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39.3 miles – 2 days – PRICELESS

October 8, 2007

The Avon Walk NYC 2007 is now behind me. It was an amazing experience. After a delicious meal at Gallagher’s, we had an old fashion slumber party on Friday night – 6 women in a small suite in the Sheraton Towers. The suite had 2 bathrooms, one more than my house. Oscar from housekeeping brought up 2 cots, which we placed in the hallway of the suite.

DAY 1

We woke on Saturday morning and were out the door by 6:15 am. We made the last bus to the starting ceremonies. We met up with other members of the Angels team, plus some of the Ladies of Loantaka. The plan was to stay towards the front of the throng of 4,000 walkers as it would be easier to walk through the city streets. We walked through Times Square, then down 5th Ave to Union Square Park and Washington Square Park. As we were walking through Chinatown, we heard a truck driver comment “Boy do I love spandex”. There certainly was a lot of it on display. Heading east over the Manhattan Bridge, the fog was so thick we could not even see the water below. The fog dampened most of the noise of the city, but not the subway trains as they rumbled along side us on the bridge. The conductors tooted their horns and waved to the walkers.

By the time we made our way around to the Brooklyn Bridge, the fog was lifting. It was just after 9:00 in the morning and the bridge was already full of people. No matter how many times I walk across the bridge, I marvel at the spectacular views. New York looked especially lovely as she awoke in her lacy nightgown.

Westward bound, we crossed the city and headed to the Hudson River. Around Chelsea, I saw our friend Gary from God’s Love We Delivery. He had a huge basket full of those delicious brownies the center is know for. I wonder if anyone every suggested they market them. They would be a hit for sure.

We were maintaining an excellent pace. We reached the lunch stop at mile 10 by 10:15 am. As it was way to early to eat, we took the food to go. There were only 200 walkers ahead of us. We made the half way point around 11:30. This was our first real stop along the route. My sneakers had been rubbing along the sides of my heals, so I stopped at the medical tent to get a bandaid. One of the medics had the industrial size roll of moleskin. I have never seen anything like it. Imagine all those moles who gave their lives to make that 10 foot roll :-). Off we went for the second half of the walk. Only 300 walkers were ahead of us at this point.

We weaved our way up 10th Avenue, then 9th Avenue past Lincoln Center, Central Park and walked up town. The Novartis group had a cheering station near Grant’s tomb. Jane, who wasn’t able to walk because of an injury, decorated the path with encouragements. We were glad she was there cheering us on. Next we pressed on into Washington Heights where the folks from Columbia Presbyterian Hospital out did themselves. The street was lined with red heart balloons and a large contingent of staff and their family were out cheering.

The day was getting very hot. Although the actual temperature was 83F, it felt much hotter due to walking on the pavement in direct sun. We were happy to reach rest stops along the way and get paper towels soaked in ice water. They felt wonderfully refreshing.

We were approaching the George Washington Bridge. Although I have lived my entire life within 30 miles of NY city and crossed the GW countless times, I had never had the opportunity to walk across. We were lucky because the Eastbound walkway was open, which means we had an unobstructed view of the New York city skyline. Drivers crossing the bridge honked their horns and waved to us. As we approached the NJ side tower, we met Julie’s husband who had come out to cheer her on.

We were now in NJ and only 5.5 miles to go. We walked into Fort Lee and started down a very long hill. The hill was probably the toughest part of the entire walk. One would think walking uphill would be more difficult, but I and other walkers were finding going down to be a challenge. My training had definitely not prepared me for this kind of hill. Finally we reached the bottom. We walked through Leonia and crossed into Englewood where the final rest stop was set up.

The final two miles went by in a haze. By now, Sheryl, Julie, Sherrill and I were quiet. We had kept up an almost constant chatter the first 20 miles. It really helps the time and miles go by when one walks in a group.

We turned up Williams Street and Mackay Park came into view. We entered the park around 4:20 pm. We were met by walkers who had completed the 13 miles and crew members. We walked down a cheering line of well wishers. The energy of the crowd was so positive that the fatigue and pain dissolved.

We had completed the walk in 9 hours 20 minutes. This was almost 2 hours faster than last year. The bulk of the walkers were still on the route.

There was a tent filled with foot and back massage machines. I guess Homedics must have been a sponsor of the event. I made my way to the podiatry tent to have my blisters tended to. A first year resident was able to lance the biggest blister and she cleaned and wrapped my feet. I was able to walk much more comfortably after her care of my feet.

Julie, Sheryl and I made our way to the hotel where hot showers and burgers awaited us.

DAY 2

It’s amazing what a hot shower, dinner, and a good night’s sleep can do to restore the body. We woke up and took an inventory of aches and pains. We found we were feeling pretty good, all things considered. We arrived at the Wellness Village at 7:15 am, dropped off our bags and found Sharon, Eloise and Julia. After a quick breakfast we were on our way by 8:00. As we walked down the main street in Englewood, we made a pit stop at Dunkin Donuts. CAFFEINE. By now we were pretty much at the back of the pack, with most of the walkers having started out when the course opened at 7:00 am.

I guess I should have thought of it yesterday when we walked down the long hill to the park that we would need to walk up the hill today. Maybe I was blocking it out on purpose. By the time we completed the 1.5 miles up to the top, we were all definitely warmed up. Sheryl and I walk at the same pace and we decided to walk together for the day. We had moved into the main body of the walk, which was going at a pace slower than was comfortable for us. We started passing the pack. Along the way we found Geri and her team. Later we came across Denise and Lisa.

Back over the GW bridge we walked. We made our way down to Riverside Park and the little red lighthouse under the bridge. Hard to believe we had already completed half of the day’s walk and it was only a little after 10:00 am.

Least we forget the reason for the walk, there were many people with signs on their backs honoring loved ones. The most touching were the walkers with simple notes: “For Mom. I miss you”.

The long pink line of walkers snaked their way down Riverside Drive and then Riverside Park to the lunch stop at Riverbank Park. There were many people out enjoying the unusually warm weather; Bikers, joggers, dog and their owners. We took our time at lunch. Eloise, Sharon, Julia, and Julie met up with us and we enjoyed a meal under a tree in the park.

Kelley, our Avon Walker Buddy, stopped by to say hello. She was doing her best to get us to sign up to crew the Boston walk in 2008. There is a very strong possibility.

As we made our way back on Riverside Drive, we saw the dedication of the walkers to the cause. Many were walking slowly, limping. One had abandoned her sneakers for a pair of flipflops. We passed one young lady who was shuffling along in her socks, the heel of her right sock covered in blood. These women were determined to make it.

Along the walkway, there were family members and friends waiting to cheer on their loved one. While they waited, they cheered every walker who passed. I don’t think they will ever know how important and meaningful their presence is to the walkers.

We passed the finally rest stop and made our way back to the river walkway. As we walked down the stairs, we were greeted by students from NYU who enthusiastically cheered and “high-fived” the walkers.

The crowds started to line the path around 48th street. People had signs and flowers to welcome their loved ones. We entered Pier 84 at 1:20 pm, successfully completing the walk for the second year.

The whole family turned out to congratulate me. Mom, Amy, Scott and Jeremy were there to enjoy the sight and sounds of the end of the walk. The pier was full of people in pink, hugging and cheering the walkers. My sister walked up the line of well-wishers with me.

At closing ceremonies, it was announced that the NY walk had generated a record 10.2 million dollars.
View a video of photos I took over the two days. http://www.beadsrock.com/avon2007.wmv

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