Waking predawn to 42F on the kitchen window thermometer, I stretch, have my daily bowl of oatmeal with raisins and sunflower seeds, and think this is going to be a one helluva day. More than the weather, which is predicted to be bright and sunny this early fall Sunday, I get to walk the final six miles of the Boston Marathon course to celebrate my fundraising for the Jimmy Fund of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
Nearly five months ago, my weekly ping pong buddy, George Derby, asked me to join Team Barry as a fundraiser/walker. As a great friend to George, Barry made it a party wherever he went. I only met Barry late in his life when we played doubles ping pong together. Though with great humor he fought cancer, Barry passed on more than a year ago. We walk in his honor and to celebrate George’s life of being cancer-free.
Speaking of George, what do you think of this? George has a button he will wear today that doesn’t say he is a cancer survivor; it says I’m living proof. How cool is that! Living proof that cancer can be beaten.
As of this morning I have raised 94% of my fundraising goal of $2500 by collecting $2360 from friends and family. I am pleased that our in-laws, Paula and Bob and also Sandy, supported my walk. Classmates from a hundred years ago at the College of Wooster and Arizona State University donated to the cause. Our kids stepped up. It’s all very cool.
Today we walkers can choose to walk the full 26.2-mile marathon course, a 13.1-mile half marathon, a 10K of six miles or a 5K of three miles. Our Team Barry led by Captain George chose to walk the 10K. As such, I’ve been a slacker in my prep. I figure I can walk six miles in my sleep since I hike, play pickleball, and work out at the gym. I shall soon see if I am right.
Arriving at the Newton campus of Boston College, we five of Team Barry have stepped up and raised over $8865 as a team. Then a great morning turned even better. You see, our son-in-law Tip has brought our grandsons, Owen (4) and Max (2) for support. While our daughter Molly and my wife Hannah are at a bridal shower, the three Rawding men take part in the pre-Walk festivities supporting their Poppa.
While the other four of Team Barry head out, I stay back with Owen and Max at the festive starting line as they drink the Gatorade, nosh on a banana, and save a small bag of natural vegetable sticks for later.
First posing with my grandsons and Tip at the starting balloons, we walk as a family to the course itself on Commonwealth Avenue. With Max in a backpack, Owen skips along the stone wall to our right, which borders the Boston College campus.
In no time, we spot a sign for Owen’s Army, take pictures, and hug good-bye; they return to the starting line a mile away and I begin my 6.2 miles in earnest, hoping to catch the other four of Team Barry.
But truth be told, I am in no hurry. In shorts and my Dana Farber Pacesetter tee shirt (I am a Pacesetter because I raised over $1500), I am loving life on a blue sky early fall morning. With walkers to my front and back, I look for someone to talk with, just knowing that they will show up today; I don’t have to stress to find them. Very Zen!
Spotting three seniors who look older than the senior that I am, I soon learn they started in Wellesley, MA, where the half-marathoners began. Impressed that they have walked this day 22 times, I feel rookie proud to be in their company.
Soon we cross Commonwealth Avenue for the aid station at the 21-mile mark, meaning I have walked my first mile. Fifteen port-a-potties greet the runners, but also the Hair Cuttery spinning wheel. Always up for free stuff, I spin their dial, land on the lip balm, and then boldly ask for the sunglasses instead. Like everyone at the Jimmy Fund Walk, they are agreeable, pleasant, and accommodating and give me the classy orange sunglasses without making me beg.
Grabbing a small bag of dried vegetable sticks, I head out for Boston, five miles away. With college kids everywhere, supporting a friend or family member, they like me had to raise at least $300 to walk.
With 9400 other walkers who have raised over $8.3 million, I am always in the midst of energetic, good-hearted souls; it’s never crowded and once I come upon someone, I strike up a conversation.
I meet up with Barb (pseudonym), a nurse practitioner (pseudo-profession) and learn about her life and she about my family, where I’ve lived, and my career in education. It’s all very pleasant, she’s cool, but then there’s the awkwardness. You know…
…maybe you have been at a barbecue or cocktail party, and you just want to move on. How does one disengage gracefully with a slower walker? For me, I skip the BS of excuse making and just say, Good talking to you, nod and smile in appreciation, and motor on.
Break stops occur every mile with bananas, Gatorade, peanuts, peanut butter crackers, and bottled water; the ever present port-a-potties are to the back. Easily distractible, I still have no idea where Team Barry is, but just amble on.
Approaching Fenway Park, we walkers have agreeable Brookline officers, then smiling Boston police ushering us across the busy city streets at lunchtime on this first Sunday in fall.
Turning down Hereford Street to Boylston Street we are on the home stretch to Copley Square. No is one nudging or sprinting as one might do in a road race. As we walkers approach the colored balloons marking the end of our trek, I hear over the loud speaker at the finish line, “There’s Dan Rothermel of Team Barry. He’s come down from Maine. He is a Pacesetter and we thank him.” Immediately, I wonder, How does he even know my name? I smile at the unexpected attention. And then it hits me.
I remember at road races in York, Maine where we live that the finish line announcer has a computer that he can punch in the bib number of any participant to get all the basic info that he wants. It’s all very cool. It’s one of the many nice touches done at the Walk.
Another nice touch is the Weathervane clam chowder waiting for all walkers at Copley Square; then there are the Domino’s Pizza slices, the Au Bon Pain apple Danishes, and the Stonyfield Organic vanilla yogurt that we five of Team Barry feast on. It’s a day where each walker is treated like royalty.
Riding school busses 15 minutes back to Boston College, we all are a little mellower after three hours walking the streets of Newton, Brighton, Brookline, and Boston, Massachusetts. In the bus I post a picture on my Instagram and Facebook accounts and am already thinking about writing this blog.
Fact is, hours after coming home, I order 45 Jimmy Fund Walk pictures from Snapfish to send with my thank you card to the many folks who have donated in my name. Still pumped, I sit down before I head to bed and type out a first draft of the blog you are reading.
Reliving my day on the keyboard is just so much fun; it’s as if my face just swallowed a smile. This is a Sunday like no other.
If you haven’t and still would like to donate, click on this link to go to my fundraising page directly. The Jimmy Fund is accepting donations for the next two weeks. http://www.jimmyfundwalk.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=1145126&lis=0&kntae1145126=60CDEA50E9FB48F28CAD9BC54338B563&supid=436593997