One Foot Forward – Walking Through the Pain Instead of Avoiding the Pain


I watched this documentary on Netflix the other day – Finding Traction – it was about the ultra runner Nikki Kimball.  In 2012 she decided to attempt to break the record for completing the 273-mile Long Trail in Vermont. The record had been held by Jonathan Basham who completed it in 4 days, 12 hours, and 46 minutes in 2009. He was 31 at the time. Nikki pushed so hard to beat the time, and kept up the pace so well until the last day when she simply had to take a rest. She came away from her attempt with the absolutely amazing achievement of instead breaking the women’s record by a full two days. Nikki’s time was 5 days, 7 hours, and 42 minutes. She was 41 at the time.

A major bout of depression hit Nikki for the first time when she was in her early 20’s. She learned to adapt and then to thrive with running. She can outlast the best of them, and has gone on to claim many records for her efforts. I find her to be very inspiring 🙂

She found a way to put one foot forward during the darkest times of her life – when everything was confusing, when her hopes and dreams were slipping away, when she had to adapt everything and find new meaning in life.

I’m sure it started with just simply getting out of bed. Putting one foot on the floor, then the other, slipping on her running shoes, and stepping one foot out the door, then the other. One foot further down the street, into something new, facing each step as it came, one at a time, then the next, and the next.

It’s like living in the moments. It’s like simply living. One thing at a time, what’s right in front of you, taking it all in, just one moment, then the next, enjoying what comes.

Pain will inevitably come – physical and emotional and spiritual – all sorts of pain. Confusion will come even as you take one step then the next, out there beyond the safe walls of your house, beyond the safe comfort of your family and friends. Out there in the unknown. But all you have to see is one step. And once you’ve taken that one step, all you have to see is the next step. That’s all. Looking too far down the road, too far beyond the comfort, too far beyond the safe, will only make the first step that much more impossible to take.

Which is probably why I’ve struggled for so long with getting back to walking. I can’t seem to take that first step. It sounds so silly to me – not being able to open my door, and step outside, and put one foot in front of the other. But this is a pretty annoying hurdle to face – being one who loves to go for walks, one who needs to get some sunshine even through the looming winter sky, one who thrives on glimpses of nature to lift my moods.

When I watched Nikki run her Long Trail race, it was about putting one foot in front of the other. And I saw that as she did that, she gained confidence in her ability to take the next step, even if it was slower than she hoped, even if it was cold, even if she hurt in ways we couldn’t see as we watched her race. I also saw that she knew when to admit it was time for a rest, after pushing herself to her absolute limits. This lady knew when to push for that next step and when to stop taking steps for a time. She knew when to tape up her feet and her legs and eat more bacon and get back on the trail. She also knew when to curl up in a blanket in the back of a van and close her eyes for a little while. She let herself cry, laugh, sing, shout, and be silent. There was always someone travelling with her, always supporters ready at the next rest stop. So I guess that’s why I wanted to write about this particular struggle of mine. Because in the sharing usually comes some relief for me, the burden seems lighter, the struggle seems easier to face. And hopefully I will gain some ground. Starting with that first step.

The colder temperatures definitely make it harder – but I have lots of warm clothing.

The barren white landscape outside doesn’t excite me much – but there is always something to see.

The people I meet along the way might not be nice and friendly – but I’ve got many who love me already.

The distance I travel may not be as far as I hope – but it’s only about one foot in front of the other.

And so I’ll give it a shot today, even if the winter storm continues to rage outside. Even if I only step outside to shovel the front deck and grab the mail. Or maybe just take a few more steps down the street. Maybe around the corner to catch a glimpse of the frozen lake. Maybe. I’ll start with one foot in front of the other, and see where the journey takes me 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s