Looking up to my destination, I was intimidated. The trail was extremely steep. The altitude at the base was 8,000 feet above sea level. The peak stood at more than 11,000 feet.
Just walking up the first set of stairs, I began breathing heavier than normal. I had to remind myself to take it easy. At home in Houston, I run several miles a few times a week and play a lot of basketball. But the elevation there is only fifty feet above sea level. The thinner air in the Colorado Mountains had me doubting whether I could make it to the top. I started out with my cell phone and a bottle of water.
Determined, I set a pretty good pace. The first fifteen minutes seemed as though I were carrying an extra load. I had to stop every so often to catch my breath.
About forty-five minutes into my hike, the trail got extremely steep – almost like I was climbing straight up. My pathway snaked skyward through thick strands of aspen and ponderosa pine. The view was both beautiful and daunting. Despite the fact that I am in shape from running and playing basketball, my legs were burning and my chest was pounding.
As I climbed over the big ridge, I had to stop for air. Sweat was pouring out of my body. I thought: If there’s another two hours like this, I don’t know if I can make it.
Up to that point, I had not seen anyone else on the path. Suddenly an older gentleman heading down the mountain came around a curve. He seemed cool and calm. And he read me pretty well.
As we passed, he said something that changed my whole perspective. He smiled kindly and said in a calm voice: "You are closer than you think."
Hearing those words, I felt rejuvenated as if he’d breathed new life into my lungs. Though the climb was difficult, I caught my second wind and whispered those words of encouragement with every stride that I made.
Without those encouraging words I may have turned around, even though I was almost at the top.
Friends, you are closer to your victory than you think. Don’t stop now. Do not turn around, just keep pressing forward.