On Saturday, I went climbing for the very first time. When you’re halfway up a wall of rock or ice and you suddenly remember that you don’t have a head for heights; that you don’t know what you’re doing; you’re not sure which hold to reach for; your grip is slipping and you’re hanging on by your fingertips, the easiest thing in the world is to give up. Give up and you’ll fall; game over. But it’s a game of mind over matter. You’re on your own up there, and no one can stop you but yourself.
The idea of climbing – your whole life hanging from ropes and knots – has always felt terrifying to me. Yet the knowledge that fear was holding me back has always felt limiting. And that’s why I made the resolution to give it a try, as part of my ‘Year of Adventure’ in 2015. Life is too short to let your fears define you, as Sophie Radcliffe writes in her blog on living fearlessly – inspirational stuff, and well worth a read.
I took my climbing lessons at The Ice Factor, Kinlochleven – home to the world’s biggest indoor ice wall, and a thoroughly fantastic, family-friendly facility that I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone. I spent a morning on the rock wall and an afternoon on the ice, and I loved every minute of it. Superficially, it was every bit as terrifying as I’d feared it might be. On another level, it was refreshing, exhilarating, exciting and empowering beyond anything that I had anticipated.
Back in July right here in Glasgow, Lynsey Sharp captured the imagination of the nation with her Commonwealth medal-winning slogan: Get out strong, Commit. Her words came to life for me this weekend, and it was a lesson that extended far beyond the experience of climbing on rock or ice: in anything that’s worth aiming for, commitment is everything. There’s always a crux; a make-or-break point where you give up or go on. You make your choice. If you commit, there’s a risk that you may fail. If you do not, failure is a certainty.
This year, I’ve set myself some big goals. There are races and physical challenges; there’s a young business and a programme of fitness classes to launch and grow; there are other ideas and ventures that are still incubating – more about these another day. It’s all very exciting, but it’s daunting too, and it’s easy to falter. When the crux comes, there will be plenty of reasons to give up; plenty of excuses to give myself if I choose to take them.
But in every challenge, there’s also the option of not giving up; of sticking at it and seeing just how high you can go if you try your very hardest, stay strong, believe and commit. No one can stop you but yourself.