A little more about the walk…
At the closing ceremony, the MC of the event told us that the world would look a little different. We wouldn’t have people cheering us and honking and waving at every intersection, for one thing.
And she’s right…but it’s funny…I just have this feeling that they MIGHT, or that I just might cheer THEM if I just knew their story.
I saw so many feats of selflessness and kindness, heard so many stories of bravery and love and perseverance, enjoyed so many demonstrations of humor and consideration, that I have to believe that it is still right there, under the surface in almost everyone, just waiting for a chance to express itself.
Every person I meet that I don’t know, might have been someone who was standing along the route cheering, a sponsor, a crewperson or a walker. The lady behind the desk at the car dealership who handed me my license plates, for instance, or the guy who put them on my car for me. They might have been standing out by the side-walk and handed me a bottle of water just when I needed it, or a piece of candy when my energy was flagging, or they may have been one of those Angels sent directly from God who had string cheese (salt AND protein in one delicious package).
Maybe it’s just residual endorphins, but I sort of expect to see acts of kindness, gratitude and generosity around every corner right now.
You wouldn’t believe the outpouring of community support. Every time we crossed over a freeway, cars honked and people waved. Cars honked at almost every intersection. When we were walking on sidewalks, cars passed and honked.
The cheering stations were full, and there was one that was so unbelievably huge. There were probably over a hundred people there.
We were walking along on a trail through the woods, and I was in an extremely focused moment. It was fairly quiet, and we were somewhat behind because of Sue’s sprained ankle. We were going up a hill just as the path turned a sharp corner, and as soon as we came in sight a loud roar started, and just kept going.
I stopped and just gaped like an idiot. An involuntary “wow” escaped. The people standing closest to me cheered even harder and smiled even more broadly. People yelling, waving signs, flags, pink flamingo lawn ornaments, funny hats, it’s all a blur. But I remember that it wasn’t until about a hundred feet down the path that I began to be aware of the pain from my blisters again.
Sometimes a cheering person would hold up their hand for a “high-five” and say things like “Thank you from my daughter, who can’t be here” or sometimes there were little signs and memorials with pictures of people who had died of breast cancer. Their families standing around clapping and cheering and saying “thank you”.
There is a traveling couch memorial that is just wonderful.
Bald women sitting in the shade with tears in their eyes, saying “thank you for walking for me”
But all of that is just prelude to the crew.
The crew were sent from God. One the second day, pit stop 4, it was necessary for us to walk about a block-and-a-half off of the path, attend the Pit Stop, and then walk back to the path.
You would not believe how bad that was for our psychology. Sue sat down and said “I want ice for my ankle, but I don’t want to walk all that way and then walk back again.”
I couldn’t blame her. I didn’t want to either, and I didn’t have a sprained ankle as an excuse. Suddenly, a crewperson appeared, and said “I will go and get you ice, water and food. Just don’t move.”
Sue replied “No worries, I’m not going ANYWHERE.”
“Let me help you with that”; “Let me get that for you”; “Do you need anything?” “Are you OK?”;”Can I get you something?” ; “Everything OK here?”
That is what crew sounds like. These people worked their ASSES off, and I’m pretty sure that at least once, I forgot to say “thank you”.
They road bikes up and down the line day after day to make sure nobody was in trouble. They called sweep vans for the sick and injured, they monitored stoplights and directed traffic and entertained us while we waited at stoplights.
There was a guy in a pink cowboy hat who just sat there looking like he was happy to see each and every one of us. There was a lady with a sort of Genine Gerafalo sort of dead-pan humor who cracked me up every time, once augmenting her directions on how to safely negotiate a complicated intersection crossing with the safety instructions for exiting an aircraft in an emergency. And then there was Mullet Pig.
Mullet Pig was a guy in a pink pig mask with a “diamond” tiara and magenta hair weaves. He was a little chubby, and had a big hairy belly. I know, because he often performed cartwheels as part of his acrobatic cheering routine. Also, jump-split kicks. He had a sort of “Wyld Stallions” vibe going on as well (a-la Bill and Ted).
He referred to himself in the third person. As in “Mullet Pig loves all the three day walkers”, and “Mullet Pig doesn’t want you to get crushed by a truck, so listen up!”
For a significant portion of the walk, we entertained ourselves by brain-storming a buddy-movie in the vein of the “Bill and Ted’ or “Jay and Silent Bob” movies: “Mullet Pig saves the 3-day”. Of course, we also amused ourselves at Susie’s report that she mispronunces “National Philanthropic Trust” (just try it, you’ll get the idea…it’s a spoonerism).
I think I love Mullet Pig. I think that everyone should have a Mullet Pig of their very own in their lives all of the time.
The last day, 1.5 miles from the end, I was beginning to tear up from the pain in my ankle. I knew I could finish, but I also knew that we still had a long way to go and it was going to hurt.
And there was Mullet pig, shaking his pink pom-poms, and yelling something we couldn’t quite hear. When we got closer, I yelled: “we love you Mullet Pig!” He yelled back “I love you too”.
When we got to him, I gave him a hug (not pleasant for him by now, I assure you. I was a grimy, sweaty mess), looked into his eyes and said “Thank you. Every time I see you, it makes me happy”. Just for a moment, the Mullet Pig persona disappeared, and he said “That’s why I do it. Thank You.”
I think it's pretty safe to say that he's not in it for the hugs from sweaty, road-grime-covered, sun-burned chicks with no make-up and hair that has not seen a blow-dryer or curling iron for three days.
There’s nothing I can say to express how important the crew is, and the people who show up to cheer at these events. Amazing.
So if you volunteered to crew, or if you showed up to cheer, or even if you just tooted your horn and waved as you drove past the event…Thank You.