So last year I participated in the most incredible experience of my life (after child birth that is) - I walked 60 miles in 3 days to help beat breast cancer. It was for an organization called Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which was set up by Nancy K. Brinker because of a promise she made to her sister Susan as Susan lay dying of breast cancer. I was joined by my sister Deb, and a friend who has become like a sister to me, Michelle. All of us were first-timers.
Getting ready for the event was time consuming, between the training and fund raising (each walker is required to raise $2300 minimum), but when we got there, we felt it was so worth it. We all ended up teary eyed during the opening ceremony, especially as we watched some breast cancer survivors walk the flags in. We were amazed and touched by the range of ages (from late 20's to 60's - I'm guessing of course, but a couple were tooooooo young). We were also amazed at how many walkers there were - supposedly 2200 of us all dressed in some sort of pink.
While walking, we were part of a very, very long pink parade that wound through the outskirts and center city of Philadelphia over three days. There were numerous cheering stations where locals would hand out goodies (candy, mints, stickers, pins, buttons, etc) that showed how much they support the cause and us as walkers for what we were doing. Most of these onlookers probably only knew a handful of walkers (or none at all), but they were so encouraging. It helped make it all worth while.
Now, when we were packing we were anticipating really, really crappy weather (really cold and really wet) in Philly for at least Friday. And at night, we were originally supposed to sleep outside in tents. Well, luckily for us, the week before the walk, we got an email saying that we would be sleeping INSIDE. WOOHOO!!!! We ended up in the Philly Convention Center. They didn't change the walking route at all since they had already gotten the permits they needed and assistance from local authorities. Instead, they bussed us from the camp site to the convention center. It was nice because it allowed us a little time to sit prior to having to put up a tent and unpack the first night. Another amazing sight was the sea of pink tents (and my pictures don't do it justice)!!! WOW!!! I've never seen so much pink in one place before.
My husband and kids (and my sister's family) had joined us for the trip. They got to sight-see while we walked, going to the zoo, the Please Touch Museum, historical buildings, etc. But they made a point on the morning of day three to meet us at the cheering station just outside the zoo. It was great to have them see what was going on, and try to appreciate what their mom was doing (and had been working on for months). Now, Mary might not remember exactly all that happened (she had just turned 2), but I think she got a little of the point. And since she is partly why I made the huge commitment, I was glad to see her along the way.
While walking the three of us stuck together, stopping at each and every pit stop for the line of port-o-potties, drinks and snacks. We took our time, not feeling like we needed to be the first ones, and knowing we weren't going to be the last ones. In fact we were consistently in the middle of the pack every day. We made sure each other was drinking and peeing enough, and could tell when someone's feet were hurting just a little too much too keep going. We made our own jokes about things to keep us talking and sane, and became closer through the whole experience. Michelle and I managed to walk the whole way, and Deb missed the last two miles of day two due to some blisters that popped. And we all ended up much slower on day three than day one, but we DID IT!!!
The closing ceremony was at the old Navy ship yard, and was the most welcoming sight. We each got a t-shirt and pink rose and high fives all around from those who had already finished. Then we got to relax a little bit before the ceremony started. This gave us a chance to meet with our families and drop some of our stuff off with them. After that all the walkers gathered together to make the victory walk into the ceremony. And that ceremony was just as tear jerking as the opening ceremony.
So three days of walking and two nights of sleeping in tents over concrete floors (not to mention having your pillow over a metal access panel to the crawlspace, which I didn't see until we packed everything up) really does a number on your body. I had a couple of blisters and very sore, achy feet and legs, but I felt good about what I had done. I'm not sure if we were just too tired and it was just the adrenaline talking, but the three of us swore we would do this again.
And we are, this year we are taking on Washington, DC at the end of September. Stay tuned for more information.