and hey, I survived that. One experience above all keeps digging its way to the forefront of my mind. No matter how bad I may think this 5K is, it will not be worse than climbing Table Mountain in South Africa. Surprised? I was too.

Looks harmless from afar...

So, without further delay, I present to you my original words from 2007, when I first climbed that flat-topped monster:

We had so many warning signs, especially the one from Chantel in the Extreme Sports Shop whose jaw dropped when she found out our intentions of climbing it in the 3:00pm sun. ‘I don’t want to see you all when you come back,’ she said, rather ominously. She called us a Rikki, wished us good luck, and we proceeded up.

I guess now, in hindsight, it wasn’t too bad, even though the only thing getting me up each step was the thought that at some point in my life, I wouldn’t be climbing that mountain. ‘In 3 days I won’t be doing this.’ ‘In 6 hours I won’t be doing this.’ ‘In 1 hour I won’t be doing this – oh wait, Fuck, will I?’ The sun made breathing unbearable and each step up was the length of half of my body, an indomitable StairMaster. I’d lift my leg up and mentally will it to bring the rest of my body with it.

It took 2.5 hours to reach the top. I remember my dorm sophomore year had something like 165 steps in front of it to get to it from lower campus. I gave up trying to walk there after about a week, feeling very proud of myself that at least once I had given that hike a shot. Table Mountain offered a much better view than Pitt’s upper campus.

Still climbing, managing happy face

Victory at last!

I could hear screams from the top when I had about a half hour left to climb. There were so many people from so many different countries, different dialects, throwing words of encouragement to us like fishermen with hooks as we heaved ourselves up that last leg. The reward was purely visionary. We were literally ABOVE clouds, surrounded by rock, sea, and Cape Town. I took some pictures but then my camera died. Deja-Brazil. My eyes (and lungs) were at long last forced to suck in what I had worked so hard to achieve.

An unparalleled view from the top of Table Mountain

I only slept for about three hours the day before my big African mountain climb. I shall endeavor not to have a deja-Table Mountain and get a good night’s sleep before my big 5K. Wish me luck!

2 responses to “5Ks and Big African Mountain Climbs

  1. Love how you liken the encouraging strangers to fishermen with hooks – fantastic image. I guess the end of the 5K wasn’t quite as visually stimulating as the South African mountain climb, but it was a small accomplishment in Philadelphia! You’ll be climbing foreign peaks again before long…I just know it.

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