I have just completed the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer for the third year in a row. It is a two day walk that covers 39.3 miles (a marathon on Saturday and a half-marathon on Sunday). The Walk starts at the Washington Monument on the Mall in Washington DC and continues for 26.2 miles throughout the streets of the district finishing at a park turned into the Wellness Village in Chevy Chase, MD. The next day we leave the Wellness Center and walk 13.1 miles back to the Mall. Each of the over two thousand walkers commit to raise $1800 to go towards fighting breast cancer via research and treatment for those who are uninsured.
The months leading up to the Walk require a great deal of preparation. My team, The Reston Rack Pack, comprised of ten women, trained on a regular basis. We met both days of most weekends early in the morning. We are intimate with every crack on the W&OD trail, the location of each port-a-pot in Western Fairfax County and know the mileage between Reston Parkway and most large intersections within a ten mile span. We also individually and as a group worked to raise our mandated $1800 to participate in the Walk; we raised a total of $26,262.85 which went towards the 4.5 million dollars raised by the DC Walk this year.
On Walk Weekend, we first congregated downtown Friday afternoon to check-in to the hotel and attend Event Eve. At Event Eve we finished any last minute registration, shopped for more pink accouterments and took in the scene; a bustling of Avon staff, volunteers and walkers all excited to be together and work towards eradicating breast cancer.
We got to the Mall in the wee hours of Saturday morning and following an Opening Ceremony were walking by 7:15. We were blessed with beautiful blue skies and perfect temperatures. It is so great to walk through the streets of D.C. and have the opportunity to see so many wonderful sites on foot; one of my favorite moments is walking with thousands of people in pink along the Mall towards the Capitol.
There was so much support along the way. The official Avon Crew are committed to helping the Walkers; they act as crossing guards, work the water and food stations and support us along the way via motorcycles, bicycles and vans. There were also hundreds of people cheering us on at every corner, neighborhood and rest stop. Oh, and the horns; I may have lost some hearing in my left ear from the blasting car horns of passerby’s cheering us on and showing their support.
It takes a long time to walk twenty-six miles. Think of the thousands of conversations that are had. I met tons of really great people along the way. Three juniors in high school were walking for their first time each on behalf of different friends and relatives that have been touched by breast cancer. I met a team of women from West Virginia who helped us make up silly country songs while walking through Penn Quarter and I saw a mom and her son walking in memory of their daughter/sister lost to breast cancer. We have all been touched in one way or another by this horrible illness and it is evident throughout the Walk. Photos and ribbons and signs remind us of those who are fighting, surviving or have lost their battle with breast cancer.
On Saturday, I finished at about 5:00; there were people finishing hours before and after me. It is not a race, it is a Walk and no matter what time we cross Mile 26 on that first day, it is a huge moment for celebration.
We had dinner at the Wellness Village and some of our team members tented there, while many of us (yes, that would be ME) took the buses provided by Avon back to the hotel for the night.
Sunday morning, reverse and repeat. Buses back to the Wellness Village, breakfast and walking by 7:30.
This was the first year that I was blister free; Sunday morning can be very difficult for many. Blisters, sores, and muscle pain can make for a painful thirteen miles, I have SO been there. This year, though, I felt great. The thirteen miles back past the Washington Cathedral and down Embassy Row were beautiful and fun (and just a tad bit silly as our decorum begins to disintegrate into mindless humor for the last several miles). And, I must say, once you have walked twenty-six miles, thirteen is a breeze.
I have yet to cross the finish line on the Mall without shedding tears. It is so emotional and fulfilling. There are tons of people cheering us the whole way and especially at the end. They thank us for walking and we thank them for their support; neither could happen without the other. After our finish, I had the honor of seeing many other teams and individuals cross the finish line with tears and hollers. I know they are walking for loved ones, I know they are missing their moms and friends, I know that we all want an end to this beast that is cancer.
Thank you for indulging me and reading about this wonderful experience. I could not have done it without the amazing women on my team or without the generous donations of many of you. A few more pictures from the finish: