Made It Ma!

Only Mad Dogs & Englishmen…

I did it!! I walked 131 km in 5 days on the Camino de Santiago. That’s the equivalent of 3 Marathons.  To the world of the ultra runner – many of my clients – you may roll your eyes but I am euphorically proud of myself. 

Divine Intervention?

I managed to lose my phone on the 1st day. It fell out of my backpack somewhere between Vigo and a minty forest!  After the initial stress of contacting family and locking up my bank vaults, I sat by an ancient laundry hut watching the light dance on the water. I took a moment to soothe my thoughts and with a long, slow exhale, I matched the speed of the the water pouring from a spout, and I let it all go.

I wondered about the women of past and how they would have gathered here to wash clothes and share family news. They managed very well without todays gadgets and constant interruptions.

I tend towards the workaholic and despite my self-promise, if my phone would have been handy, I would have been compelled to use it.

I found peace amongst the rolling hills, wild fennel and grapevines. The view across the sloping, red rooftops, orchards and vineyards was stunning. I was struck by how green this region is. The native oaks, fresh mint, fennel, and not so native eucalyptus trees come together to create natures own aromatherapy diffuser. My breathing had never been so clear!!  I read that a Galicean monk had been responsible for bringing back Eucalyptus seeds in the 19 century and now they have run amok.  

Day three was physically gruelling. I left later than planned and as the temperature soared, my 59 years old ankles were under pressure and there were lots more hills. My professional voice chided me for not doing the preparation fitting of a Neuromuscular Specialist. Note to self. more impact work for next year.  Other than that, the only real challenge was finding my hotels the old fashioned way. Armed with a paper map, some scribbles and stopping to ask the locals. I discover that as I have rarely visited Spain, I haven’t a lick of Spanish so communicating was a lot of fun. 

Being Responsible or Able to Respond?

I made a pact with myself that this was my time for reflection, my time for me, not treating people, not working, just being with myself. but it’s hard to walk by someone suffering.  As I said, this was a hot day and my distance was 24k. I met a lady halfway up a long hill climb about 15k in. She was sitting on the curb, fairly distressed. Her husband was lovingly supporting her, he gave her some water. I also needed a break as my ankle bones were jammed and so I stopped a while and we got chatting.  She was from the USA, 70+ years old.  I’m in awe of her already. 

She said, ‘It’s meant to be hard isn’t it?

I agreed. I was wondering what the hell I was doing here myself? Would I even be able to do this at her age? Everything hurt. I sing a few lines of the Noel Coward song, “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.” She laughs. I instinctively release my diaphragm and take a long inhale. I tell her what I’m doing and I offer to share a few things from my work. (I specialise in neuromuscular activation, which helps the body to find better connections when its under pressure.) I show her a simple technique which instantly helps her to breathe better.

She tells me that her back pain has eased. I grin and say, ‘The body is magic if you give it the right information.’ I invite her to look back at the view with me. It’s my favourite thing to do when I’m hiking, to take time to look at the landscape from where I’ve travelled. People forget to do that in life, to look at how far they have come. It was a stunning view, we looked, and breathed and we exchanged our reasons for walking. Her recovery gave me an energy surge and a deep sense of care for this lovely stranger.

I shared a few more of my walking tips with her, and of course, some muscle activations, a bit of breath work and a gratitude meditation, and I wast on my own Way.  On my next hill I met Danny from Belgium, he didn’t stop yapping all the way to the top, which was great because I wasn’t able. I’m once again inspired and impressed by humans, this time to be be out-chatted and out-paced by a grieving man who was turning 80.

Santiago! I’m here!

The 5 th day was psychologically my toughest. I had completed my mileage but I still had to find my hotel.  I got caught in the rain, every step was a blow to my vexed ankles and my once trendy, almost elegant Nordic walking poles, were now doubling as a Zimmer frame.  I caught sight of myself in a shop window.  The distorted reflection brought to mind the tune, ‘Welcome To The House of Fun’ by Madness. Although I looked funny, it wasn’t a bit fun. I pushed on because there simply was no other choice.  As I ‘zimmer’ up the last hill to my hotel, I whisper, Santiago! I’m here! My belly flipped and my pain subsided. Pure magic! What a stunning city.  I fell instantly in love with it. The thought of many routes from all over Europe bringing people together like health giving arteries to a beautiful big heart. It still makes me tingle. The place has a powerful, quiet energy despite the bustling Pilgrims.  

I find my room. My walking Buddy has been there for hours, she’s bright and chirpy, golden skinned and fresh. I’m sweaty, drowned by the downpour, dishevelled but not despondent.  I throw myself into the steamy shower, wrap myself in a towel and I lay on my bed, legs up the wall. We catch up with our travel stories.

St Jim Delivered!

During dinner, my travel buddy takes a call. Unbelievably my phone had been found.  The voice on the phone was the receptionist from my 2nd hotel.It had been handed into her.  She offered to meet me a couple of towns away. A 40 min train journey and a hug with a young stranger, recently moved to Spain from the Ukraine.  I take down her number. Repatriated with my old and cracked device, and on my way back to Santiago on a very comfortable train, I wonder about her story. The kindness of going out of her way to return my phone the way she did will never be forgotten. 

On my last day, I ambled around the museum, saw the amazing Portico of Glory and visited the tomb of St James. I offered my prayers and thanks for many, many things, including my phone and my work.

Heading home.

At the airport I was looking for a place to charge my phone when I spot the American lady from the hill, smiling, arms open, she hugs me and says. ‘I’ looked for you every day. I wanted to tell you that you really helped me. Once again I feel the familiar surge of happiness surge through my body. Call it energy, call it, love, call it spirit, whatever it is I wish it for everyone. I’m glad I stopped.

Sharing my skills and knowledge also gives me a deep sense of well being. I am doing what I am supposed to do and I am forever grateful,

Sharing  – it’s how the light gets in..

Buen Camino