All Appalachian Trail thru-hikers measure their day not by the amazing views or wonders of nature they enjoyed, but by miles hiked. I remember the pride I felt when I broke that magic 20-mile mark and managed to push myself 21.6 miles. If you were to eves drop on thru-hikers at night, you would hear terms like, “that was a killer 16 today” or “tomorrow should be an easy 7 into town” instead of, “did you see that view from Saddleback?”.
The most satisfying day for a thru-hiker is a zero-day. No hiking, zero miles walked…a zero-day. Often zero days were a reward for persevering through bad terrain or weather. Often they were taken in towns when there was hot coffee or cold chocolate milk available. Sometimes you took a zero-day if you found a shelter or campsite with a good water source and your pack had extra food.
For most thru-hikers, zero days are special. They are an occasional retreat from brutal grind of hiking 20-mile days for 6-days in a row, week after week. Month after month.
The past few months have been an “off trail” brutal grind. As an escape, I had been running 3 to 4 times a week through the dark winter. Rising at 4:30 am to get a run in.
I treated myself with a few zero days this past month. 30 to be exact. Zero running miles in the month of April. It is the longest stretch in over a year that I have gone without running. I have no shame in taking a break, because the key to success and staying committed to something is knowing when to push yourself and when to give yourself a break. April was a well deserved zero day…and now I’m ready to get back to it.