Saturday | Sunday | Postscript
What an incredible day! I am sitting under an enormous tent, open at the sides, large enough to hold tables and chairs for 3,000. What an astounding organization and experience this is.
I flew down to San Diego yesterday afternoon, registered for the walk and spent the rest of the day with my dear friend Becky. Excited, nervous, eager – sleep came slowly and the 4:30 am alarm early.
And the walk is finally here. I am far less trained than I had planned, my injured hamstring at 90%. I was able to do a 20-mile walk last Sunday, and I feel ready. Beck dropped me off at the start, I dropped my gear at the gear truck (entertained delightfully by the costumed volunteers loading the gear into the trucks), and headed toward the start area.
Almost 3,000 people, stretching, warming up, introducing ourselves, feeling the energy build as the start time neared. The opening ceremonies included a walk to the stage of several survivors who exemplified Why We Walk. The theme was We Believe, and the silence of this huge group of people spoke volumes of how deeply we were all touched. Touched by the loss of a loved one; touched by our own fear; touched by and grateful for a successful battle against this disease. Tears, hugs, support, prayers, the creation of community.
And then we began. Peeling off through a corridor down the center of this energized, beautiful, courageous group of folks. Music energized our steps onto the 18.8 mile route for the day, under a cloudy San Diego sky.
I walked the first couple of hours pretty much on my own. Enjoying a chat from time to time, the feel of my body embracing the challenge of this walk, the meditative movement of putting one foot in front of the other.
The entire route was manned by volunteer, cheering us on, keeping us safe, directing traffic and providing food and fluids at multiple Pit Stops, never more than 3 miles apart. The motto of the 3-Day is No Whining, and each interaction with each person underlined that. Walkers and crew alike were unfailingly positive, supportive, and cheerful from the first step to the last of the day; from Opening Ceremonies to the 9 pm Lights Out.
I walked especially in honor of Marie Wakeley, Nola Royce, and Deane Bader. One loss and two survivors, courageous women all. And for so many more – some I know, most I don’t. 40,000 women and 400 men each year lose the battle. I walk for them and for those they leave behind. And I walk for those who have won the battle. And most importantly, I walk for the time when the battle will no longer be necessary. I walk for prevention, for a cure, for education and wellness. I walk for the eradication of breast cancer. I walk because I Believe.
A couple of hours into the day I began a conversation with Lorna from Folsom. A delightful restauranteur and very energized walker. We shared the rest of the day, talking about sibling and kids and nieces and relationships. About hot spots and sore muscles and why we walk. About recipes and holidays. As if we’d known each other for years. And one step at a time, in what seems like almost no time, we were at camp. 18.8 miles, rest stops, pee breaks, and lunch in just over 6 hours. In the top 100, with feet and muscles in relative comfort. I had planned on 8 hours. Planned on being very uncomfortable when I arrived. Shows you what happens to my plans! So often they serve only to limit my experience.
Camp is a small city of 1500 tent sites, each with a small flag declaring its address and a blue tent bag containing all the materials for erecting our home for the night.
But first things first: upon arrival I immediately signed up for a free 15 minute massage. Yup, free. The 3-Day takes incredible care of us walkers. Full medical care, chiropractors, physical therapists and massage therapists all available at no charge.
I picked up my gear, took a shower (yup, a real hot shower in these terrific mobile shower trucks) and met my tentmate, Judith just in time to help her set our tent. Then I stood back and watched as the city of blue tents rose from the platform of the baseball fields on which it is built. Many of these folks had little experience with setting up tents, and I took great pleasure in assisting that process for a number of folks. And then decided to play Tent Fairy. I set up a good number of tents before their walkers arrived, just to make it easier for them. It was fun to hear an occasional, “Ohmigod, the tent is already set up!” as tired walkers found their tent sites.
The tents are marked with wonderfully creative decorations to make them easier to find in the sea of blue. My prayer flags, a colorful fish balloon, a sign made for an elementary school teacher by her 2nd grade class, pinwheels, halos, pink scarves of remembrance, even Mickey Mouse Club Ears.
Massaged and clean, I spent an hour at the Camp Entrance welcoming and congratulating late arrivals. On the course for 9 and 10 hours, these are the true heroes of the day. Tired and hurting, they continue to put one foot in front of the other, showing up for the victims, for the survivors, and for themselves. We whooped and congratulated, high-fived and clapped for these walkers of extraordinary spirit. It was the high point of the day for me.
The evening has been about meeting neighbors, playing anonymous tent fairy for late arrivals, karaoke in the dining tent, a fabulous dinner and lovely guitar music.
My heart is full as I sit here at my tent door remembering the day. It is all I had wished for. And far more. The ache in my hips and the sting of the blister on my heel are tiny prices to pay for the riches of this day. I am blessed.
Friday | Sunday | Postscript
21.3 miles today, in 7 hours on the nose. Again in the top 100 people. I am so surprised by that! And immensely grateful to this body of mine that remembers so easily how to walk long mileage.
Another evening of karaoke in the dining tent. There is some real talent in this group of walkers. And some real hams as well! I think I’m having too much fun! I registered for next year’s walk and am thinking about doing all 3 California walks. I like the idea of it a lot, and my body knows it can do it. Back to back the 1st 3 weekends in October. A true challenge. Both the walking and the fundraising. (Be prepared, y’all!)
It’s been a rich day. Beautiful weather, body feeling good with enough challenge from my hips to remind me that this is a bunch of miles.
I walked by myself for most of the day, meditational, peaceful, mind meandering through thoughts and music and memories of this place where I got sober and began a whole new life. The route today took us through the heart of La Jolla and Pacific Beach – my old stomping grounds. Home of morning meetings, hundreds of early morning runs, running stairs, volleyball on the beach, traveling the world to go climbing and returning home to lay in the sun on the beach. Sweet memories of an 8-year time period that changed my life in ways I could not imagine.
People honk and wave on a regular basis, some shouting, “Thank you for walking.” In several places folks had gathered by the side of the road, in lawn chairs, on the grass, gifting us with applause and “thank You’s” and little goodies: Pink popsicle stick keyrings from a girlscout troop, heart stickers from a 3-year-old cutie who stuck more on himself than on the walkers, pink necklaces from a trio of children and their grandmother who sat by a sign that read, In memory of dorothy.” Such deep appreciation for the simple act of walking. It makes it clear we are doing something important.
And the time in Camp is so precious and so very much fun. Strangers becoming instant friends through the bonding of sore muscles and bruised toes and blisters and a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
We ended the night with Groove Line – a funky, 70’s disco cover bank who were fabulous and had us rocking out big time. No better way to stretch than to just get down and boogie! The pure energy of joyful movement, playful hootin’ and hollerin’, and heartful celebration. I highly recommend this event!
I sit in my tent in profound – and tired – gratitude for the health and strength ot do the walk, for all who made it possible through their donations – financial and otherwise – and for the belief that we can, indeed, eradicate this illness. With that vision, I close my eyes.
Friday | Saturday | Postscript
10 am It was a cold, cold night and morning, at least for San Diego. Certainly below 40 degrees. It made it a challenge for many folks to get up and out and reminded me of so many 0-dark-30 starts on so many mountains in below zero temperatures. Listening to all the chattering teeth around me, I was grateful that I am comfortable with cool weather. It warmed up as soon as the sun rose, and by 10 was almost hot.
There was little rush this morning which allowed for a more leisurely start. I left camp around 7, intending to walk much more slowly today, as the closing ceremonies don’t begin until 4, and I wanted to revel in this final day. Lots of great conversation, lots of encouragement along the route. The difficulty of this undertaking is apparent today: in the wrapped knees, taped feet, odd gaits to protect sore muscles and joints. And in the indomitable spirits that continue to put one sore foot in front of the other. It is a celebratory day, even for those who are hurting. The No Whining motto continues to be the umbrella under which we all walk on.
We learned last night that our walkers range in age from 16 to 81. I continue to be blown away by the courage and determination of these folks, of all of us, and particularly of those for whom this is an enormous challenge. Although this is my 1st walk, my body is familiar with this kind of endurance. That is true for many walkers. And for many more, it is new and huge and enormously courageous. For Jeannette whose doctor told her a mile each day would be great and who has so far walked 25 miles. for the survivor who walks with a cane, slowly, carefully, each single step a triumph over this illness. For the teenager who walks for her mom who was taken by breast cancer only a few short weeks ago. I sit here, surrounded by men and women who are committed to giving everything they’ve got to ending this disease. I am awed, inspired, grateful and proud.
2 pm Under the trees at the Embarcadero Marine Park, cheering in the walkers who follow me as those who finished before cheered me. It is a sweet, growing celebration. The last mile along the Harbor and Seaport Village had a good number of supporters, many with signs of loss and gratitude for the hope we symbolize. Kids, girlscouts, boyscouts, grandparents, spouses, friends, and strangers. So much support for these steps we take.
I walked into the closing ceremonies with my friend Amaya who walked with her aunt to honor their mother/sister who was taken from them by breast cancer so many years ago. We raised $7.5 million. What we have done is important. The closing was a celebration and a bittersweet time as well. Tears and laughter, hope and sorrow, grief and joy. Music soaring, cheers raising the sky, people joyful and proud, Believing that we can eradicate breast cancer; believing in themselves; believing in the future. Yes, what we have done is important.
Friday | Saturday | Sunday
The experience of the Breast Cancer 3-Day was rich in ways I could not have imagined. I had thought the walking would be the prominent part. That was not the case. The walking was relatively easy for me, even with the limited training, as my body settled into the rhythm it has known many times before. The true wealth of the experience was in providing service for other walkers: setting up tents anonymously, giving footrubs. helping tape joints and blisters, just listening to stories of sadness and joy, pride and grief, just supporting in whatever way I could. I went to do a physical walk; I came home with my soul fed.
I highly recommend this event to anyone who has been touched by breast cancer. Think it’s impossible for you to walk 20 miles a day for 3 days? Think again. Many of the walkers thought that also. And many of them pulled it off. And many of them didn’t. How far you walk isn’t the point. There are SAG wagons all along the route, to take you to the next Pit Stop where you can rest and walk again. Or to Camp. This isn’t a contest; it is a commitment to ending a horrific disease, and an incredible experience of community and support. You can find out more at http://www.the3day.org.