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Kilimanjaro Climb Part 1 Brooks Running, Memoir ch. 20, picture 2021 edition

View from the Top

You stand at the base of the mountain tall,

Surveying the lofty peak

Because that is where your dream has gone,

The goal of which you seek.

The path is long and tortuous

And strewn with many a test.

Each twist and turn, each angle sharp,

More difficult than the rest.

When finally the summit’s reached,

Your quest is thus obtained;

Alas another peak is there,

More lofty than whence you came.

It seems that is the way with life

For those who dare to dream.

You’re off again on another trek

Because yet others remain.

The nature of challenges in this life is that they just keep coming. When we surmount them, we feel great. We’ve earned it. Needless to say, you can’t get “a view from the top” if you don’t legitimately get there yourself in the first place. Nothing and nobody’s going to carry you up to the world’s highest mountaintops; you are on your own two feet to do it.

I was a runner, hiker and adventurer, so I always conceived of myself getting to the top of anything. Now, as someone who had experienced not one but nearly two heart attacks and a stroke, I was afraid of losing the life I had always lived, yet my mind said I wasn’t done achieving yet. One of the highest places in the world is Mount Kilimanjaro. I felt a calling in my heart to do one more big thing in my life, perhaps the biggest thing I would ever do. Nobody was going to drag me up there. I’d get up there the old-fashioned way. I’d climb.

But things were far different now with my body. I was damaged, a participant in not only races but heart disease and stroke. Was it too late? Facing sixties, I was more cognizant that my running, racing, and climbing skills were waning. I realized that if I didn’t take advantage of opportunities at that point, I’d soon be sitting around saying, “I wish I had done this; I wish I had done that.” Regret is a merciless mistress, even a silent killer of some. This trip would be my facing off with myself, more youthful aspirations fulfilled. If I attempted this improbability, I had to stretch my capabilities. This expedition was going to be purely for that aspect. It involved the challenge of the intimidating mountain and the challenge of proving myself.

Mission statement, most organizations have them.

According to Joe Friel, who wrote The Triathlete’s Training Bible, “Most of us go through life never coming close to our limits and living only on wishes. But wishes are important; they are the start of great feats. Wishes grow into dreams when mentally [visualizing] yourself accomplishing [those feats]. Dreams turn into goals when a plan for attaining them is defined. Goals become a mission when unwavering self-belief and purposeful zeal are realized. Big challenges require mission status. The difference between a goal and a mission is [drive]. Missions are accompanied by a passionate commitment. With the proper attitude, almost anything is possible. When you believe, you can achieve.” Well, I had the wish, the dream, the goal, a mission, and zeal. I was mostly good with the self-belief, but time was ticking on; my biological clock was running low on years.

Peaks or summits are not necessarily our biggest obstacles. Some people would never want to conquer those, because they are not interested in climbing and that sort of thing, or maybe because they feel they just couldn’t. We are all not wired the same. For most people, though, including runners, the hardest challenge may be the conquest of the self. In life, we all have problems, circumstances that need beating. I have had many: personal, physical, and spiritual.

I have continuously scaled challenges. Sometimes I am doing it for fun (Can I finish this giant ice cream cone?), sometimes for momentary gain (Can I finish this week’s project?), or sometimes for broader life goals (Can I develop my ministry?). Those are work I choose for myself, and they can come whenever I desire. There are others that I do not choose, and those keep on coming intermittently, thrown at me by life. Somehow, my tests, trials, and roadblocks are always tougher than previous ones. So tomorrow (2022) , what else will I face? I will talk about current challenges in the final chapters of this book, but this chapter speaks to an earlier time in my life. It’s from a younger-older man’s perspective. It was adventurous, fun, and stimulating. It was demanding, rough, and gratifying.

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