When I started running road races about 30 years ago, I learned quickly that when well intentioned spectators yell from the sidelines “You’re almost there,” it’s best to ignore them. Unless I can actually see the finish line, I’m not almost there. When I cross the finish line I will be there.
We are on Day 10 of our walk along the Camino de Santiago. No one could have prepared me for either the physical challenge, or the amazing natural beauty I would experience. The first day was the hardest and yet the most extraordinary day. We crossed the Pyrenees from France to Spain. When we started, the weather was overcast and perfect for walking. It was straight up for about 8 miles and then once we were on the top of the world we were treated to views beyond belief. I wanted to break into my Julie Andrews rendition of “The Hills Are Alive.” We began the descent, without my song and dance, to reach the first day’s finish line–which ended up being about another 12-13 miles. We started in Saint Jean Pied de Port, France, and when we reached Roncesvalles, the first town in Spain after the descent, we discovered that we were actually staying in the next town, another 3 miles. Most “pilgrims”, that’s what we are called, left us in Roncesvalles and we continued on in the rain towards the elusive first day finish line. I had my Garmin GPS watch measuring every mile and when that ran out of power, I switched to Map My Walk on my phone, checking regularly if we were there, by how many miles we had walked. Of course, by then I had realized that most of the signs with kilometers listed were inaccurate and I stated laughing, a bit crazed and hallucinating by then, about how funny it was that I was measuring the miles. First of all, it’s 500 miles from Saint Jean to Santiago, so no matter how I walk it, it’s 500 miles. There are lots of up hills and down hills, some very long and steep, all with amazing natural beauty, so actually, who cares how far it is? We leave every morning about 8:00 AM and many people pass us in the course of the day. We great each other with “Buen Camino,” have a great walk. We usually arrive at our destination between 4:00 and 6:00 PM. We walk at a slow pace, take lots of breaks and are grateful for the long days of sunlight. Once we arrive at the town, we head to our hotel, that’s where that day’s finish line ends. We have a hot shower, relax, and get ready for a great dinner complete with wonderful Spanish wine. The Spanish eat dinner so late that it really doesn’t matter what time we arrive, restaurants don’t even open until 8:00 PM.
We will walk every day for the next 26 days, with 3 days for resting. I stopped wearing my watch and when we see a town in the distance, I stopped wondering if that’s the town we’re staying in. We will get there when we get there and the wonderfully friendly Spanish people will greet us like we are old friends who have finally arrived. Walking the Camino and finding our way is an experience of a lifetime, each step. When we arrive in Santiago on June 1st we will be there whether I have measured the miles or not. We will cross the finish line and celebrate this amazing accomplishment.
With love and gratitude,