Monday, March 14, 2011

3-Day Breast Cancer Walk

Five years ago, I wasn't a marathoner.

Or a half marathoner.

I didn't consider myself much of a distance runner.

But in 2006, my friend Katie and I participated in one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life - The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day.

Today I met with a woman who wants to do the walk this year. I happened to mention I was a past participant, and, that I thought the third day of the walk was harder than running a marathon.

She said I must be mistaken - a marathon must more difficult than a walk. Now don't get me wrong, a marathon is though. Everyone gets to a point where they don't think they have anything left to give physically, but that's where your mental toughness gets you through.

A few years ago, marathoner and Olympian Ryan Hall came to a CARA (Chicago Area Runner's Association) Saturday morning long run. He spoke with us for a few minutes before we set off. Ryan made a statement that day that took me back - it went something along the lines of this - 'It must be hard to be running for so long.' Hall has a handful of sub 2:08 marathons.

Most of us are just reaching the hard part of a marathon, or others are just nearing halfway, when he's finishing. By the time some of us were crossing the finish line, Hall's been stretched out, ate his recovery meal, showered, and is sleeping.

I know Ryan wasn't trying to be rude. He was trying to drive home the point that most of us are on our feet for a lot longer than he is during a marathon, which is why I see the 3-Day as being such a challenging event.

Our 3-Day wasn't composed of three, 20 mile days.

The first day, we were up before the sun came up. Walking on and off for ten hours. We walked a marathon. Once we reached camp, we pitched our tent, had some dinner and took a shower.

On day two, we repeated day one, for 22 miles. By the end of day two, my body ached and I was exhausted. But I wasn't done yet. We still had 12 miles to go. Day one was a warm day. Day two was an overcast day. Day three it rained - the entire day.

Day three was by far the toughest, but it was also the most rewarding. Throughout the walk, we were supported by volunteers and breast cancer survivors that continued to inspire us.

In the last few miles, my friend Bill met us with his parents. His mother had just recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. We stopped and spoke with them for a few minutes. If we hadn't been touched by the event yet, this encounter certainly did it.

It wasn't until I ran for Team Salute last year that I felt a true sense of purpose when running as I did on the 3-Day. The finishing line brings the cause home as all the participants unite. It is a rewarding experience which provides an amazing feeling of accomplishment when completed (not to mention all the fund raising!).

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