Walk on the Wild Side

I’ve always loved going to the movies.

I love the smell of popcorn. I love the pure escapism. I love stubbornly following the rituals of theater-going that my dad instilled in me 30 years ago: never arrive after the lights go down, always guess how many previews there’ll be in advance, never sit behind a man in a tall hat.

And of course, always stay for the credits. We did that decades before hidden scenes were a thing and, much to the chagrin of my friends and husband, I will never, ever stop.

So I guess you could say growing up, my family took the movies pretty seriously. I mean, did anyone else don their snowsuits and Bean Boots and trudge a mile-and-a-half to the theater (uphill both ways!) on snow days to catch a matinee screening of Homeward Bound? I think not.

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“But does Shadow make it at the end?!”

In fact, the only thing I don’t appreciate about the movies is the preposterous idea that in the event of a fire, we should walk, not run, to our nearest exit. (And that’s not just because as Mitch Hedberg so sensibly said: “If you’re flammable and have legs, you are never blocking a fire exit.”) It’s also because — in dangerous situations or otherwise– why would you walk somewhere if you could run?

For that past seven years, that’s essentially been my motto: running > walking. Why walk the dog if you can run with her? Why walk to brunch if you can jog there? I mean, did Forrest Gump walk for three years, two months and 14 days? I rest my case.

I’ll be honest: I never took walking all that seriously as a form of exercise. So I was as surprised as you’ll be when I found myself waking, not running, every single time I exercised in September. Or more precisely, walking rapidly uphill while carrying a backpack. I believe it’s called, as they say in French, hiking.

It started simply enough: Lucille wanted to check out some trails upstate, and I found myself accidentally hiking. I suppose that’s pretty on-brand for mountain dogs.

The next weekend, my friend Z threw a hiking party — a far healthier alternative to how we celebrated her last 14 birthdays — and we covered seven miles in a Hudson Valley forest, chatting the whole way. “Huh,” I thought to myself, “This hiking stuff isn’t half bad. I’ll look forward to doing it again some time in 12-15 years.”

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One of these women has a torn ACL and probbbbbably shouldn’t have joined us, cough cough, Rogan.

Turns out, my math was a little off. Two days later, I flew to Hawaii, where hiking appears to be a way of life — or at least a way for my kid brother to keep me busy until it’s an appropriate hour to frequent the neighborhood karaoke bar. We did two quite vertical hikes together to massive waterfalls, plus I took my niece Keira (remember her?) on a solo hike to this gross view.

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“Remember when I starred in this blog?”

“But why hike on just one continent?” I foolishly asked myself before boarding a plane out of Honolulu. (I was getting cocky.) Turns out the past five hikes were just warm-ups for the big finale: Hong Kong Island’s Twin Peaks. The internet calls this trek to Stanley Beach “very difficult,” and that’s not #fakenews. My bud Kenneth and I hiked up — oh I don’t know — 875 trillion steps on our way over the first peak. We’re still friends after that insane climb, but only because I convinced him to walk the long, flat way around the second peak. (And because he treated me to a beer and spa day afterwards, like a champ.)

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Hidden behind this smile: so much pain.

So what did I learn spending several weeks on a running hiatus in favor of hiking instead? Lots!

Hiking is much more social than running, and it allows more opportunities to take in the scenery and unwind. It also works different muscles than simply hitting the pavement, including those stability muscles in my feet and ankles that I know are massively underused on the mean streets of Queens. Most importantly, no one even blinked when I pulled a 12-inch turkey sub out of my backpack mid-hike in Westchester and started chomping away — a surefire perk that running can’t match.

Does that mean hiking is going to become a bigger part of my routine going forward? I’ll let you be the judge:

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*siblings Christmas card*

Other runners, is hiking part of your routine? More importantly, how excited are you for the day Keira and Lucille can be in a photo together on this blog? Ten months and counting!

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