Thursday, July 29, 2010

What I Learned in 60 Miles - Part 1

Preface: For those who are unaware, I walked the Komen 3 Day in Boston this past weekend. It's 60 miles of walking over 3 days, plus fundraising, sleeping in a tent, showering in a truck, port-a-potties, medic tents, etc. If you haven't done it, it's very difficult to explain. Physically, it's the toughest, most exhausting thing I've ever done. But these next few blogs are going to cover the mental & emotional aspect of it, which is something I wasn't prepared for.

Being Proud

60 miles is a long walk, no matter how you break it down, especially when you aren't allowed to have your earbuds in. Sure, you talk to your teammates, other walkers, crew, etc., but after a while, you get tired of talking. You just want to walk. That leaves you with only yourself.

It was somewhere around the last 2 miles of Day One that I got lost in my own head. It had been raining. My legs and feet were hurting. Sweep vans were beginning to pass by me with more frequency. And while two of my teammates were walking with me (and I wouldn't have made it without them), I really felt like a different version of myself was walking in front of me, backwards, taunting me. "You can't do this. You might as well get on the van. Who do you think you are to walk 20 miles in a day? Just get on the van already. You're just going to fail anyway. Get it over with early." The good thing about sweating that hard is that people can't tell you're crying.

I refused to look up... for several reasons. I was seriously afraid that I would actually see myself talking to myself. I know that's a horribly incorrect sentence, but you know what I mean. I didn't want to see how far I had left to walk. I didn't want to risk anyone looking me in the eyes and knowing that something was wrong. I didn't want to answer the questions they might have because I knew that if I opened my mouth to speak, I'd lose it. I didn't want to lose it. I just wanted to finish.

As we fell in to a single file line next to the small orange cones in the road, orange shirts and hands appeared in the corner of my eyes. Several of the safety crew had lined up to cheer us on the last few yards. They weren't just cheering because it was their job. They were cheering because they were genuinely proud of what we had accomplished that day. As the entrance to camp came closer, I heard singing. The Men With Heart were lining the entrance to camp, dancing and singing 'Pretty Woman', handing out bracelets, hugs and high fives. Now let me just tell you, after walking 20 miles in the heat and the rain, you feel anything but pretty. I had to break down & smile though because to those guys, we really were pretty. It had nothing to do with what we looked like (trust me, I know what I looked like at that moment) and everything to do with what we had accomplished. They were proud of us. And when they scanned me in to camp, I was proud of me.

Find Out Who Your Friends Are

That same evening, I hobbled around 3 Day Village. I remembered that there was place to pick up mail, if anyone had chosen to send you some. Thinking I might have a piece or two, I started digging through the alphabetized basket. I plopped a couple letters that weren't mine back in, then started laying the ones with my name down on the table. The stack kept building and soon the other people getting their mail started watching as my mouth fell open. I had 13 pieces of mail. That alone started the waterworks again.

While the rest of my team waited to be called for karaoke, I started to read my letters. And let me say that these weren't just letters or cards that had been signed & tossed in the mail. Several of them were works of art. It was very obvious that each one had taken effort, thought and emotion. I was a blubbering mess after just one card. By the third, I could barely see. I'm pretty sure that I had to lay my head on the table by the seventh card. The last three really did me in. When you get a card from someone you've met once and the entire inside of it is filled with beautiful words written in blue ink, it gets to you. And when you open two more that are from people you've never even met telling you what an inspiration you are to them... well, that's something that can't be described. Your feet suddenly don't hurt so much. That blister that you just got bandaged? It's not so bad. Stiff muscles? They loosen up.

Heading back to my tent, I pulled out my phone and began going through all the text messages and tweets I had gotten that day. Again, blubbering mess. I wanted to lock them all in my phone, but that left me no room for new messages. That's a lot of messages.

As I laid down to sleep, I started thinking about the people who had sent me all of the cards, letters, texts and tweets. It struck me that a lot of the people I call my 'friends' weren't in that list. To be honest, they'd been somewhat absent since I had made the decision to walk The 3 Day. They didn't donate. They didn't help motivate me. Yes, they were there whenever I took the initiative to get together with them and they seemed interested in updates whenever I would offer... but there was definitely a disconnect. Snide and sarcastic remarks had been tossed around a few times when we'd hung out about being 'graced with my presence'. They didn't seem to be very understanding of the schedule I had to stick to for training. There were no letters or words of encouragement from them.

Looking up at the top of my pink tent, I became okay with the fact that there are circles in my life. And some of the people who I had let in to the Friend Circle needed to be moved out of it. Not because they're bad people, but because at that moment in time, I needed friends who showed initiative and understanding. They knew what I needed. They knew that while I probably could have suffered through without their encouragement, I'd benefit more if I had it. They didn't assume that I knew they were proud of me or rooting for me. They let me know in no uncertain terms that I wasn't doing this alone.

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