11 more steps

Jan 20, 2023

In 2018, two men individually attempted to become the first person to complete a solo, unsupported and unaided trek across Antarctica. For almost two months, these intrepid explorers pulled all of their gear across very lonely terrain for 10 – 12 hours per day. While they both accomplished this amazing feat, only one of them finished first.

This is a story about the other guy. 

One of the explorers, Louis Rudd, said whenever he felt like stopping, he marched an extra 11 steps before setting up camp. When I first read that, I thought: “Huh. What’s 11 more steps?” Turns out, it’s EVERYTHING.

Rudd is thinking of an expedition in 1912, when two teams competed to see who would reach the South Pole first. An English team, led by Robert Falcon Scott, not only failed to reach the Pole, they subsequently perished. It was once calculated, Rudd explained, that if that team had taken 11 more steps each day on their expedition, they would have survived.

Is that true? I don’t know. But it could be, which really speaks to the power of small-seeming efforts and how every little bit adds up. 

I’ve got hiking and mountains on my mind right now as I get ready to walk the Camino de Santiago this spring. I know there will be days that I don’t want to take a single step more. On those days, I’ll try to remember this lesson – even just a little extra effort adds up. My high school track coach said every mile we ran was money in the bank. Alone, one mile isn’t a lot. Neither is 11 more steps. But combined all those miles and steps can make a huge difference in whether we’re successful or not.

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