This past weekend, I completed 30 miles over the course of two days as part of a breast cancer charity event, It’s A Journey Atlanta 2 Day Walk. Each participant was required to raise $1000. Most of these are women touched in a personal way by breast cancer. They are survivors. They are daughters, mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and friends of those affected. Many had experienced the loss of someone very close because of breast cancer. Walking 30 miles, even over two days, is not easy for most people – people that don’t consider themselves athletes, people that are not participating to prove athletic prowess or for a medal that affirms some sort of fitness performance. These are real folks that want to gain to power over disease.
When I signed up for the event, I did so in a hurry. I was traveling and got an email from a friend telling me that a group of my friends was doing it and that I must join in. She sent me the registration link. In my haste, I did not read anything. I went through the clicks, paid my fee, and was done. Done?! Not by a long shot. On that day, I did not know what was in store for me. Several months went by. In my mind, it was like any other ‘race’; I’d think about it as it got closer. But, that was not to be the case. I quickly learned that I was to raise $1000, or I would come out of pocket. WHAT?!
And so, the efforts began. Getting over my resistance to asking people for money, I put up a Facebook post about the walk and asked for contributions. I explained that all the money stays in Georgia to support patients, and I was careful to point out that my event was not a Susan Komen event (as these are now steeped in controversy). I nervously waited to see if my Facebook posts would elicit anything. They did! My Facebook posts alone generated over $1300! With every donation, I felt like a kid at Christmas. I would literally run through the house yelling to whoever would listen that another donation came through. I got so excited thinking about the money that other people desperately need.
My group of four fiends and I planned and held a tennis round robin to raise funds. People showed up! They wanted to support us because breast cancer touches too many families. People are ready to end the horror of this disease. Another friend arranged an informal run in honor of his grandmother to help us meet our monetary goal. He and his friends even donated a day’s wages. With so many supporters, our little group of five raised $7000! We were over our team goal! Amazing.
The event itself was held the same weekend as the Spartan World Championships in Lake Tahoe. A little part of me felt sad that I was not there experiencing the brutality of the course and imagining the badass feeling I may have at the completion of such an endeavor. As a veteran of two Vermont Beasts, on a personal level, I was craving the thrill of a serious fitness challenge. Running and walking are very different. Serious running leaves one with that ‘beat up’ feeling that enlivens the soul – you know you did something meaningful, hard, and that you are indeed, alive. Hardcore running and OCR even provide a powerful reset – reminding what is really important in this world. It is perspective that can change as a result of a grueling experience.
The breast cancer walk is much different. It is mostly women – women of all sizes and shapes and varying fitness levels. Women are out there for deeply personal reasons. There are tears and smiles through tears. Admittedly, for me, in terms of a fitness event, the walk does not make it on my hardest events list, BUT…that does not take away its value. And, the walk was not about me or for me. This event was about others, patients of breast cancer. Just like in hardcore running and OCR, there are battles raging within many of the participants, and they are walking through and in spite of pain. For them, what is going on inside is grueling and getting to the end (of 30 miles) gives meaning. These ‘walkers’ and volunteers have my respect. They are badass in their own right.
Perspective is all about how we choose to look at things. Life is precious. It is short. It is worth fighting for. The next time I am out doing a hard running event, I will recall the lessons and the faces of those I saw at the breast cancer walk. Their willingness to forge ahead, in the wind and rain and on pavement, with no other motivation but love, will propel me forward – ever thankful of my own health and blessings.
And, for a moment in time, hundreds of people came together, in unity, for a single effort – the support of breast cancer patients and their families. It is a great lesson in the power of Oneness. When the trivial drops away and the most important of things becomes the focus, amazing things happen. The love, encouragement, support, and smiles I witnessed, along the 30 mile walk, could change the world if we treated and received each other this way in our daily lives. To be part of a sea of pink is an incredible experience and deeply personal for so many. It was an honor to be a part. Thank you to all who contribute to such efforts. This event raised over one million dollars. I saw first hand how much it matters!
Life is meant to be fun, and happiness is a decision away.
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Melanie – thank you so much for writing this piece that captures the spirit of the Atlanta 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer. You are correct, most of our walkers are not “athletes” but they are all part of the fight against breast cancer. And maybe I’m wrong, walking 30 miles in the rain IS an athletic event but it is not a race. It isn’t about the walk, It’s The Journey. Join us next year – there is a $40 discount through Monday the 12th. http://www.2daywalk.org – discount code “earlybird”.
I suppose you are, indeed, correct. Walking 30 miles is an athletic accomplishment. Thank you 🙂
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