avon breast cancer walk: part one

I have a ton of stories, photos and tidbits to share about my weekend in Chicago participating in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, so I’m going to split my recap up into two different posts. Even so, this is going to be a long one.  But if you want the Cliff’s Notes version, here you go: I finished all 39.3 miles. And yes, it hurt. And yes, I am so proud.

Now, let’s back all the way up to Friday, because really, that’s where the story starts. My parents drove to my house, picked me up, then we headed to Indianapolis to get my oldest sister. We then made the three-hour drive up to our hotel in Chicago. As soon as we got settled, our first charge was to head over to the host hotel (next door) and check out the Event Eve party for the walkers.

We were hoping for some free swag, but there was nothing. Nada. Zilch. We thought for the entry fee we paid and the amount of money we raised, we’d at least get something from a sponsoring company, but no luck. It was a bummer, but a positive at the same time because it means that more of our money went to a good cause.

Reebok (a corporate sponsor of the event) did hook us up with a 15% off coupon to use at their store at Event Eve, which I used to get this sweet shirt.

Once we realized that Event Eve was a bust, we headed out in search of dinner. After some recommendations from locals, we decided to hit up a Mexican restaurant a few blocks down from our hotel. I usually don’t have any stomach issues with Mexican food, so we thought it’d be a fine place to get our pre-walk meal. While we waited for our table, we ordered a round of delicious margaritas. I only got about 2/3 through mine because it was strong! But delicious!

We had a big pile of guacamole for an appetizer and I had a combo platter for my entrée. The portions were so huge, none of us finished our food! I got about halfway through this before I had to call it quits.

Once we finished dinner, we headed back to the hotel, met up with my other sister (she flew in from Louisville) and decided to get to bed early. Our wake up call was for 4:00 a.m. Unfortunately, there was no sleeping in my future. Despite previously positive experiences with Mexican food, my stomach was not happy with my dinner. I ended up finally falling asleep around 2:00 a.m. and even then, I woke up every 15 minutes until the alarm went off. I was not a happy camper. I have never been that tired in my life, and I had to go walk a marathon. No big deal.

We hit the shuttle to the start and I tried my best to not toss my cookies on the 30 minute bus trip down to Soldier Field.

Thankfully, once we got to the opening ceremonies, they were serving big, honkin’ bread-y bagels. It helped a ton to get something in my belly.

All throughout the Museum Campus (where opening ceremonies were being held) they had these amazing sandwich boards with little facts about the walk. It was really fun to read how our fundraising is changing lives.

After enjoying our bagels, we headed over the stage for Opening Ceremonies. There was some stretching, a whole lot of tears during the survivor stories, and we also got to find out just how much money we made collectively:

$6.2 MILLION! Which was revised to $6.3 million by the end of the walk to include donations while we were out on the course. SO amazing! So much good work will be done with that money.

After lots of cheers and tears…we were off!

The first mile was crazy congested (it took us almost 30 minutes to get through it) but it all spaced out after that. Our first 5-6 miles were through the Museum Campus and all along the lakeshore. It was an absolutely stupendously beautiful day to be out there. I’m not a fan of big cities, but Chicago is one of my favorite places in the country. So gorgeous.

The rest areas along the route were absolutely fantastic. There was a stop about every 2-3 miles along the route. They alternated between quick stops (just porta-potties, water and sports drink) and full-on rest stops where they had lots of snacks and medical tents. The volunteers did a great job of reminding people that they need to take both water and sports drinks and to eat some salty snacks if they were swelling. I particularly liked the sunflower seeds and graham cracker peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

There was even a racing themed rest area (which they called “The Tit Stop”). It made me happy.

After we got off the Lakeshore, I had absolutely no idea where we were and just stuck to following the signs. I do know we were in different parts of the Loop and Lincoln Park at least three or four times. We were all over the place. At some point in here, we saw my parents for the first time! They did an awesome job of driving around and finding us at quite a few stops along the route!

Around mile 10, we stopped at a small park and had lunch. They gave us turkey sandwiches, carrots, chips, and apples. I took the opportunity to take off my shoes and socks and air out my feet a bit.

Once we were back on the route, we headed down to the Riverwalk, which I absolutely love. So much pretty.

And soon enough, we were at the halfway point for the day!

A lot of folks chose to do a half marathon on the first day, so there were big, comfy air-conditioned shuttle buses waiting to pick up those that were headed back to the hotel. The desire to step onto one was strong, but we powered through. And as a reward, got ribbons painted on our face!

Around this point, things were starting to hurt. The bottom of my feet were pretty much numb. My hips and pelvis didn’t seem to want to function anymore. And my fingers were so swollen that my normally loose wedding ring felt like it was going to cut through my finger. I figured it was time for some pharmaceutical intervention. I popped two ibuprofen.

Soon after, we saw my parents again (which is always nice for a little burst of energy). And then we headed up to Wrigleyville, which was super cool. It was so much fun to walk through all the neighborhoods I’ve heard so much about. It was definitely an interesting way to see the city.

I started to get really, really hungry and tired around mile 19, so at the rest stop, I made sure to get some sugar into my blood stream with some delicious oranges. We’d been eating pretty regularly through the whole walk, but it’s amazing how much you burn just walking. I was also just flat out exhausted by now. I was really craving a comfy bed. Two hours of crappy sleep was not nearly enough.

By the time mile 20 came around, we just all wanted to be done. We decided to stop pausing at the rest areas for fear we wouldn’t be able to start up again. We were even stiffening up just waiting for the light to change at crosswalks! We saw my parents again at mile 21, but only did a drive by “Hello!” because there was no way we could stop and chat. My sisters did have to take a break at mile 22 and re-apply Body Glide and check on their blisters before we continued on.

Miles 22-25 were through a really nice part of town (oh, I wish I knew what it was called) with amazingly cute shops and houses. Everyone came out to support us! All the stores had balloons and signs and displays thanking us and cheering us on. One shop even had a Wish Tree out front. They gave each of us a strip of fabric for us to tie on the tree and make a wish as we passed by. It was awesome. Except for all of our fingers were so swollen that it was almost impossible to tie the fabric.

By the time we hit the marker for mile 25, I was starting to get a big, painful blister on the ball of my left foot. I was afraid if I stopped to put moleskin on it, I might never get moving again. So we just kept powering through. Until we got stopped by a train, that is.

Let’s just say that none of the walkers were too happy to be stopped by not one, but two trains at 25.5 miles in. The woman in this picture may have uttered some un-lady-like exclamations. Thankfully the El is fast and we were only stopped for a few minutes, but man, it was painful to start walking again.

We finally started to see the park where the day’s finish line was and then the 26 mile marker! A lot of folks were taking photos of each mile marker, but I just really wanted one—26. I’m not sure I’ll ever complete another marathon, but here is proof that I did one! Please ignore the strained smiles. We tried to look happy about it.

We then rounded the corner into the park and headed straight for the finish line!

My parents were there and we made sure to take a second to get a picture with them! We were done. Woohoo!

Many of the participants were spending the night camping in the Wellness Village (right behind the finish line), but because my parents we were with us, we all decided to stay in a hotel together. I am so happy we made that choice. While I’m sure there is a nice atmosphere at the camp, I couldn’t have handled another night of not-so-great sleep. I needed to get back to the hotel. Stat!

We maneuvered our sore bodies into the backseat of the car and headed back. I checked in on the stats for the day.

Apparently we were speed demons, because were one of the first groups finished and managed to finish it in a little under nine and a half hours (that includes lunch, stops, etc.). That’s a long ass time on your feet.

I think this post is long enough, tomorrow I’ll be back with the second half of the walk!

What’d you do this weekend?



  1. says

    This is so awesome. Even though I’m sure you’ll be feeling the painful/sore effects for days (weeks?) to come, the accomplishment you’ll feel will stick with you forever.

    So proud of you, Cass! You’re my hero. 😀

  2. Lola says

    Loved reading part 1! You and your sisters (and all the other walkers) really did something amazing for so many women. Thanks for sharing all the photos of your experience. Looks like the weather was beautiful!

  3. says

    You’re a trooper for going through with the full 26 on that little sleep and with stomach issues! Congratulations on persevering.

    I love your outfits, too. Cute hats.

  4. Amanda Elliott says

    Congrats Cassie!!! That is a huge accomplishment!

    Back in February when you announced you`ll be doing the walk I had left a comment telling you my mother was just diagnosed the week before. Well I just wanted to give you an update that my mom is doing very good! In May she had a quick surgery to take the lump out and she is currently on her second week of 8 weeks of radiation. If everything goes well, she will just be on medication for the next five years. I saw her on Saturday and she is doing fantastic!

  5. says

    Wow, I’m so proud of you!!! This is such an incredible accomplishment. While I was standing on my feet for 6 hours yesterday working I literally thought of how hard you must’ve been working walking all those miles. Amazing!!

  6. says

    I followed your updates all weekend via twitter. I am so proud of you, I knew you could do it! I love all of the pictures, it makes me feel like I am right there with you. I totally understand about the stopping. On my first 3Day, once we got about 2/3 done with a day we only stopped long enough to refill water because we were scared if we sat we wouldn’t be able to get back up and going as well. I can’t wait to hear all about day 2!

    P.S. Did you lug around a camera through the whole thing or take pics on a camera phone?

    • Cassie says

      Camera phone! And my Dad had his big camera with him to take shots when they met us along the route. :)

  7. Julie says

    This is so exciting and inspiring! I hope to do this one day… Congratulations, and well done 😀

  8. says

    What an amazing feat – as we say over here in Hebrew “kol hakavod!!!”. You should be so, so proud of yourself. Walking a charity marathon has now been added to my ‘life list’ and I really hope I can accomplish it with as much enthusiasm and gusto as you! Well done!

  9. Julie says

    Hi I’m late to the party but the neighborhood with the shops and pretty houses where the train runs on street level is called Lincoln Square/Ravenswood Manor. It’s my old ‘hood :)

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