I don't even know where to begin telling you about the amazing people I met on the walk. The Men with Heart were always there with a morale-boosting smile, joke, or lollipop. I spoke with one who told me that they started this in 2001, when seeing how under-represented men were at these events, when so many of them are husbands, sons, and brothers of women affected by breast cancer. If any men in the Boston area reading this are interested they are always looking for more members. They and many of the long time walkers stood a mile from the finish cheering those of us running on empty forward. It's amazing what that surge of adrenaline can do.
I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with the oldest walker in the event Jo, and her friend Diana at lunch Sunday. Jo will be 72 in September. They were from Birmingham, Alabama and came north for the walk because the dates for the Atlanta walk interfered with NCAA football, and their husbands follow the Crimson Tide just about anywhere. They were just so damn cute. Diana was a retired school teacher, and breast cancer survivor. She had a mastectomy in 2003. "My husband and I talked about it," she told us, "and he said he'd still love me. So I told him that if he ever had to have his penis cut off I'd still love him too." The two of them had us howling. They were all going to then spend the week in New England sightseeing, ending up in Nova Scotia on the ferry from Portland.
There was such a feeling of us all being united for a goal—that we were all one. I met people doing more than one walk; in fact one man hopes to walk all twelve. If you have anything left to give, please visit his page, I believe he still has much to raise. I have to give a shout out to Brenda from Maine, who was going to rake blueberries this week for her sister. She made the last 7 miles of Day 2 fly by with her chatter and laughter.
The people along the route were incredible. Between the families and friends who lined the route with signs, candy, and lemonade, to the local residents who woke up to find hundreds of women strolling down their street there was no shortage of kindness and support. Little kids held spray bottles and cups of lemonade out. There were two brown bags of cold Aquafina bottles sitting on the walk in front of someone's house. People doing yard work jerry-rigged their hoses and sprinklers to trees and fences to cool us off as we walked by. "Thank you for walking," was a phrase I heard over and over again. I never considered or really appreciated the significance of what I was doing until I saw this show of appreciation and gratitude. I felt humbled and embarrassed by so much acclimation. On one hand, I didn’t think it necessary, but at the same time it was this display of love and humanity that inspired and motivated me to keep going. It wasn't so much the water, or the signs and cheering; it was seeing that so many people cared to make such a gesture. To be reminded I was walking for so many who could not, to see that the world had hope in it was inspiring.
The last four miles were awful. There was no pit stop, it was hot and we were off the shore and on asphalt. I was so tired. But there was always someone making a joke, urging us on. When I walked into that Expo center to the deafening cheers and applause of all the walkers who had arrived prior to me I got chills and tears fell. It was incredible. We took our place among them and waited for the rest to arrive, suddenly energized by the music and the crowd. Once we were all there, we lined up hand in hand, and marched proudly out to our awaiting family and friends to celebrate our victory.
I will do this again next year. Beware, I am going to nag everyone I know to join me.
Now, I must stop eating ice cream. It's back to weights, cardio, and yoga. I have to focus on Bermuda and clingy sundresses.