The journey began many months ago when I signed up for the San Diego Breast Cancer 3-Day. The next step was the start of my training, which eventually led to me walking an average of more than 30 miles a week. I then had to start my fundraising. I was required to raise a minimum of $2200, decided to shoot for $5000 and ended up raising more than $5700. Between walking almost everyday and writing a stack of thank you cards each week, my feet and my hands were getting the biggest workouts ever. This past Thursday the official adventure finally began and after picking up a rental car in Santa Monica, my best friend and I were headed to San Diego to walk 60 miles over three days with more than 4600 other walkers, all of whom collectively raised more than $12 million.
We got to have lunch with the Delight-Full Denise before hooking up with the rest of our team of 13, a group of amazing women from all over the country. We ate pizza together Thursday night before meeting up again at 5:00am the next day to begin our weekend. And what a weekend it was. Walking, walking and more walking...three days of three beautiful routes alongside the ocean, up monstrous hills and through lovely neighborhoods. Three days during which we were cheered on by hundreds and hundreds of supporters who offered us applause, well wishes, candy, tissues, granola bars, water, stickers and countless shouts of "Great job!" and "Thank you for walking!" Every step of the way people were there to give us the energy we needed to cover all those miles despite aches and pains that increased exponentially each day.
Did I mention we had to rest our weary selves in sleeping bags each night after walking 20+ miles? That we warmed up in mobile showers and ate our dinner at tables long enough to seat 50 people? That we shared a city of pink tents with thousands of walkers and crew members, shared moans and groans from stiff muscles, blisters, and sore feet? That the best way to describe the visual scene is to say it was a lot like Burning Man but without the drugs, with walkers and cheerleaders dressed in tutus, pink wigs, butterfly wings, bee costumes, chicken outfits and tiaras?
It is a daunting task to try to come up with a description of all the emotions, to try to explain what this experience was really like. It is hard to imagine a statement with enough depth, energy and impact to capture the way my heart was bursting open by the time we were walking the final two blocks to the closing ceremonies with crowds of people lining both sides of the street clapping, cheering and smiling at us. But it is sometimes the smaller of the stories that says it all...those few moments in the midst of a thousand extraordinary moments that stays in the forefront of your mind after everything is over and all the pink balloons have been released.
Throughout the walk there was one man who kept appearing, standing alongside our route by himself clapping and cheering. And let me tell you, with more than 4600 walkers he was standing, clapping and cheering for a loooooong time at each of his stops. We saw him at least three times a day and every day he always wore a laminated photograph of two young women around his neck. On the second day we stopped to talk to him, and he explained that the women in the photo were his sister and his daughter-in-law, both of whom died from breast cancer, one of whom left his son and one year old grandson behind. This man was not bitter or weepy or angry; he almost seemed happy to share his story and share the picture of these beautiful angels in his life, and he cheered and smiled and clapped and yelled all weekend long. It is this man I keep thinking of, and the women in the photo around his neck, because at the end of the day these are the people we were all walking for. It is easy to get caught up in the fun and frolic of the event, the tired-ness, the sore-ness, the sometimes profound desire to get back home to our own beds and showers, but more than anything this weekend was about walking. Because we could walk. Because we were healthy. Because we made a commitment that not everyone is able to make. Because sometimes that is the best reason to go for an outrageous goal that you know will be difficult and perhaps even painful at times.
Because you are here. Because you can.