A couple of weeks ago, the alarm went off at 7am on a Sunday. I woke up with a shot. It was the third Sunday in September and that meant it was time to walk my 13.1 miles.
I walk the 13.1 miles for the Jimmy Fund, a wonderful organization in Massachusetts that raises money to fund research for cures to childhood cancers. The original Jimmy, not actually named Jimmy, but Einar Gustafson was a childhood cancer sufferer who had gotten cancer in the 1940s, when those types of cancer were considered unsurvivable. Dr. Sidney Farber, founder of the cancer research institute, decided that he was going to do something to change that.
This was my eighth walk. Two more years and we’ll be at ten. As I mentioned in a previous entry, I started walking because of my dear friend Allan Martinsen, who succumbed to cancer in May of last year. Last year as well, I was having a very bad foot problem and I couldn’t do the full 13.1 miles. I choose to just do three miles, from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Brookline.
That turned out to be really special. When you started from over there, it’s an official start, rather than a rolling start, like it is from the other locations. They played the anthem before we all started walking and they told us to wave to the patients at Dana Farber. That’s when I started crying. That’s when I really lost it. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had always hoped that Allan would one day be able to come and watch me do this walk that I started because of him. It was then I really realized he was gone.
From sadness though, comes hope. Allan’s sickness connected me with this wonderful organization. It seemed so unbelievable that a guy who I met half a world away, half a life time ago had led me to the spot I was standing in at that moment. A friendship born of mutual heartache led to me to places I never thought I would go.
Then, there’s the walk itself. I walk the 13.1 because afterwards, I feel like I did something. It’s also because of the happiness on the route. There are all kinds of people out on the route. This year there was a guy with his two black labradors, both wearing signs that said “free hugs.” There was a family holding up signs that said things like “you look hot” and “high five.” There was a Japanese drum group, drumming us up one of the hills. People stand out in the hot sun for hours handing out candy and cheering people on.
The thing that I find the most amazing is the stop where there is just a bunch of volunteers cheering people on. I can never believe how these people stand outside for hours on end, cheering on complete strangers and doing it with such enthusiasm.
Thirteen miles is four to five hour walk and I’m actually really happy with doing it alone. There’s something soothing about the walk in a way. I have a lot of time alone in my head just to contemplate things and think about how things have changed in the past year since I did my last walk. In years past, I’m embarrassed to say that sometimes I was replaying old arguments in my head but this year for the first time, I wasn’t. I was singing songs in my head and letting my mind wander. I also might have prayed a little bit.
This is the second walk I’ve done since Allan died and it hit me when I looked at everything in perspective that the guy had a major impact on my life. From a hallway in a dormitory 3,000 miles away to a small corner of Massachusetts, Allan had an impact on my life. I will always be grateful for his sympathetic ear in a time of trouble in my life and for connecting me with the Jimmy Fund.
A few walk day memories because this is a picture blog after all: