Monday, November 7, 2011

Still Rejoicing

Yesterday morning, Gentle and I woke up around 4:45 to cram all our stuff, including air mattresses and sleeping bags, into our duffle bags. Then we had to figure out how to tear down the tent and stuff it into its impossibly tiny bag. Luckily Gentle has a lot more patience than I do.

We had breakfast, put on considerably fewer layers than the two prior days, and lined up to board a bus to the drop-off point for the day.
Fellow Walkers

As I took those first few steps on my aching feet, the hours stretched long ahead of me, but then I glimpsed the hat of the woman in front of me:

"Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD"
The first tears of the day welled up. I could have kissed that stranger. Instead, I laid a hand on her shoulder. "Thank you," I said. "I really needed that verse this morning."

The morning was pleasant. I savored the breeze on my bare arms and legs, but I didn't like the look of the heavy gray sky. I politely asked God if He'd mind holding back the rain for us, but told Him I'd praise Him and rely on Him to help us through it either way.

We walked through a gorgeous neighborhood, Highland Park, where I had an aching longing to walk on the cushy grass instead of the hard sidewalk. But I stayed on the straight and narrow (most of the time). Ah, that grass felt so good when I had to step aside to pass or be passed.

Around mile five I started feeling a telltale hot spot on the ball of my left foot. I sat down in some of that cushy grass and applied another strip of moleskin. At the next rest stop, I added yet another strip. But apparently I missed the target by about a millimeter because by the last pit stop, I had my very first blister! Nooooo!!!

Sorry, Couldn't Help Myself. Can You See It? 
Gentle gave me a blister band-aid and I put on two more strips of moleskin over top of it, right up to the base of my toes. Those last five miles hurt so much more knowing there was a blister there.

More than ever, I relied on the love and support of the spectators to give me the courage to keep walking. I was thankful for:

  • The passing sweep vans with their crazy decorations and loud music. (They continually circled to pick up exhausted and injured walkers who needed a lift.)
  • The "walker stalkers," friends and family who shadowed the route to give out Kleenex, gum, handi wipes, and even champagne to not only their own walkers but to anyone else who passed by. 
The Craziest Walker-Stalkers

  • The neighborhood residents who handed out donuts and kolaches and thank-yous.
  • The double rows of encouragers at each cheering station.
  • The safety crew members who told us how many miles to the next stop as they helped us across the intersections.
  • The amazingly kind and supportive Dallas officers who worked the biggest intersections. I was moved to tears by one officer who told us about his wife, a ten-year survivor. 
  • The costumed dogs that never failed to make me smile. 

  • The inspiring words and scriptures on posters, on the backs of T-shirts, and on signs pinned to backpacks. 

  • The fact that the rain held off until we entered the grounds of the closing ceremony site (Fair Park). Thank you, thank you, God!
  • The constant company of my sweet friend Gentle.

Manicure by Gentle, Gloves from Bill's Mom

I think Gentle was hurting about as bad as I was, or maybe worse. I don't know if I ever told that you she broke her toe about five weeks before the walk. She was supposed to be in her boot until just before the event, but she was able to take it off and resume training the last couple of weeks. Still, she missed about a month of crucial training, so I was amazed at her fortitude. We praise God that He healed her toe and gave her the strength to keep walking.

We walked the last two miles mostly in silence. I tried to take in all the sights around me and enjoy those last steps even though my feet were NOT HAPPY AT ALL. Still, I knew I would be sorry for the journey to end. 

Periodically we were forced to speak when people questioned us about our Five Finger Shoes. On the first two days, we raved about them: "Yes, we've been wearing them the whole way. Yes, they are quite comfortable. No, they don't provide any support or cushioning; that's the whole point. No, we don't have any blisters." 
Mine on Left, Gentle's on Right

But by the end of day three, our typical answer was. "Fabulous. Just fabulous." 

I really was amazed that my tired feet could support themselves without all the padding of traditional shoes, and that in fact I seemed less sore and less blistered than the other walkers. I think if your arches can support themselves for 60 miles, you really don't need expensive, high-tech shoes. God is the most ingenious designer!

But I digress.... One of my favorite crossing guards, a Harley rider who always greeted us with a giant grin, warned us about the finish line: "You WILL cry." 

I figured I would, but I wasn't prepared for the onslaught of emotion as I walked the last 300 yards or so. On either side, families and other walkers who'd finished earlier shouted and clapped and grabbed our hands. "Way to go! You did it! Thank you for walking!" 

I looked left and right, wishing Laura could be there to fold us in a group hug as she'd planned. I wanted her there walking beside me, taking in all this praise that I didn't deserve. She was the real hero! I remembered one of my favorite pictures of her crossing the finish line at Susan G. Komen Race For the Cure:

As I pictured that amazing grin, my happy tears turned into sobs. It was the kind of crying you don't really want to share with strangers, ugly and snotty and embarrassing. 

I wasn't sure why I was crying. I was overwhelmed by joy, triumph, relief, sorrow, exhaustion, and loss. Just when I thought I couldn't bear another moment, a woman stepped out of the line on my left and pulled me into a tight hug. I clung to her for several seconds, wiped away my tears, and raised both arms in triumph as I crossed into the holding area. 

As we paraded up to the closing ceremony, I strained to spot my family in the crowd, but there were just too many people. Bill did catch a glimpse of me, though. When I met them in the baggage recovery area, I was delighted to see that my mom had come along. I squeezed them all tight and then trudged a long, long way to the car, chattering the whole way. 

At home I was thrilled to find a welcome home poster on the door, laboriously lettered by Allyson. "Walking for Laura.... 60 miles... 11.... Way to go!... I think you did a good job." In the middle was a darling picture of me and Gentle walking on a long path. 

On the table were six pink roses and a touching card from Bill. Soon after, Bill served us fettucini alfredo--delicious! 

After dinner, he urged me to go up and soak in the tub. I went up to find the (clean) bathtub lined with candles. There was an assortment of bubble baths and mineral salts, and my robe hung from the towel rack. I felt so loved as I sank into that warm water and let the day's aches melt away. 

The bath probably wasn't as relaxing as Bill had envisioned because two minutes into it, Allyson bounded in. "Can I get in with you?" I hesitated for just a moment and then opened my arms. So we soaked together. And splashed. And got water everywhere. But it was all good. I was right where I wanted to be. 

Thank you to everyone for your love and support. I love you guys!

P.S. Before she went home last night, Mom prayed that my blister would heal while I slept and that I would "jump out of bed rejoicing." And that's exactly what happened! I think the blister is gone, but I can't be sure because I can't get the blister band-aid off. (It's crazy sticky!) My feet still hurt, but I don't have any pain where the blister was. I'm still rejoicing. Over everything.  


Victor S E Moubarak said...

CONGRATULATIONS and well done. And also THANK YOU for doing what you did.

God bless.

Melissa Irwin said...

I literally cried reading this, imagining as you crossed the finish line. I'm in proud of you! Thank you. My aunt Brenda had breast cancer along with some other cancers. She died 9 years ago.

Sarah said...

Thank you, Victor and Melissa. Thank you for sharing my joy. It's good to know some people don't mind my longwinded-ness!

kidtaxi said...
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Lisa said...

I cried too, reading about you finishing the race. So great Sarah, we're really proud of you! Your shoes make me laugh!

Gen said...
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Gen said...
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Sarah said...

Lisa - Don't knock them till you've tried them! I won't deny those shoes are ridiculous looking, but they really work. Thank you for all your support. I used the heck out of the water belt and Body Glide that you sent.

Gentle - Definitely have to make Vibram shirts next time. In fact, we could wear them year round!


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