A personal challenge, 8 Everests and renewed mindfulness

Posted on October 29, 2021 | by Active Africa

On an arbitrary day in January, Chris set himself an arbitrary challenge. To complete 4km per day, every day, for the next 365 days. Why? You may ask. We’ll let Chris explain.

The self-imposed rules of the challenge are simple. It has to be on foot, either hiking, running or climbing, has to be outdoors and must be done in a single outing within a 24hr period.  While some days require more motivation than others to get out, 285 days, 1947km and nearly 62740m of accumulated ascent later, I’m forming a happy habit that has me looking forward to the next outing. 

With 2000km being a bit of an obvious milestone, the ever-patient wife asked me to write something to describe my experience.  I’m perplexed and procrastinate as usual. What is there to write about?  There is the occasional mission where 4 turns into 14 or more, but for the most part it’s 30min to 1hr of my time. I go for a walk or a run and I come back, nothing earth-shattering happens and its all quite mundane really.  But why? She persists.  What’s with this obsession when it’s 11pm, you have the better part of a bottle of wine in your belly after a dinner with friends, it’s raining and yet still you stagger off into the darkness to get in your 4km before midnight?

The Why

That gave me pause for thought – why indeed? It’s not like it’s a massive physical challenge. I’ve clocked much higher mileage in the past, training for various events. Indeed, many of my mates will put in more time and effort just as part of their basic fitness regime. It isn’t ego driven. I’ve never been shy of taking time for myself, so I don’t need the excuse of a challenge to get out and a bit of bad weather doesn’t scare me.  And I’m not doing it for a cause other than a purely selfish one. 

I let the question stew and eventually a plausible answer surfaced. Specific events or trips have always provided a tangible goal for my physical training. Perhaps in the absence of these, the need for focused training has lapsed and I’m guilty of running on fitness memory alone. Such a training plan rarely produces happy outcomes.  Given that I am seeing the physical benefit of almost a year of mostly gentle exercise, that seems like a logical response. Then an astute observation by a good friend got me thinking a little deeper….


The impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic on the travel industry this past 18 months has left us with empty inboxes, no feet in boots or bums on saddles and little to do during the day.  Worry and loss of focus are an understandable side-effect, and perhaps the simple task of achieving something, anything, in my daily routine is what drives me out the door every day on my “challenge”. 

Phew!  For someone who has always felt confident in handling adversity, that’s a deep dive into my psyche right there.  Casting light on what may be a subconscious reaction to my current circumstances has also caused me to ponder on other responses I may have had during the past year and a half while we weather the Covid storm – revealing some good, some requiring adjustment.   

Morning walks on the False Bay coast became morning runs and swims. Easier said than done in winter when the sun hasn’t risen and water temperature won’t rise above ‘Polar bear’ (typically 13C / 55F).


And perhaps that’s where the why of challenging myself to complete 4km a day really lies. It’s not about the distance, self-discipline or improving physical fitness. These are just worthy side-effects.  I do it for the precious moments of mental stillness brought about by time alone on the trail. For the clarity of thinking that accompanies it. I do it for the bonds that are re-affirmed and ideas that are born when sharing the trail with loved ones. And I do it for the simple pleasure of being on a journey and completing just one thing, however small. 

The challenge is to carry this positive state of mind over into the tribulations of daily life, especially while navigating these turbulent waters. To be kinder to myself and those around me, to be grateful for what I have, not bitter at what I have lost.   

These are lofty attributes to attach to a lowly goal. And as I look out the window at the grey skies, freezing wind and rain squalls that are currently sweeping the Peninsula, I wonder if the depths of my duvet wouldn’t be a better place to contemplate self-improvement.  Eighty days to go ….

Early in September, Chris joined his close friend and owner of Wildrunner, South Africa’s leading trail events company, to check the route of the Wildcoast Wildrun, ahead of the event. This 3-day trail run covers a distance of 112km along the Wild Coast. Click here for more information on the 2022 event.

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