Today’s Miles: 26.4
Total Miles: 1,324.2
Near Sandvika, Norway – August 28, 2016
My heel touches the ground first. More specifically, the outside edge of it. I can see it in how my shoes wear first along that back, outside corner. That’s where I make contact with the ground, where I begin each new step.
The rest of my foot rolls down behind it, bones, muscles, and skin shifting, adjusting, moving, pressing down. Each replaces the piece before it then lifts as it too is replaced, one after the next until my weight hits the ball of my foot and spreads across my toes for one final flick of muscle and bone that pushes me into the next step.
It’s that final flick that I notice in the bogs. The mud swallows that last push of toes whole. It’s gone. The momentum from one step to the next disappears in a slop of wet earth. My weight sinks instead of rises, down instead of forward.
It means nothing to a single step, maybe a handful of inches, maybe less, but over a thousand steps, over ten thousand, over fifty thousand in a day, it means miles lost, gone, disappeared in the soft mud. They disappear elsewhere too, in scrambles over rocks, up and down steep slopes, walking over logs, hoping rocks across a stream, fording rivers.
When I feel the grind of miles, when I stare at my GPS and wonder how it hasn’t moved, when my maps seem to lie, I think about those lost inches. I think about them strung together, lined up end to end. Where would I be with them? How far would I have gone?
Then I catch myself wondering, thinking far ahead, imagining the places I might have already left behind if you could climb mountains on a treadmill or walk a track to reach the far side of a valley. It would be so easy if all miles were the same.
“But they are not,” I tell myself.
I stare at the mountains, at the water soaked footprints strung out behind me in the bog, at my feet sinking underneath my weight. Water pours through my shoes, soaking into my socks, and drowning my toes. I keep walking, sinking, and stepping forward again, but going because I have miles and miles ahead of me, some hard, some easy, but never the same.
“And they never will be,” I say.