"So how was your 3-Day walk?"
How do you begin to answer that question? I thought I had a good idea of what I was getting myself into when I signed up to walk 60 miles in three days. I knew it would be work and that it would be emotional, but nothing could fully prepare me for the experience.
I trained for this event with lots and lots of walking, including back to back long walks and a weekend camping trip with my team to get a taste of walking miles three days in a row. That was a good preparation for the physical part of the walk. I knew I could walk at least the bulk of the distance, and I knew how to prepare my feet and what to carry. I was physically equipped as much as I could be.
The emotional side, though, was impossible to fully anticipate. Some of the highlights for me:
- Writing the names of the people I have lost to breast cancer on the memorial flag and then watching it being raised at opening ceremonies was even more emotional than I expected. So many names, so many reasons for walking.
- Feeling such pride in seeing team members who are survivors carry flags and hearing my trainer speak about why she walks in opening ceremonies.
- Crossing the I-90 bridge and trying to get waves and honks from commuters as we walked became a game that that made the l-o-n-g walk across seem much shorter.
- Arriving at Marymoor Park and getting our tent set up and decorated was a bit rushed, but our 'decor' (fluorescent and multi-colored bras on top, a leopard print mat out front) made it easy to locate our tent easy to find in the sea of pink tents.
- The simple pleasures of a hot meal, hot shower, and a nice foot soak in sweet-smelling salts refreshes body and spirit.
- Walking with a stranger on the second day who was in pain but determined to continue provided a little distraction for her and me both.
- It is better to prepare for the worst and pray for the best; the weather forecast for the whole weekend was dismal, but days 1 and 2 were beautiful, and the rain held off for the most part until well into day 3.
- Sometimes it's better to not look too far ahead to anticipate what is coming, especially if what is coming is a huge hill (or three) or the rain starts in.
- Talking to new people along the way provides a reminder of how important what we are doing is; standing in line at a porta potty, a woman mentioned she had lost some toenails. She had nearly been pulled by medical, but since she had lost toenails during chemo, she was determined to finish. She convinced medical to let her continue, because it was more important to her to do the walk than it was to protect her toes.
- Seeing women who were bald from chemo out there walking made being wet and cold on the last day seem extremely unimportant.
- Walking through cheering stations, both official and unofficial, seeing signs and hearing cheers for us was both motivating and humbling; how do you react to signs that say things like I am a survivor because you walk?
I could go on and on, but hopefully that gives you a glimpse. Was it hard? Yes, probably the hardest thing that I have done. While I was able to avoid any blisters, my feet and particularly my heel will be barking for some time. The effect on my body is temporary; the effect on my life is forever. Was it worth it? Absolutely; as a team, we raised over $155,000 for the Komen Foundation, and Seattle as a whole raised over $3 million. I couldn't have done this without the training, help, and encouragement of my teammates. Together, we DO make a difference.