Every time I go for a run, I’m nervous. Every time I stumble on an uneven patch of sidewalk, I have a mild panic attack. If I miss a step going down a flight of stairs, my heart catches in my throat.
I’m afraid of losing my footing and getting hurt in a way that keeps me off of the trail. There’s no denying that the only thing I’m worried about when it comes to getting back on the trail, is my ankle taking me off again. I’m not worried to be hiking in a team again. I’m not concerned with the pace we need to set and keep. I’m stuck on what could happen before the trail even begins.
On that note, I’m afraid that I’m walking around with an automatic kill switch in my foot. I’ve gone from being confident about knowing the limits of my body and joints to second guessing what kind of beating they can take. I can’t pretend that I haven’t considered that I may never hike the whole trail in one shot. For me that would be crushing. I know it’s not the end of the world, but it would mean compromising on something that I’ve wanted for over half of my life.
Lucky for me, these fears are not unique to myself.
I’ve been reading through the trials and tribulations of other hikers who did not finish the trail because of injury, emotional toil, or financial/time constraints. These have helped me come to grips with my apprehensions. Knowing that my fears are not only shared, but very common among unsuccessful Thru-Hikers made the process of accepting my own limitations easier.
For what it’s worth, I don’t believe failure to be the end of any adventure. If you haven’t failed, you haven’t tried something worth trying. Even those hikers who have completed the full length of the AT did not do it perfectly without any setbacks.
I’ve come to accept that while I still have these fears about potential injury, or anxiety about how my hiking future may pan out, I still love to hike. As long as I enjoy it, there’s no reason to stop. Even when you’re not on the trail, it has a way of testing you. Do you really want to do this again? Do you want to risk it all over again? Whatever your answer, you just learned something about yourself and what you want.
I know for me, my answer will always be 100% YES.