Those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook know this already, but I did it! I walked 60 miles, every last step of it. It was quite an experience. I wasn’t quite ready for it, physically or emotionally. On opening morning, in the dark and the cold, I wandered around sort of dazed, not quite sure what was in store. And then there was a flag where you could write the name of a loved one you had lost and the flag would be hoisted at the opening ceremony. That was the first of many times I cried. I cried off and on throughout the opening ceremony. I cried when little kids lined the streets in front of their schools to high five us. I cried when I found out a greying man was walking to honor his late wife. I cried when I read the backs of people’s shirts with the names of people and the ages when they died: 35, 42, 50. I cried when I saw signs saying, “Thank you from a survivor.” in South Philly.
And I laughed a lot. I joked about my aches and pains instead of moaning (well, maybe I moaned a little). My teammates told funny stories about their kids and their husbands. I laughed at guys in tutus and bras. I laughed about making wrong turns and going down one-way streets at the crack of dawn. I laughed at the Boobalicious Girls who appeared every couple of miles with music and signs and cheers. I laughed at “Woo” and “High Five” and “Hooray” in their green shirts and black and green striped socks. I laughed at bras tied onto motorcycles.
After the first day, I soaked in a tub, had a beer, sent Mr. Geeky out for Ben Gay, rubbed almost my whole left leg down, took Advil and went to sleep. I got up at 5 and creaked around the house, showered, put on clothes and started day two. Eventually, the pain in my thigh went away, replaced by pain elsewhere, but I walked right through, slathering on various kinds of muscle cream all day. After the second day, I picked up fried chicken from the market, where someone asked us if we were a walking team or something, told us to get some ice cream for the pain. I soaked in a tub, drank a beer, took advil, passed out again. The morning of the third day, I was excited, but in a fair amount of pain. Slowly, one step at a time, I walked through it. I stopped at the medical tent at the first pit stop and asked them what to do. They gave me some freezy stuff, but told me I might need to just rest if it got worse. While I was there, two people behind me were crying because they physically couldn’t continue. That could be me, I knew. At the next pit stop, one of my teammates rubbed my calf muscle, which had a huge knot it. After that, I mostly felt okay. Good thing, because I still had 9 miles to go. It was a great 9 miles, walking through the city, taking a detour through Reading Terminal Market for some hot apple cider, seeing things I only ever drive past.
At the end, at the closing ceremony, when we all held our shoes up to honor the survivors, I wasn’t crying. I felt a kind of resolve, and I felt like I needed to fight, to fight a disease that had taken away so many people, that had hurt these people I was raising a shoe to now. It was an empowering feeling, very different from the one I had felt at the beginning, where I felt helpless and overwhelmed. I hope all those 120,000 steps did something. It felt like it did.