I needed to step up my hiking pace so I am prepared for my Kilimanjaro trek in August. When I hike by myself (something I will never do again after seeing 127 Hours) I am a bit of meanderer... taking my time to smell the roses, the pine, the brook...
I've wanted to join a hiking club for a long time but doing any kind of new activity can be intimidating for any plus-sized person. I am not immune to the insecurity that not fitting the mold can bring. After all, when I started hiking at more than 360 pounds, the only thing I could buy at the local outfitter was a water bottle or fancy pair of sunglasses.
On Sunday, when I got out of my car, I could see a few "what the heck is she doing here" glances. When I approached the sign up sheet, the leader asked, "Have you ever been hiking before?"
Now I realize that this was probably a safety question, one asked to anyone new to the group, as I'm sure they've had lots of people bite off more they can chew on the trail... but the tone left me feeling miffed. It felt condescening, like he was judging a book (or Fat Woman on the Mountain) by its lumpy cover. I mean, really, have I ever been hiking before?
"Um, yeah.... In fact, I was just featured in American Hiker magazine," I replied with a little bit of a smirk. "And I'm in training for my third trek up Kilimanjaro."
It was probably an over-cocky response but two-thirds of Americans are in my shoes as overweight or obese. I am trying to pave the way to help others become active.
Every once in a while when I am working hard on the treadmill, I get an, "Oh my, she's probably about to have a heart attack" glance. But rather, I am being active and taking care of my heart.
The hike leader still seemed a little nervous about me joining the group. I worked to gain the respect of the group with each step. I was a solid mid-pack hiker, keeping up. I know it surprised some people, even me, as I hadn't realized how strong I had become in my last few weeks of training. The five-mile trek by Bear Rock, Whale Head Rock and Tripod Rock was a breeze.
I had a few things to learn as well, like a "separation", means pee break. The group ended up being really welcoming. I met some great people, had a wonderful workout and left knowing I would join them again.
As I returned to the trail head, I asked the leader, "So, how did I do?"
He said, "Anyone who makes it back does great. You did a great job."