One needs to be full of zeal: Reflections after 300 miles

I have now officially crossed the 300-mile mark.  I’m amazed.  How on earth did that happen?

Growing up, I was certainly no athlete.  In high school my squash coach (sports were required) was aghast when I told him I liked the game because it didn’t require a lot of extraneous running around and sweating.

As I grew older, however, exercise became part of my daily routine.  It started in college with early morning lap swimming.  Now it usually involves cardio workouts at the gym on the elliptical machine and strength and balance exercises with a trainer.  Some days I even enjoy it.  

However, the zeal with which my body has responded to walking the Camino has astounded me.  To be sure, I was very diligent in my physical conditioning. I did that more out of fear than desire. I knew I couldn’t just set out on a 500-mile trek without preparing.

And, I’ve noticed some things along the way. 

First, your feet are everything.  To state the obvious:  you can’t walk the Camino without your feet.  Mine have their quirks, which I will spare you.  I’m glad I have a good podiatrist.  He’s given me great advice on their needs and how to care for them.  Each day it takes less and less time for them to recover and be ready for the next stage of the Camino.  If you are good to your feet, they will be good to you.

Second, you build endurance.  It doesn’t deplete.  I’m sure all the athletes among you are rolling your eyes at this.  For me it was a revelation.  This is the first time in my life I’ve done something physically challenging day after day after day.  Somehow, I was under the impression that I had a limited amount of endurance and then it would give out.  Sure, at the end of the day I wonder how on earth I will get up in the morning and do it again.  But, miracle of miracles, I can and I do.  In fact, on the few rest days I’ve taken, I’ve felt restless, as if my body is saying to me: “move it lazybones.”

Third, listen to the aches.  With all the focus on one’s feet, it would be easy not to pay attention to the other twinges and pangs elsewhere.  A precautionary Ace bandage wrapped around a wobbly knee has seen off worse, I’m quite certain.

It has gotten to the point now where some mornings my body has more zeal for walking the Camino than my mind does.  It’s happy out there on the trail, moving.

That zeal has inspired me.  I feel about my body like I might about an eager dog.  It needs training, discipline, care, love, and most of all forgiveness.  

As Christopher Idle writes in his hymn about the pilgrimage of the Three Magi, you need to be full of zeal.  Thank goodness my body is!

Thank you to everyone who has generously supported my walk with a gift to Episcopal Relief & Development.  If you haven’t yet done so and would like to make a donation, you can do so by clicking “Support my Journey!”

Progress bars showing fundraising at 68,036/75k and walk at 302.2/500

Published by Rob Radtke

President & CEO, Episcopal Relief & Development, husband, father, friend, traveler, reader, New Yorker.

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