Starting by the river and leading up to the Cathedral, the Hill is half a mile of ever increasing and merciless steepness. When I decided to include it in my running route it was something to be feared and an enemy to be defeated. As I approached it I would tell myself that I could do this, that I would not be beaten and as I started to climb and my muscles and my lungs began to burn I would repeat that mantra over and over again in my mind. All I had to do was make it to the top. It didn’t matter how slowly I ran, just as long as I didn’t stop. All I had to do was get there and then I could plod along until I recovered enough to put some speed back into my pace. Just get there and then I could enjoy the victory. It was, as it may sound, very hard work.
As I got fitter the Hill became less daunting and it was only when that fear started to fade that I began to realise that the Hill was not my enemy at all. I began to understand that here was a friend, who despite my rude and confrontational attitude had been helping me all along. It had encouraged me with a challenge appropriate to my need; it had made me fitter, healthier and stronger and it had asked nothing in return. It had seen beyond my fear and aggression and stood by me in the belief that I would figure out my mistake.
And, although it took a bit of time, eventually I did. I figured out that no one wins a fight. By its very nature everyone involved has to lose something. If you lose nothing, then you have not fought. You have to pay the price, you have to give something precious, something you’d rather keep. And the harder you fight, the more you have to give. Fighting is borne of ignorance and fear and it brings only loss and I’ve had too much of that. Sometimes you have to fight, such is life, but why fight when you don’t have to? Why give up what I’d rather keep? I run to enjoy and to maintain a standard of life that all too soon will be gone. Why spoil that?
So, I decided that I would not fight my Friend anymore and as soon as I did that everything got better. I look forward to the Hill now. It is a welcome challenge and as I approach I feel excitement. I cherish the moment that I have to increase my effort, because when the burn starts I know it is only the Hill helping me to become fitter. I know that when I am approaching the steepest part it is only the Hill teaching me to be determined and brave, to put aside the small things and to dig deep to find the strength we both know is there.
As I approach the top I always try to accelerate, to give the very last that is left in me to give, and when I reach the top I know that the Hill has improved me and I am grateful. I smile because it has shown me my nature, a nature that it has so carefully nurtured and grown and I know that it is proud of me. It has made me a better person. That is a feeling which must be worked for and built over time. It must be earned with sweat and effort. It is mutual respect and faith. It cannot be gained through fighting. Only small things come from fighting and this feeling is not a small thing. It is a massive thing and it gives me wings for the rest of my run.