The phone alarm went off at 4:00am on Saturday, October 18th. After only getting four hours of sleep that night, and three hours of sleep on our respective red-eyes from the west coast the night before, Genoa and I got out of bed and prepared ourselves for a very long day. Today was the day we were going to walk a marathon.
By 4:40am were ready. We took a moment to pray over our walk and beseech the Lord for the strength we knew we didn’t have before setting out for the starting line. A shuttle bus took us on a quiet ride through the streets of New York on the way to Pier 84 on the Hudson River.
Breakfast consisted of coffee, bananas and these little prepackaged waffles from a local New York company. The sun wasn’t up yet and the wind from the Hudson River quickly made us rethink our thin layer of workout clothes. But, with our luggage packed away in a moving truck that would meet us at the end of our walk that day we just had to deal with the cold.
At 6:15am all the walkers had arrived creating a sea of people, mostly women, deked out in all shades of pink. Genoa and I stood in the back because we knew that’s where the walk would start. That and we were waiting for Lizzy and Abby to show up at any moment. When they arrived we were in the middle of our morning warm up routine. From there we heard the stories of some of our fellow walkers. A husband in support of his wife who was fighting breast cancer, a survivor who had been cancer free for seven months and a son who’s mother had lost her battle. After the rest of the brief program, at 6:45am we were off!
A sea of Pink.
Lizzy and Abby walked with us for nearly a mile before they left to grab some breakfast while Genoa and I continued our journey North along the Hudson for another 4 miles. After a beast of a hill in a beautiful park we found ourselves heading back down south but this time with a view of the city.
Around mile 6 I joked that we were practically there…just 20 more miles to go. At that point both of us felt pretty good. We were filling ourselves with water and all the little snacks that they’d pass out at each of the rest stops. We continued south, passed the Lincoln Center and a bunch of signs for the Lincoln Tunnel. All I kept thinking about was Elf and it sort of made me wish the route took us through there just so I could say that I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel as well.
We walked through SoHo and the fashion district on our way to the Brooklyn Bridge and I could feel myself using up the last little bit of energy I had. On my training walks I would normally take a break around mile 9 so that’s when my body was expecting a break. Problem was, our main break for lunch was at the 13.1 mile half-way point on the other side of the bridge in Brooklyn.
I managed to maintain a good pace until we got to mile 12: the crossing of the Brooklyn Bridge. I was beat. And the worst part was that we weren’t alone in crossing it. It seemed like every New Yorker and tourist that could be on that bridge was on that bridge which made it impossible to keep a steady pace. The walk across the bridge was full of a lot of stops, starts and veering around photo ops. It was at this point I realized that I was not only getting Hangry (Angry because you’re hungry) I was also getting Paingry (Angry because you’re in pain). It was all I could do to keep moving forward because I knew that there was a sandwich and a seat waiting for me in Brooklyn.
I’m smiling…but there is a lot of pain in these eyes…
Finally, we followed our bright orange arrow markers to a small park filled with pink tents and porta-potties: Our halfway point and lunch break! By that point it was around 12:45pm. They gave us a huge turkey sandwich, Sun Chips, carrots, an apple, Oreos and all the water and Gatorade we could drink. After finding a couple of vacant chairs Genoa and I sat down for the first time since 6:15am and enjoyed our lunch. But, we knew that in order to make it to the end before dark we couldn’t rest for too long. After a 20-minute break we were back at it.
Thankfully, we had barely passed mile 14 when we saw the familiar faces of Lizzy and Abby! We took a few photos together with New York and the Statue of Liberty in the background from our Riverside spot in Brooklyn and then all four of us set out on the route again.
Brooklyn was beautiful and reminded me of The Pearl District in Portland. Lots of shops in brick buildings. We enjoyed chatting with Lizzy and Abby and were able to take a photo together at the mile 15 marker. Shortly after that the route led us to the Manhattan bridge we parted ways with Lizzy and Abby and set out on our own again.
While less crowded than the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhatten bridge was longer and louder with the subway trains zooming by us every few minutes. We made it back to New York City and began weaving our way through the lower east side.
I remember passing the mile 17 marker and thinking that I couldn’t wait to pass mile 18 because that was how far I had gone on the last Avon walk before having to call it a day. But for some reason we missed that marker which made the walk from mile 17 to mile 19 painfully long. It was during that stretch of the walk that I began to lose what was left of my emotional strength. It’s not that I was thinking about stopping or giving up, but I doubted that I could physically keep going and I had to fight back tears several times.
Genoa suggested that we stop and take a break – something we hadn’t been letting ourselves do up to that point other than to go potty. At the checkpoint we found out that we had passed the 18 mile marker and were actually close to mile 19. It was during that rest that I posted on Facebook, “18.75 miles walked, 7.5 miles left and it feels like it’s forever away. So tired…and yet still walking. God give me strength!” I hoped that my little cry for help would encourage the saints on Facebook to pray for me. I found out later that indeed it did! Friends and family posted on Facebook with encouragements and days later even told me that they stopped what they were doing and lifted me up in prayer. And I felt it…
After about 5 minutes we were back on the route. Not soon after that we saw the 19 mile marker and I nearly started sobbing as I pointed it out to Genoa. Just seven more miles to go.
Soon after that my energy started to return. My pace quickened and we found ourselves passing some of the other walkers as we went along. Part of me thought that it could be due to the break and the emotional encouragement of seeing mile 19, but mostly I knew that I was feeling the prayers that were being prayed for Genoa and I right then.
We continued on with our quickened pace, and I collected a few blisters along the way because of it. Up to that point I had been blister free…but not anymore!
It was around mile 22.7 that things got interesting. As we were pausing at the rest stop for a potty break we found out that if we didn’t make it to the next rest stop in 30 minutes they were going to make us take the shuttle to the end. At that point it was getting dark and some rain clouds were blowing in and the Avon folks were getting concerned for our safety.
So of course Genoa and I said, “Screw that!” The next rest stop was 1.3 miles away…we knew that if we booked it we could make it in less than 30 minutes. At that point we went started speed walking and we even jogged a little. My blisters got worse but I didn’t care. I didn’t walk 23 miles just to be forced to get on a bus and skip the last three!
We made it to the next rest stop and were able to pass the 24 mile marker knowing that we were in the home stretch and free from the dreaded shuttle. My pace slowed significantly as we walked along the East River and towards the end of our marathon.
We made it to the finish line just shortly after the sun had already set. 26.2 miles. No tears, just a sigh of relief and a quick photo as we made our way into the wellness village campsite.
First order of business: FOOD! We ate so much dinner that would were both surprised. From there we hobbled like zombies to the campsite where some boy scouts put up our bright pink tent in the dark. At that point it was about 8pm.
It had begun to drizzle and the temperature had dropped into the low 50s. Even though there was a truck with portable showers open until 9:30pm, the thought of getting wet and then dealing with the cold temps did not sound appealing to us. So, after we washed our faces and brushed our teeth (taking yet another adorable selfie) we covered ourselves in band-aids, icy hot, and as many layers as we could before snuggling up into our sleeping bags.
I’d love to say that the day ended there, but my body had a hard time relaxing and I began to shiver uncontrollably. Genoa was worried that it might turn into an anxiety attack if I didn’t calm down and she was right to be concerned. Every time I’d start to calm down and doze off a rush of adrenaline would shock me awake again. After almost 45 minutes of shivering and adrenaline rushes I hobbled outside to clear my head.
New York City from our campsite.
The lights of New York City were so bright even from our little campsite across the East River that I didn’t need a flashlight to get around. I let out a little exhausted cry of a prayer. I told the Lord that there was no way I could physically walk during day two if I felt at all like I did at that moment. I also asked the Lord to give me the peace I needed to be able to relax and fall asleep. After my little stroll and a visit to the Port-a-potty I made my way back to the tent, snuggled up in my sleeping bag yet again and felt the answer to my prayer request wash over me as I finally was able to give in to sleep.
On to Avon Walk Day Two: The Half-Marathon!