Between Weeks 2 and 3, Walking with Purpose

As the end of week 2 in my “Couch to 5k” training neared, my sister Ann, called to tell me she’d be picking me up at 8am on Saturday morning.

“Why?” I asked, my voice loaded with hesitation. I already had a rather long to-do list for the weekend scrawled out on the back of a junk mail envelope.

“The Heart Association Walk…?

Then I remembered.

Ann’s niece had sent all of us an email about a month ago. She wanted to form a team of walkers – aptly named, “Hawk’s Walkers”, paying tribute to my brother-in-law, nicknamed “Hawk” who had passed away suddenly in June of a cardiac arrest. Afterwards, we’d all be converging at my sister’s house for a family BBQ.

Saturday was supposed to be a non-workout day, but I figured a 3-mile walk would be harmless. And, rumor had it, there’d be free coffee. A win-win.

That morning, it was very chilly and threatened rain. As I watched my older boys dress for cross-country practice, I made a note of what they were wearing – shorts, covered by sweats on the bottom, t-shirts, covered by hoodies on top. Each donned a hat and my oldest even pulled out a pair of knit gloves, but then thought better of it after stepping outside for a moment.

I stood in front of my closet, debating – jeans or work-out stuff?

I called Ann to see what she was wearing. Her reply was cryptic: capris and a top.

I pulled out a pair of warm up pants, a long-sleeved thermal shirt, a sweatshirt and my wind-breaker with a hood – just in case the rain didn’t hold off.

By the time we were half-way to the race, I had pulled off the sweatshirt and tossed it into the back seat of my sister’s car. The sun was beginning to break through the clouds and the temperature was starting to rise.

Once at the location, we parked the car and made our way to the designated meeting place – a plaza between several high-rise office buildings in a nearby town. The air was pulsing with excitement. Of course, the fact that the DJ had the bass turned up on his sound system helped.

The crowd couldn’t have been more diverse – all ages and body types were represented. Heart attack survivors wore bright red caps and made their way between the numerous baby strollers and dogs on leashes.

Once our entire group had assembled, we made our way over to the Tribute tent to fill out big stickers on which we listed the names of those whose memory we were, well, paying tribute to. I let Ann go before me. My eyes started to well up as I saw her bending over the table, marker in hand.

Who would’ve thought, five short months ago, that we’d be here, doing this. Telling myself to suck it up, I took the marker a volunteer handed me and wrote, “For my brother-in-law, Don”.

We then silently slapped them on each other’s backs and made our way to the start line.

Passing underneath a bevy of balloons, my sis and I darted out. While most everyone else strolled and chatted, we charged through the crowd with purpose. Mine was to get my heart rate up. Ann said hers was to beat the rest of our team to the finish line so we could make it back to her house before they did. That way, she figured, she could make sure everything was ready for the cookout. Knowing she always kept her place neat as a pin, I wondered if it was because she didn’t want to dwell on the reason we were there.

Following her lead, I did my best to keep up with her. Taller than me, her stride left me winded. Unable to converse without running out of breath, I focused on the sights around us.

Along the way, I spotted a little girl dressed in a sparkly pink tutu, a man dressed in a cow suit, a couple with a toddler clinging to their fingers as she tip-toed between them and hundreds of others enjoying the day, raising money for a most-excellent cause.

Somewhere along the way, though, we both lost our stickers. It could’ve been when we marveled at the golf cart that zoomed past us with a big red heart sitting on the back of it, waving at all of us walkers like a queen does to her subjects.

As we were just about to zip under the finish line, Ann’s brother-in-law called to us to stop so he could take our picture. A twenty second pause, tops. We finished the walk at just over 40 minutes.

Hawk would’ve been proud.

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