Monday, July 12, 2010

Day One- 26.2 Miles

Woke up to the alarm at 5:oo am. On a Saturday. 5:00. During Summer Break. I was tired. And nervous. Still. Ran around the house, getting the last few things together, putting on my walking gear, filling water bottles. Good thing I made a to do list the night before-post-its and the bedroom mirror are a great combo! Woke mom up, and we drove through the fog into the Marina.

When arriving before 6:00am at a large walk, here are a few things to know:
1. Where to get dropped off (look for large inflatables).
2. Where to deposit your luggage.
3. Where is the mother-loving coffee.

Then join the group in front of the stage and stretch while waiting to see what is going to happen next.

What happened next changed my entire perspective on the walk.

Six people stood on the stage and told their personal stories. The first lady told about a woman she met while working in a clinic who beat cancer once then passed away this April. The second was a man whose mother has fought and lost to cancer. The one that stuck with me was the single mother who was 23 when she found out she had cancer. She was hardly able to finish her story, which left none of us with a dry eye. By the time the group finished their stories, there wasn't a dry eye in the place.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but was surprised by the number of people who attended. There was a reported 3,200 people on the walk. Most were older women, a few men with their partners, and groups of families-fathers with their adult daughters walking with picture of deceased mothers on their shirts. Touching were the people who listed the people on whose behalf they were walking. Parents, friends, grandparents, sisters, aunts, cousins, the list went on.

That was the time when what I was doing changed. It went from something about me to more then me. That is, I started out with some pretty self involved, though totally reasonable. I wanted to see if I could go from couch potato to distance walker in just 4 months. After listening to the stories, and empathizing with people who had been through far more then I have experienced thus far, this went beyond just me and became about the people who need treatment and support with a disease which fundamentally affects people at the deepest level.

The walk itself was a beautiful route-across the Golden Gate Bridge, through Sausilito, lunch at the 9.3 mile spot, walking back along the waterfront to the bridge, crossing with the tourists and into the wind, along Lincoln Blvd. to the Inner Richmond, down across the park, out the panhandle, through the Haight, down the Castro, past Dolores Park, into Excelsior and then to McLaren Park. I couldn't tell you the exact streets we walked, or even articulate each scenic view we took in. I can tell you I should have sat down a little more often, drank an amazing amount of water, and talked with a few people along the way. I didn't find one person to keep pace with, which was a little disappointing. The last 10 miles were tough-the hills on Guerrero, walking seemingly forever across the Excelsior and not knowing the area well enough to judge how much further. Four things made it sustainable-Mom joining me for a few blocks in the Richmond, Heather with her shiny sun balloon on the way into Golden Gate Park, Sarah and Sarah in Dolores Park, and the group waiting in the cold, windy, exposed Crocker Amazon Playground at the end of the route. Charlotte, who has been my walking companion on some serious walks, Ka Yun who has been the best cheerleader ever, Christine who planned her entire San Fran trip around my walk (ok-that's not true, but it sounds good!), Edna, who wouldn't let me slack off on our East Bay jaunts, and Marcie, who always expresses her support and amazement that anyone would want to walk this far (I believe the exact words were to the effect of "That's just crazy to walk that far!")

Yes, I made it across the finish line. Personal time-well, I didn't do a great job with the stop watch. The walk started at 7:00 am, I was on the trail about 7:07 (it took that long to get everyone out onto the course), and got into the end around 5:20ish. We'll call that an even 10 hour day of walking. Just a little bit over my 18 minute pace, which I'm going to keep as a goal. But it's going to take a few more tries to get to that level.

After the BEST shower of my life, I found my tent-mate, and we headed into sleep. My body was so tired I yawned wide enough to dislocate my jaw. Only on the left side-and my mouth was stuck open for a few minutes. A panicked walk towards the medical tent got me relaxed enough for the jaw to click back into place, thank goodness. Walking with TMJ was not on my list of fun things to do. I fell asleep around 9:30, and after a few wake-up to roll over episodes, heard people around me waking at 5:45. But that's Day 2, and another story.

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