A Mountain to Climb

“This is Stephanie, she accidentally runs marathons and accidentally climbs mountains.” This is how colleague at my Marketing Agency introduced me this week, there’s a bit of a story behind this one and a story worth telling.

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I guess the Vertical Kilometre (or VK to those in the know), isn’t really a mountain, but that would ruin the whole metaphorical nature of this story.

When I first heard ‘VK race’, I assumed this was a race with VK (super cheap version of Smirnoff Ice I drank at uni) as the prize, alas no.

When Nick and Phil spelt out the acronym for me as a vertical kilometre, I still didn’t get it. I assumed as we were an all abilities group that it was a 1km race with a big hill in it.

When Ilsuk and Bob told me to respect the mountains and take a jacket in case the weather turned, I still didn’t get it, I grabbed my £20 jacket and shoved it in one of the boys pockets.

When we set off for the VK, it was 25’c and sunny. I was excited and full of pep (and cheese) after completing the Chamonix Cross course the day before with The North Face Chamonix and Charley.

When we took selfies at the church and found the official start, slowing to a walk on the first tarmac hill in town because of the elevation. I still didn’t get it. The banter and sunshine lulled me into a false sense of security and enjoyed the first few weaves through the trees with the boys.

When the switchbacks started coming faster, the path got narrower and the boys disappeared. I still didn’t get it. I put a podcast on in my pocket, slowed and enjoyed the scenery.

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Then, it started to get really tough. The heat got to me a bit, I had no water, I’d been on my own for ages, I’d been much further than a km already, I looked down and thought about turning back.

That’s a long way.

This time last year I wouldn’t have made it this far up.

This time last year I wouldn’t have started.

Hold on. This time last year, I wouldn’t have even flown to Chamonix.

There is no way I’m going back down. Nobody can tell me I can’t do it, nobody is here to help me, I have to do this and do it for myself.

There may have been a tear, but I honestly think it was a tear of relief. The next part, about the last 1/3 was the most technical walk I’ve ever done. It was hard, I was tired, but I did it. With my own mental strength. If I’d known how hard it was going to be, I’m not sure I would have gone.

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An illustration of the terrain. ^

When I got to the top, I had a moment. I high fived the boys and smiled, then I looked out over the mountains, and breathed, long clean breaths of air, freedom, and perspective.

When I read the website later on, I got it. “Please note that it’s an alpine race! This race is not recommended in case of vertigo, the finish being typed air via ferrata (steps, cables, pedals, handrails …).” (no idea what typed air means).

When I practised yoga under the mountains with hang gliders floating over head, I also ‘got’ a sense of self and a sense of what I was capable of. This all truly sunk in whilst I stretched and relaxed, sinking into the ground. An incredible day finished beautifully by amazing yoga from Run.Namaste.Eat

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I had a mountain to climb, a river to cross and a lot to learn in Chamonix. It all came as a surprise, an accident you could say. But it was all exactly what I needed.

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