I started running in Hampton Roads, Virginia and a hill meant you went to Mount Trashmore (yes it really is made of what you think) or to go to a couple of high bridges that allowed Navy ships to go upriver to ship repair yards. Otherwise all of our running was flat, really flat. But race directors are sadists and they always put at least a couple good hills on nearly every course so you have to train for them, otherwise when you hit one they seem a lot more daunting. Mount Trashmore is only about a quarter-mile uphill with even less downhill so it wasn’t all that good for training so my friends and I usually headed for the bridges which were much longer and steeper but had other challenges because they were in less than savory neighborhoods. This hill training is always important because it gives your body a good perspective on the tests it will encounter along a race course so you made the necessary sacrifices in order to train correctly. Of course when I moved to the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming with my first couple of years spending at least a couple of weekends every month in Boulder CO I really learned what hills were and didn’t have to go seek them out as they just sort of grew right there naturally (no trash needed).
The point of all that is you have to be intentional about training for the uphill. The same is true in life. Many people only prepare for the best of times but they don’t prepare for the climb it will take to get to the top at whatever you are doing. And they certainly are not intentional about the uphill climb and even more they definitely don’t purposefully try to enjoy the uphill climb. Stick with me here for just a second. I want to paint a picture for you. The setting is Deuteronomy and the person is Moses. This dude is supposed to be leading the Israelites to the Promised Land but because of a little disobedience challenge they wind up in the wilderness wandering aimlessly for forty years. But now is the time, they’ve wandered and wandered around in the desert, with a horse with no name and they couldn’t get out of the rain (oh wait different story). Anyway God speaks to Moses and does he tell them to head on into the Promised Land on a nice straight, flat road with no twists and turns and definitely no hills. No God isn’t like that so he says “Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites;” Deuteronomy 1:7. Now I know most people have a lot more faith than me but right here if I’m Moses I’m going “say whaaat???? Are you seriously daft in the head? Did your momma drop you as a baby?” (As if I’m really brave enough to say that to God…..oh wait just did). But Moses was different so he gets the people ready, appoints leaders, sends out spies and then of course we have the famous twelve spies of which only two actually believed God could give them the Promised Land, the rest being much like you and I. So now we make it to Deuteronomy 2 and there they are wandering aimlessly around the hill country and then God speaks to them again and says “You have made your way around this hill country long enough; now turn north.” And as I read these words my mind immediately goes “what would have happened differently if they had just gone into the hill country like God said? Would there have been less conflict and less war?” The answer is most likely probably not but the point is that you and I can make the same choice the Israelites had to make. We can face the difficult challenge of the uphill slog or we can keep wandering in the desert. The uphill climb will most likely prepare us better for the incoming challenges life will always throw at us just like training hills prepares us better for the last hill at mile 26 when we know we have less than a quarter-mile left to complete a marathon. So here’s what I say “head straight into the hills intentionally and challenge them.” Do not be afraid of the giants that live in the hills, if they were supposed to crush you there’s nothing you could have done anyway. But if you head into the hills you may find yourself presently surprised when the author of this life throws a hill into your race at mile 15 or 26 or 50 or 90.
Living an ultra life means hitting the hills and training hard to run straight into them instead of around them.