I love to hike in the mountains above Pasadena (especially up to Echo Mountain and Mount Lowe) because it's a long, steady climb that rewards me with spectacular views and a real sense of accomplishment when I get to the top. It's such a moderate hike, I can't wait to do it again when I get back down to my car.
More difficult is the hike across the Eaton Canyon wash and up the fire road to Henninger Flats. This hike is steep, difficult, and though it's something everyone who lives here should do once, it's not real high on my list of reasons to get up before the sunrise on a weekend. However, when it's done, I feel a great sense of relief, like I challenged the mountain and I won.
I've run lots of 5K races, and though I've never finished in less than 30 minutes, I've always felt great when it's done, even if it isn't the greatest challenge in the world, and I can't wait to do it again.
I've run one full marathon and one half-marathon, and interestingly enough when I was done with both of those, I couldn't wait to start training for the next one. Just like climbing Henninger Flats, I felt like I stared an incredible challenge in the face, and through sheer force of will (and careful training and planning) I conquered my physical and mental limitations and won.
Today, a cashier said to me, "How are you doing today?"
I swiped my debit card and said, "Fantastic! I won."
"What did you win?"
"When you put those things in the bag and give me my receipt, I am officially done with my Christmas shopping, and I win."
She laughed with me (I hope. It could have been at me, but honestly I was too delirious with the endorphin rush of victory to be entirely aware of my surroundings) and handed me my receipt.
"Well, congratulations, sir." She said.
I picked up my bag, and walked quickly and happily to my car.
Unlike marathons and hiking, I'm perfectly content to wait another year before I take on this particular challenge again.