I woke up on day two in pain. My legs were sore from the 22 miles we walked the day before and my blisters were ready to burst. The day was long, hard and I almost resorted to breaking my goal of not using a sweep van–however with a lot of mental toughness, some tears and a lot of cheering, I completed the route and learned so much about why being a cheerleader is so important.
The start of day two was much more subdued than day one. There were no pep rallies, no music led stretches and no inspiring stories as we set out on our day. In fact, my morning was filled with cheesy eggs and a lot of moleskin.
After breakfast, the walkers are allowed to just start whenever they are ready. This avoids a lot of the walker-jams that occur the first day when everyone starts together. We started in the middle of the pack–excited to face the day with two big cheering stations.
The first, in Northville, was a great start to the day. It happened just five miles into the day’s 22 planned miles.
As we were walking through the crowdlined streets, I saw a lady sitting on the left with a little girl. The sign in front of them said “free hugs.” I asked my walking partner if I should give the older lady a hug. She said “absolutely.” As I went to collect my free hug, the little girl came up to both of us and, unprompted, she hugged both of us together.
I was so moved by that action that tears sprung to my eyes. All I could wonder was if my kids would hug complete strangers. Would they be so enthusiastic when it came to cheering for those around them?
I held back the tears as we walked a bit further. Just outside of town and the crowd was a giant cement wall lining the street. And there, drawn by the walker stalkers and the youth corps was a minion.
A minion from Despicable Me might not seem like much you anyone, but our family loves that movie. The girls are our minions. We quote from it constantly. We watch either one each time we have the chance.
My kids. Oh how I miss them.
We kept walking. Empowered by the first cheering station I could hardly wait for the big cheering station after lunch. I was fairly confident my blistered inside of my shoes had popped. The tape supporting the arch of my right foot was too tight. The route was long with lots of hills, many areas where the supporters along the route couldn’t easily get to us. We needed the pick-me-up of the candy treats and the cheering people!
I arrived at lunch and went straight to the medical tent. My blisters had long before exploded. I was walking on the outside of my feet to compensate for the throbbing pain left behind by the open blisters, and the skewed gait had led to hip pain. The medical tent handed me some moleskin and sent me on my way. They suggested I have a new blister, forming under my toes, examined by the medics once we got back to camp.
I wrapped my feet in moleskin, grabbed some lunch and encouraged my walking partner to get back on the road. I wanted and needed the cheering station, which was less than a mile down the road. And we arrived not a moment too soon.
We could hear the cheering blocks away. People lined the street, music played and the fountain in the center of town was tinted pink in honor of the Susan G. Komen foundation. As I walked, people in front of me jumped into the arms of cheering family members. I heard my name being yelled and a friend from my MomsNext group jumped out to hug me, despite my sweaty appearance, and took a picture of me. We kept walking through the park, stopped by the pink fountain and just took in all the people who had taken time out of their day to be there for us.
We were voluntarily walking 60 miles. We elected to put ourselves through this. Yet these people were still there, telling us we were doing a good job. And there were miles of these people. They came with suckers, mints, water and encouraging words. Some had jello shots. Some had popsicles.
None of them could possibly understand what that mean to any of us.
The big cheering station was at mile 10. We still had to walk 12 miles after that for the 22 of that day. As I replay the day in my head, they barely seem to go together. That cheering station was full of life and love and the rest of the day was a battle.
Mentally and physically there was nothing harder than the second half of that day. Besides the pain of the blisters, it was hot and we were spending lots of time in the sun. My walking partner began to have leg pain and, at one point, we opted to separate. I couldn’t stop walking because my pain was too intense and she needed to stop walking to rest her aching knee.
We were apart for several miles. I fought myself with every step. Every step forward brought me that much closer to camp, however every step hurt. I was tired. I wanted to sleep. I needed water. I was way over-sugared and over-Gatorated. I felt bloated and sweaty.
It would have been easy to take the shuttle. It would have been easy to be dropped off at the next pit stop and just pretend it never happened. Instead, I found a shady spot on a hill, had some ice water and waited for my friend.
We were cheering each other on. We were keeping each other distracted. This wasn’t a competition. We were doing this together for a reason.
From that point forward, we walked together. We talked about life. We listened to music. We sang. We cheered each other on. One step more step forward. Just one foot in front of the other.
As we rounded the last corner in our mile or two before camp, we could see a large group of walkers in front of us. We could also see a large group behind us. We were in this strange middle area. There was no one around. Her knee was hurting. My feet were pounding. We contemplated separating again. There was no way I was going to let that happen again. I turned on my phone to play music and DJ’d us right up to camp.
We were dragging.
Then this happened. And let me tell you, it happened twice. A local football team formed a tunnel on the sidewalk right outside of camp. As we walked through they cheered. My friend, the one who didn’t think she’d make it back that day, turned around and walked through it again just to get the video.
Yeah, the cheerleading does matter that much. It does make it easier. It does inspire. It does motivate. It does help.
We finished up, did our photo, got our leg massages from the chairs in the Bank of America tent, showered, had blisters assessed and then headed to bed.
But while we were eating dinner, the last walker came in. They make a huge deal of the last walker arriving home.
It’s not a race. It’s a journey and we are all in this together.
Here we are celebrating that and each other.