In 2007, my older sister asked me if I wanted to go for a walk. Sure, why not! Little did I realize at the time that the request was not for a stroll around the block, it was a 50 mile walk over three days. It was the first MS Challenge Walk in Wisconsin. MS stands for Multiple Sclerosis. This is a disease that I did not know much about and figured, I need to get into shape and I can support a good cause, sounds good to me. While training (one does not just wake up in the morning and walk 50 miles…well, you could, I guess, but probably not a good idea!), I faced some battles of my own making. Mainly, the fact that I have never exercised regularly for more than a couple weeks at a time. I often found excuses to not walk – it was raining, I have work to do, I am tired. So many excuses that are pretty pathetic if you think about it. Here I am trying to condition myself for a journey that I am in no way prepared to make, to help people that would love to be able to do this, but can’t, because their nervous system has rebelled against them. I did train, I bruised, I blistered, and I worked harder than I ever had physically before. I can do it!…or so I thought.
While on the walk, I met some amazing people, one of which was Jill (http://steppingoverms.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/is-this-ms/). She walks to support her family. Her father was diagnosed with MS in 1998 – a portion of his story and her story is in her blog linked above. It turns out that Jill and I had a lot in common. We are the same age, grew up in the same area – in fact, she went to high school with my husband, know a lot of the same people, and we both have an amazing lack of athletic prowess! Jill’s strength and conditioning amazed me though. As did all of the others that walked. As mentioned before, I thought I could do this, wow, was I wrong! Although the entire experience was amazing, I can now tell amusing stories about how I am not athletic – to the point of walking is difficult on many days (not just doing a challenge walk!).
Here is a realistic version of my walk:
We left the hotel that we were staying in and went to the start of the walk, the first 20 miles. We were in Door County, Wisconsin which is beautiful. The trees were changing color and the weather was nice, although a little cool. My sister and I were doing well, enjoying conversation with each other and others, enjoying time in silence with our own thoughts and prayers. Many others passed us, but that was not a problem, this wasn’t a race. At lunch, we met Jill and many more. Then I stood up, who knew that sitting for a meal would cramp up my legs so much. I pushed through the discomfort, people with MS can’t say, “I am tired of this and my legs hurt, so I’ll just catch the next van and get a ride to the end.” I wasn’t going to complain, well, at least not too much. The wind picked up and we had some drizzles of rain, not too bad at all. It got harder and harder to push forward, I had never actually made it to doing a full 20 miles in one day, although I had gotten to about 16 previously. I did the best I could, but then at mile marker 19, a shooting pain shot from my foot to my knee and I collapsed. I tried to pull myself forward, but I had no luck. I was driven to the day’s finish line and cheered on my sister that was right behind me (how she caught up to the van so quickly, I don’t know!). After icing my foot, leg, and knee, we were taken back to the hotel. For awhile I was shaking from cold, but then I stopped. It was then that we realized that I was dehydrated and hypothermic. Great way to start the day, but to tell you the truth, it was amazing. I was mad at myself for not finishing, but I had to respect my body enough to know that I did more than I ever had before.
Jolene, my sister, asked if I was still planning on walking because I still had some discomfort in my foot and leg. There was no way that I was going to miss this, I had to prove to myself that I was a quitter and a failure. We were taken to the starting line and set off for another beautiful walk. My sister was in much better shape so a couple miles in, I told her to go on ahead, I would catch up in time. I walked by myself for awhile and then walked with new friends. A little before lunch, I started to have the shooting pain again, 8 miles had done me in. I was picked up by one of the vans and an EMT squad was called out to take a look at me, there was the potential that I had actually broken my foot. Luckily, they didn’t think so! I hobbled a little bit more that day, but mainly helped to encourage others and hand out snacks and water. There was one particularly quiet stretch of this day’s 20 miles that near the end, it was a great time to think and enjoy the world around you, but it was a touch section. When Jolene arrived at the finish line where I was waiting after being dropped off by the van, she actually requested to be driven back to that lonely stretch of the walk. She has been walking with someone earlier in the day that was just reaching that section and would have walked it alone. Jolene went back to walk it with her to the end. A 20 mile walk, turned into 22 miles that day for her. She amazed me!
I was advised not to walk the entire 10 miles this day, so I ended up helping a woman in a wheelchair that had MS and had broken her foot during training. I needed to help direct the wheelchair, she did not want me to push her. She may not be able to walk, but she was going to do this! She was only allowed to go the first 3-4 miles, so we went that far. I then was taken back to the hotel and got my car so that I could drive around, blaring music to support those that were walking. The day was cold and windy with horizontal rain slicing through each walker’s rain coat and pants. As the last walkers reached the finish line, the rain slacked off. We met in a large building and feasted together. We shared stories and pictures. We learned more about the advances being made every day in MS research for a cure.
I stayed in contact with some people over the next year and have stayed in contact with others through to the present. I never did the Challenge Walk again, because it beat me…perhaps I have to rethink this and take it on again?!?! Jill on the other hand continues to walk every year with Team Marty & Clyde (her dad and his cane), although this year is Team Marty & Clyde & Nancy – to honor her mother and the work that caregivers do!
This weekend (September 20-22) is MS Challenge Walk 2013. If you are able, I know that Jill’s team still needs some support – she is still shy of her goal of $5,000. The goal of this years walk is to raise $415,000.00 – they are only 76% of the way. Please consider helping out! If you would like to support Team Marty & Clyde & Nancy, please go to http://main.nationalmssociety.org/site/TR/Challenge/WIGChallengeWalkEvents?px=3170216&pg=personal&fr_id=20116 and make a donation! You can also link from the team’s donation page to learn more about The National MS Society, Challenge Walk, and many other activities out there. If you or a loved one have MS, please take care of yourself and get any help that you may need. My donation this year is in honor of Martha, a wonderful woman that passed away earlier this year. Her MS was a factor in her passing. Martha, I miss you and love. I pray that you are at peace.