Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Walk to Remeber

It is hard to believe that we began walking at 7:00 a.m., but despite the darkness and the wind chill, we began our journey. I remember looking back waving to my mom and Rob and thinking, "See you never!" As we piled through the starting line, there were hundreds of volunteers and family members cheering us on and praising us for all that we had done. This made me smile. Although the first mile was a slow one, the next five were over in a blink - probably due to that fact that my competitive side kicked in and I was focused on making my way to the front. It was my weaving in and out of the crowd and jumping in front of traffic that led me to meet my walking friends, Wendy and JoAnn. 

Pictured above is JoAnn, myself, and Wendy.

These women were also focused on finishing within seven hours and must have felt me on their heels when they struck up a conversation with me. I must say, I could not have chosen two better walking partners if I had to. They spoke to me as an equal, yet looked after me like a mother. Both of these lovely ladies were walking in honor of Wendy's mother, an 8 year survivor of breast cancer.

These two woman were amazing. They were always looking out for me and doing what they could to keep my spirits high. We talked about almost everything you could imagine, yet it felt natural. It was the same closeness I felt to the women on Friday night in the hotel. Each and every person that volunteered, crewed, or walked that weekend will forever share a special bond with me. We are like one big family, protecting each other and providing unconditional love and support. Each time we passed a walker struggling to take another step, we would slow down and give them a hug and remind them that they are amazing, regardless of how far they walk.

Myself, Wendy, and JoAnn attempting to cover the pain with a smile.

While I was probably one of the youngest walkers participating, even I was unable to complete the 39.3 miles. After mile 19, I began to feel pain in almost every muscle. However, I had so much determination that I redirected that burning sensation in my calves into speed. We had averaged 18-minute miles, but the last seven were around 15-minute miles. For all of you that think walking 26.2 miles is easy, you are SO wrong. Imagine walking, non-stop, up hills, and across major highways, for EIGHT HOURS. Exactly my point. Once we had hit mile 22, we agreed that we would not stop again until we crossed the finish. No pee breaks. No water refills. We really were in it to end it!

These last four miles were hell. I was dehydrated, exhausted, and had the worst muscle cramps imaginable. While in my 'eyes-on-the-prize' zone as I approached the pink oasis, I saw the one thing I needed to make the pain disappear - Melissa. There she was. It took me a second to process it all, but there she was. The woman who motivated me to begin this journey eight months ago. She was as beautiful as always, smiling from ear to ear, and before I knew it her arms were around me. Her embrace cast all the negativity away in an instant. In that moment, I thought, we did it.

A special thanks goes to Tharin, for documenting this moment perfectly.

Before I knew it, Rob, Melissa, her son Tharin, my mother, and I were walking to the finish together. Despite the fact that within thirty minutes my legs cramped up into the charlie-horse-from-hell, and the fact that I was physically unable to participate in the last 13.1 miles on Sunday, I knew that I had reached my goal. I did it. I changed a life - mine.

The picture above is my favorite of all. Right before we crossed the finish line a crew member placed this ribbon around my neck to remind us that every three minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. Well you know what breast cancer, screw you; because we spent the next three minutes kicking your a$$ all the way to the finish!