One mid-July evening last year, I spent an hour or so touring a contemporary art museum with a young man. He asked me if I’d like to have dinner afterwards. I agreed, and we walked along the waterfront to the North End, Boston’s Little Italy. He mentioned that every spring he liked to participate in the Walk for Hunger, a 20-mile walk through Boston and surrounding communities, to raise money for state hunger relief programs.
I had no idea then that I ‘d be walking in the 2013 Walk for Hunger with the same young man and that we’d do a lot more walking and talking together in the interim months. (Awwwwwwwwww.)
We had our work cut out for us on Walk Day. Not only was D planning to walk all 20 miles, but he also had to go to choir rehearsal and Evensong service that same afternoon. We got to the Common to turn in our registration forms around 6:30 AM, and crossed the starting line at 7:01 AM, holding hands and admiring the blooming dogwood and cherry trees.
A few weeks ago, on the evening of the Boston Marathon, my brother had texted me, as I sat glued to the television news, “What’s going to happen with your walk?”
It would go on. A lot of walkers wore Boston Strong-related shirts; some wore Marathon windbreakers. Many thanked the police officers stationed along the route as they passed.
Even though I poked fun at the volunteers’ somewhat excessive enthusiasm (I’m an able-bodied person–you don’t need to cheer me that much for having walked just one mile, guys), the feel-good attitude in the air was contagious. D had stuffed a good handful of salt water taffy in his backpack, and handed me pieces from time to time. “This one matches your shirt,” he said, handing me a piece of blue raspberry taffy. Orange matched my sunglasses, and lime went with my new Walk for Hunger button.
The minor body aches started somewhere between mile 5 and mile 10, but walking was still easy. We took a break at the snack stop at mile 11.5, to eat free cheese (and turkey for D) sandwiches, mini blueberry-muffins, barbecue-flavored pita chips, and multigrain cereal bars. We were making such good time–it wasn’t even 11 AM yet, that the complimentary cartons of apple juice were still frozen.
Lunch gave us more energy. While the chorus of “Good job”s and “You can do it”s from the walk volunteers seemed more warranted, it was still awkward to walk past all these clapping and cheering strangers. (GOOB does not like attention. GOOB has serious doubts about whether she can even stomach being the center of attention at her wedding, should she con someone into wanting to marry her one day.) D and I had pretty much given up holding hands at this point; having free hands to propel ourselves forward became more important. Eye on the (nonexistent) prize. It would be harder to start up again if we stopped.
Around mile 18, a band started playing “Another One Bites the Dust.” Maybe not the most motivational song?
Near mile 19, a volunteer came walking in the opposite direction, with a bag of sliced bread on his head, saying that there was free bread and ice cream waiting at the finish line. Keep going.
(Side note: You don’t need to twist my arm to get me to accept ice cream, especially when it’s free, but a free loaf of bread? This is a walk to raise money for food programs–I can afford to buy my own loaf of bread. Give it to someone else who can’t.)
At 1:25 PM, we returned to the Common, and crossed the finish. The cheering volunteers were now all behind us. We were… done? We were done. We were done! We got our free ice cream bars, sat on a hill, and ate. We didn’t want to talk; we just wanted to be still and quiet. We eventually got on the T again, and D made it to his rehearsal in time.
Since I’ve never done a 20-mile walk before, I didn’t know how I’d feel the day afterwards. I vaguely remember being stiff and sore the day after I did the 10-mile March of Dimes in high school. But the morning after the Walk for Hunger, I didn’t feel all that terrible. Sure, there was soreness, especially when I picked up my pace to catch a just-about-to-depart T, but nothing too painful. This body is in better shape at twenty-seven that it was at fourteen? Awesome.
During the walk, I noticed how a lot of the veterans walkers, like D, wore all the previous Walk for Hunger buttons they’d received during past walks. I like walking. I like doing good deeds. But you know what? I’m also competitive. I want to start my own button collection.