. . . but it was a good night, too. I think I made some new friends, which is always a good thing, and we all did a good thing, which is great.
Foote Field was drenched in rain when we arrived at 3:30 p.m. We unloaded the vehicle, and while I went to park Kyle and Heather got the tents set up. Did I say that I love you two? That was awesome! Ashley, Saranya and I hung around inside waiting to register and drop off our fundraising envelopes. Because we were there so early, this went quickly — about the only thing that did, for a while.
When we joined up with Kyle and Heather and got our living arrangements all sorted out we went to find a cup of coffee or tea to help warm us up, only to find that there was none. This could have made us grumpy, but seeing that the thousand other folks out there on the track with us were in the same predicament, it somehow didn’t seem appropriate to whine too much. So. . .
. . . we went and grabbed a granola bar and a juice from Sturgeon’s hospitality tent and went and set up our Scrabble game. The ‘real’ walking hadn’t started yet, so we figured — what the hey? — at least we were out of the rain (which hadn’t yet turned to snow) and having some fun. We never did finish our game — got too cold and too hungry and had to go searching for something warm.
Though this event didn’t turn out exactly as I had imagined (or, anywhere near what I had imagined, for that matter) it was a wonderful experience, nonetheless. Unbelievable the amount of people who came out in such lousy weather to support such a worthy cause. At no time during the 12 hours we were there on the track, or in the Saville Center, did we hear even one person complaining. The survivor’s parade at the beginning, which kicked the whole night off, was moving and sad and wonderful. All those people in their bright yellow survivor’s t-shirts, walking past us smiling, waving and saying thank you with their eyes — it was inspiring. I only hope I have that sense of grace should anything terrible ever befall me.
After that, we got down to the walking. That’s when it started to snow. Big fluffy snowflakes, being driven by a sharp breeze right into our faces. We just laughed, shrugged our shoulders and marched on. And while we marched, others ran. There were a few people there that I’m sure ran their entire shifts. More than once. In all honesty I have to admit that our team did not walk the entire 12 hours in shifts, but, because we chose to stick together as a group during the walking we figured, in the end, that our collective time had to equal the 12 hours.
It simply was impossible to stay out in the cold and the wet non-stop. Despite the laughs and the jokes and the chatter, eventually we just got so cold we had to go in to pee and get a cup of something warm. (The Starbucks people eventually showed up around 8 o’clock — thank God and insulated plastic coffee urns!) Heather, who NEVER drinks coffee, had two, with cream and sugar. All three of those things can give her deadly migraines, but, seriously, that’s how cold she was. Not to mention hungry. Because. . .
. . . for some reason we couldn’t fathom, there was no food for us walkers until after 8 o’clock, either. Now, that did make us a bit cranky. By the time we’d finished our first shift on the track we were starving, so the pasta, buns, salad and squares they fed us seemed like manna from heaven. In truth it was over-cooked, too salty and just not that good, at all. But, hey, it was better than eating cheese popcorn, Almond Joy bits, KitKat nuggets and gummy bears. (My stomach starts heaving all over again, just thinking about that appetizing combination.) Truly, though, these things were delicious at the time, the five of us sharing them and laughing as we crammed crap down our gullets.
In between stints of walking we’d clamber inside our tent and wrap up in blankets to keep warm and just sit and talk. Or, we’d head inside to use the can, and see what was going on inside. We played bingo, ate more crappy food, drank much too much coffee and laughed a great deal.
I’ve got to send a holler out to Saranya’s parents and her boyfriend Collin and their friend, Lucky. Twice they came to Foote bearing coffee or hot chocolate, and donuts. So nice of them to go out of their way for us. We truly appreciated it. And, Collin and Lucky got to join us for Bingo. Let me just say that Kyle is a mad bingo player! That boy was playing 16 cards! By the end he was frothing at the mouth and hyper-ventilating. And still, he didn’t win a blessed thing!
Then it was back out onto the track, the snow had slowed to a light misty, slushy-type drizzle that coated our glasses and soaked through our hats and hoodies. It was around mid-night by this time, and the temperature had dropped considerably. Our feet, knees, hips and backs were sore. I was beginning to feel like that character from Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman’s story, The Long Walk. The track was dark, and bodies were just shuffling en-mass around it in the wet and the cold, knowing there was a purpose in putting one foot solidly in front of the other, but unsure anymore about continuing to do so. But then, you’d catch a snippet of hushed conversation from a group nearby and you’d remember. Or, one of the signs placed as memorials would catch the corner of your eye and you’d think, this I can do, for those who can’t. And so, on you’d go, round and round.
And then it was 2 o’clock and we decided to try to get some sleep. Kyle and Heather managed to drift off. Ashley, Saranya and I talked and talked and talked. Finally around 3 we quieted down. I drifted off but awoke 1/2 hour later as Saranya was slipping out of the tent. “Can’t sleep,” she mouthed, and went out to continue walking. I drifted off, fitfully, but around quarter past 4 decided enough was enough. I was too uncomfortable trying to sleep comfortably in a folding chair, I was freezing and I thought I might as well get out there and put in another hour. So, I did.
At 5:30 I spied Heather leaving the tent, it took me nearly half way around the track to catch up with her, but when I did, I told her that my hour was up and I needed to pee and get coffee. Off we went into the warmth of the center. There the smell of eggs and sausage greeted us. I had told myself I wasn’t going to eat anything more, but the cold does funny things to your appetite. So, we both chowed down and I drank more coffee, even knowing that I’d be unable to sleep when I finally got home. (I managed a couple of unsettled hours, but finally had to give up. Hence, I’m sitting here blogging.) Ashley, Kyle and Saranya came in about an hour later and we decided that was it. The snow had started again, the wind had picked up and so it was time for us to do the same.
Team Sturgeon wanted to do a last victory lap, but as Ashley said: “The fact that we’re still here, this IS our victory lap.”
So, quietly, we packed up and knocked down. Kyle went and brought my vehicle up, we hailed a golf cart to haul some of our stuff and then we dragged the rest of it across the sodden field to the parking lot. We threw it in as best as we could, said some hurried good-byes and that was the end of our 16 hour marathon called the Relay for Life.
Thanks, everybody, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. We did good.