by Jen Waak
“Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand.” ~Emily Kimbrough
Even though it was 18 months ago, I still remember my climb up Kilimanjaro like it was yesterday.
Taking those final steps toward the summit with tears in my eyes because I never believed that I—someone who grew up this sick little kid who held a deep-seated belief that she’d never be “an athlete”—would do something that thousands each year, including world-class athletes, cannot.
Yet there I was.
But I certainly didn’t get there alone. I had help—a lot of it.
While training, I called on my friends who are athletes and coaches to ask their training and recovery advice.
For example, when I got ambitious on a hike and was so sore the next day I had to crawl up and down the stairs on my hands and knees, I called my Ironman Triathlete friend Shannon to ask him how to avoid having that happen again. (His answer was twofold: He first told me not to do that again, and then patiently walked me through the wild world of sport recovery drinks.)
As I continued preparations, I continued to turn to my friends, the climbing company, and seasoned climbing veterans for buying and renting gear, figuring out snacks on the trip, understanding the challenges of altitude sickness, and everything else that went into making Kilimanjaro a memorable and easy trip for me.
The phrase “it takes a village” certainly applied to me and this trip.
Then, when I got there, it was my turn to pay it back. I was climbing with some older gentlemen who were having difficulty navigating the rocks and tree roots. So, I’d patiently reach down and offer a hand—after all, we were there together, to accomplish this together. I wanted to both pay it forward and see them succeed.