I did not know what to expect when I registered to walk 39.3 miles in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. All I knew was that my college friend and suite mate was fighting breast cancer. And, a church member was planning to walk in the Avon walk...and it sounded like a challenge, so that's how I got involved.
I started training last summer while I was in New Jersey. As soon as I got back to North Carolina, I realized I needed a better pair of shoes. I went to Fleet Feet in Raleigh to be fitted for a pair of high-mileage shoes and to get some new socks. The socks, I have learned, are key to a blister-free walk! Then, it was game on - we trained throughout the fall - squeezing in 4-8 mile walks during the week and heading out for 16-22 mile walks on the weekends. By the time the Avon Walk arrived, I was confident we could finish.
We got started early Saturday morning. I was in my most comfortable pair of blue jeans, but others wore pink tutu's, pink wigs, pink tights...and almost everyone had a sign on their backs that said, "I walk for...." and then names were written in. All through the day, biker babes and bikers like this guy drove their motorcycles to busy street corners to help us cross without being mowed down by traffic. They had all decorated their bikes and had loud music playing - fun stuff like "Call Me, Maybe" and "Stayin' Alive." At one point, a biker drove by playing the theme from Rocky and waving at us.
The encouragement was phenomenal. A youth group was out in yellow t-shirts and they moved from point to point cheering us on with "Go Walkers," and "You've got this!" and "You're almost there!" I don't think I have been praised that much since I was potty trained. At each rest stop, medical personnel were on hand to deal with blisters - "every blister saves a sister" and to offer ibuprofen for aches and pains. (I took a lot of that!) Volunteers were also standing by to thank us over and over again for walking and to make sure we did not forget to fill our water bottles.
After the halfway point on the first day, we walked through an elementary school yard. All of the windows had been decorated for us! Signs. Posters. And, the sidewalk was covered with chalk drawings. I couldn't believe that the students and teachers took time to decorate like that for complete strangers. They will never know how good we felt as we read their messages. That goes for the neighborhoods, too. Several homes put out signs and tied pink balloons to their mailboxes. And, some families were out with water and snacks.
These ladies were the most vocal with their support. They drove a big white 'sweeper' van with pink streamers all through the day - honking and yelling and picking up walkers who could not finish. They were passionate, I tell you. And, they made us laugh each time they drove by.
After the first day, I soaked my feet in cold water at (upon the advice of my marathon running sister) and then sat on my bed with my feet up until 9 PM. That's when I fell asleep. I woke up on Sunday feeling remarkably rested and ready. The 13.1 miles seemed painless. I think a night of rest helped a lot.
The entire weekend was positive and uplifting - a much needed change in this election season. As we walked through the Charlotte neighborhoods, we did see a lot of campaign signs, and I am sure that lots of opinions were represented in that group of walkers (who raised 1.75 million!), but none of those opinions mattered for those two days. We were all just part of a group of people walking for a common cause. That gave me hope.
When we finished...
I felt like I could do this...
Here's to next year!