A year ago today I was in Italy. We woke up early to take the train out to Cinque Terre where I was determined to hike from one town to the next, setting foot in all five towns. I had tried to do this once before but my (then) travel companions decided it was a much better idea to sit and have another glass of wine (or two or more) while overlooking the gorgeous view. Okay, so the view was incredible (as was the wine). And I never made it to all five towns. But this was my second chance!
We arrived at the furthest town (Monterosso) and went to buy our hiking pass and were informed that the trails were closed. What? Really? There had been a lot of rain and so they had decided to close the trails early. But we didn’t let that stop us! (Although maybe we should have.)
Several other groups of tourists were of the same mind as us and we all set off on the “closed” trail. Which meant there was a sign on the trail head saying it was closed. We took off. We had started off doing the most challenging of the hikes and they weren’t kidding when they said it was challenging. A lot of ups. A lot of downs. But the views were amazing!
We were almost to the next town when we came across a section of the trail that was washed out. We knew there had been people in front of us and since we hadn’t seen them turn back, they must have made it across. There were people coming towards us, so we decided to go for it. First Jessica, who had one hand on the handrail and one hand on the stone wall. Next Nilufer, who had both hands on the stone wall. And then it was my turn.
The voice in my head was saying “Dear Emily, please sit on your bottom and scoot across.” But did I listen to the little voice? No, I did not. My eyes had seen Jessica & Nilufer make it across, being very careful. So I could do that too. I had the foresight to 1) put my camera away in my bag and 2) toss my jacket over to Jessica to hold. I should have given her my bag as well.
One very carefully placed step. Two very carefully placed steps. CRACK! The handrail gave way and I went over the side. I grabbed a tree/shrub and it came out. And I kept going. A very nice tree grabbed me and I stopped sliding. For the moment. I tried to stand up and immediately started sliding again.
I heard voices yelling down to me. Nilufer, Jessica, and two other hikers who had been coming toward us. “I’m okay. I just need to sit for a minute.” I collected myself and was able to find my footing and clamber up and back onto the trail. I knew immediately there was something wrong with my knee. But there wasn’t much to do except continue on.
For the rest of the trip I self-medicated with lots and lots of ibuprofen. Little did I know that fall would end up impacting my life for a whole year. I would say I’m basically 100% although it still acts up now and then (especially after sitting in a movie theater or a long plane ride!).
And while I complained a lot about my knee (and I mean A LOT) I think I learned a few things – patience, listening not only to my body but also to the little voice in my head, and I started walking again (which was really how I started on this whole racing journey of mine). Patience was maybe the hardest thing. I had come so far on my running journey and here I was forced to stop. And while I’m looking forward to starting to run again, learning to appreciate the ability to run and re-discovering the joy of walking to a finish line were invaluable lessons.
Will I make it back to Cinque Terre? Who knows? I’d like to someday.
Looking back, (and in the spirit of Thanksgiving) I am extremely grateful for the tree that caught me, my guardian angel who was definitely watching over me, Jessica & Nilufer for being there and helping me, all of you who offered encouragement and support, and my chiropractor and my physical therapist for working with me to get me back to 100%. I shudder sometimes thinking back at what could have been. And one year later, I am honestly just thankful to be here.
And with that…