Five Benefits of Hiking for Runners

When the opportunity arose to do a 40 km hike from Gaborone to Otse, my friend Elisa and I jumped at it quite enthusiastically without too much thought which admittedly led to some last minute panicking and mutterings of “Whose idea was this anyway?”! The Second Annual Old Lobatse Road Expeditionary Walk was organised by the Batsamai Hiking Club on the 8th September 2018 for the benefit of the Camphill Community Trust in Otse. Camphill was established in Botswana in 1974 to provide various services to people with special needs including residential care and primary school education, vocational and functional skills training, and supported living and sheltered employment.

At the crack of dawn, we met other hikers in Old Naledi and although it’s officially spring, it was so cold! There was a nasty Southerly wind and we ended up sitting in the car until it was time to set off at 07:00. However, we couldn’t ignore the beautiful morning sky.

We spent 9 hours walking from Gaborone to Otse. Even as I write that sentence it just sounds crazy! But it was a great hike – relatively flat and mostly on solid ground. However, some parts were on old tar and there were a few sandy and rocky portions. At some points, we even walked on the concrete sleepers of the railway line and went under and over bridges. As we neared the famous Hills of Otse, having battled wind for the latter half of the journey and developed sunburn on our lips, we questioned our sanity and joked that we had just spent a WHOLE Saturday walking 55, 000 steps! But upon reflection, there was a lot that we gained from this long hike! Here are a few thoughts.

1 – Hiking is a Great Way to Cross Train. Although I make time for running, I find it harder to squeeze in other forms of exercise or cross-training to supplement my running. However, there are several benefits of cross-training – it helps to strengthen some muscles that are not used a lot when running while resting the running muscles; it reduces chances of injury; it helps injured runners maintain their fitness and sometimes it just adds variety and jazzes up a running routine. I’ve always loved hiking but since becoming a runner, I have not done much of it at all. The Gaborone-Otse Hike was a beautiful reminder of what a fun and refreshing cross-training activity hiking is.

2 – It Identifies Your Weak Spots. I think I started complaining about my glutes about 10 km into our walk and as we progressed, the pain slowly moved from the lower glutes to the upper glutes. This is my weakest area and has largely contributed to my poor running form and knee issues. I like that this was again highlighted by the hike – my legs were solid and the only area crying out for salvation was my under-utilised glute muscles! I read an article that states “Don’t be surprised if the following day after a long hike you’re feeling sore in unusual areas”.  Another article also highlights that “uneven surfaces and conscientious footing encourages our bodies to use different support muscles, tendons, and ligaments. A good hike can “turn on” muscles that have been ignored through repetitive run training.” Well, this hike definitely did that and it was further testament to the fact that I really need to strengthen those glutes to unleash my powerhouse!

3 – It Allows You to Unwind. I love the following quote, “Runners spend half the time worrying about mileage and heart rate and the other half their splits and pace”. That pretty much sums me up. There have been times when I have not run because I forgot my watch meaning the run wouldn’t count. Oh, the shame I feel confessing this! However, when we were hiking, none of that mattered. We had so much fun enjoying our surroundings and admiring the diverse terrain as we headed south. We happily stopped to take photos along the route without worrying about our pace. We both had our phones on us but only looked at them to update our friends and families on our whereabouts. It felt great not having to worry about the realities of life and the sometimes monotonous action of pounding that pavement when we are running. We were engaged in such a long physical activity, but it was peaceful, calm, and dare I say therapeutic. And when my watch died after 35 km, I didn’t whinge… well, not that much anyway!

4 – It’s a Long Coffee Date Without the Coffee. I am a great talker when running – stranger or friend, if you see my pink visor and afro, pick up your pace and escape while you can, if you don’t want to talk. 🙂 Because if I catch you, I WILL strike up a conversation! But even for me, there are periods when talking is not easy especially when I am chasing specific paces. But for nine hours, Elisa and I chatted up a storm and covered everything from childhood to motherhood. It also felt great to have a partner in crime. Elisa carried extra water supplies and we shared the snacks we had brought. We always knew that no matter what happened, even if we got lost, we had each other.

We also met a great group of people – some were runners and others were experienced hikers who had traversed the length and breadth of this country! We met the main organiser of the Jwaneng Desert Bush Walk as well as volunteers who do all the famous Y-Care Walks. What was really amazing was when a lady offered to take a photo of us and called me by name. I was slightly taken aback, studied her face but didn’t recognise her. I think seeing my confusion, she quickly said she read and followed my blog! What a truly special moment that was and I just had to take a photo with her and include it here! 🙂

5 – Hiking Fuels a Positive Outlook. What was amazing was that through all the chatting, we were so positive. And that’s not to say that we didn’t tackle difficult issues. We did. We discussed hard topics and shared tough experiences but in a way that was positive and forward-focused. As I was writing this post, I read an article that talks about the tendency that some people have to over-analyse their negative experiences and that “one of the benefits of hiking is that it reduces the likelihood that one will over-think these experiences”. I loved reading this because looking back at our discussions, we tended to place a greater emphasis on the positive lessons gained from our life experiences rather than the actual negative things that had happened. Out in the wild savannah bushland, we engaged at a positive and considerably happier level. Now how refreshing is that?

When was the last time you hiked? Would you do a 9-hour hike? Do any of these benefits resonate with your own experience? Can you think of any other benefits of hiking?

I am joining Running on HappyCoach Debbie RunsTrain with Marc, and Crazy Running Girl for the Coaches’ Corner Link Up! I am also linking up with Running on Happy and Fairytales and Fitness for the Friday Five 2.0 linkup!

32 thoughts on “Five Benefits of Hiking for Runners

  1. Wow, that’s a long hike! But it sounds like you had a fun time 🙂 I used to really enjoy hiking but I don’t think I’ve done it outside of being on vacation recently. I’ve got to try to make time for more local hikes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I rediscovered my passion for hiking last summer! Unfortunately this summer was so hot, humid & wet that there was very little hiking. 😦 I would love to tackle a 9 hour hike, my husband us not as active as me so I’d have to find another partner!

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  3. That sounds like an epic hike! i have really come to enjoy hiking — being outside and really being able to take in the surroundings like I can’t when i’m running or on my bike. Plus, an excuse to eat trail mix – I love trail mix! 🙂

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  4. As running continues to become less satisfying for me, I’m finding that I’m enjoying hiking too! It’s nice to slow down and enjoy all the nature around. You see so much more when you’re not focusing on your pace, etc. This looks like an amazing hike! If I saw your pink visor and afro, I’d definitely wait for you! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A 40k hike??? Wow! It looks like you had fun with your friends, though. What a great way to spend a day. Unfortunately, I think my upcoming marathon will be mostly a 42k hike! 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a lovely read! If I saw your pink visor and afro, I’d definitely chat to you!

    I did a 26-mile round-Birmingham road walk a few years ago. I thought I was fit because I ran half-marathons. OMG! I was moaning by mile 8 and crying when we had to walk PAST OUR HOUSE to get back to the park we started from to finish the thing. Mr Liz was very stoical indeed, on the other hand. Something to laugh about now but I had calves of concrete and a big blister!

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    1. Aaawww, thanks Liz and I just know we would talk from beginning to end! It’s amazing how walking taps into different muscles! I was shocked at how much my glutes hurt! But at least I didn’t have to pass my house to get back to finish point like you guys had to! Well done to Mr Liz too!

      Liked by 1 person

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