Best Health put together a small team to participate in the Montreal and the Toronto "Weekend to End Cancer" walks. You probably already know about this event that also takes place in other cities across Canada each year. It’s no ordinary charity walk; this one is a full 60-km, done over two days [although in some cities, there is an option to walk for one day].
Okay, so how was the actual experience, you wonder? Like this:
Our team of 4 Best Health staffers is relatively fit. We thought it would be pretty easy; how hard can walking be, right? We all wore very good shoes, prepped our feet with Vaseline, wore breathable, cushy socks and light clothing. We hydrated tons under the hot sunshine, and we kept up a moderate pace. By around kilometre-20 of the first day, we were feeling it through the hips and tops of our legs. Things were getting a little tougher. One of us was really feeling pain through her already compromised back. So when we got to the finish line (where cold beer awaited) we were extremely happy to sit in the shade on the grass and take stock of where our feet and bodies hurt. We were certainly sore and in need of lying down in a cold or warm bath. The good news was that the two of us who were planning to do Day 2–myself and Kat Tancock, our web editor–were still feeling relatively fine, if a little beaten up.
So, home we went, to a comfy bed, and up we got again–feeling quite stiff– at 6am to join the start of Day 2. This is where things got a bit more intense: Kat and I were determined to do this day’s walk FAST. It’s not a race, of course, but Kat figured that the less time our feet were actually on the ground, the easier it would be on us. And we both are very comfortable walking quickly anyway. So we motored. We made sure to stretch at every red light we paused at, and at every water/snack station along the way, too. We kept hydrated and ate often as we went. Kat got a couple of blisters about halfway through but decided to pretend she didn’t know they were there, rather than fuss with them. Luckily, I got only one blister, and near the very end. But as we got sorer and stiffer, it seemed we had momentum pushing us forward, and a sense of "Wow, this is quite an accomplishment."
We had seen so many women limping along even at the beginning of Day 2, when there was still almost 30-km ahead of us. Kat and I felt so badly for them, and wondered how they could possibly walk even a few km. Because as we neared the finish, we were both so stiff that at one point instead of taking 3 stairs we went up the longer ramp; we felt it would be easier on our hips. At that point, it was tempting to think, hmmm, we’ve each already raised the minimum required $2,000… does it matter if we don’t actually finish? Wouldn’t it be nice to go home, like, now?
Then after we crossed the finish, we sat in the grass and watched as the other walkers arrived. Many were limping. One group of about 5 was propping up a friend who could hardly walk, shouting in her ear, "Vodka! Vodka! We’ll get you a drink when we’re done!" She laughed and kept going.
Of course, the reason it was so important to keep going even though we’d already raised the money was that we walkers are the fortunate ones who have either never had cancer or who have beaten it. We were doing it because our little bit of suffering for two days is nothing compared with what those who have been sick had been through, or what those who have seen a loved one fight cancer had been through. It helps us realize how fortunate we are, and that we need to keep fighting for those who can’t. It was truly humbling to see the thousands of women along the way who had messages of hope on their t-shirts, and photos of loved ones they had lost or were sick. It was inspiring, and it was emotional, every step of the way.
That’s why we’re already planning an expanded team to walk next year, and we aim to raise more than the $9,000-plus we collected this year. The really great thing about this event is that all of the money raised by participants goes toward research on the cancers that affect women most; a $75 registration fee–which for a limited time is $25–covers the costs of holding this extremely well-organized event. (In Toronto, the money raised for cancer research was more than $11 million!)
Here’s to an incredible, life-changing event (www.endcancer.ca). We’ll see you there next year.