A wise man once said, "There isn't a whole lot of fun in medicine, but there is a lot of medicine in fun." During the Atlanta 3-Day For the Cure event, fun was definitely one of the primary drugs of choice on par with Biofreeze and Skin-on-Skin.
The walkers themselves made their best effort to infuse as much fun into a challenging 60-mile walk, as blisters, strained muscles and sore feet would allow. Many of the teams had truly fantastic and wacky costumes, and one couldn't help but smile just by looking at them.
Then there were the crew. Blessed be the crew people for we could not have survived this thing without them. They too wore costumes, they cracked jokes, they gave out hugs and kisses, they danced, they sang, they picked people up off the sidewalk, they rode up and down the route on their bicycles and their motorcycles in pink bras, tutus and angel wings, they served our meals, they picked up our trash. They gave up their weekend and volunteered their hands and their hearts to keep us going.
I didn't realize that there was a waiting list of people who wanted to offer up their vans as sweep vans - the vehicles that not only served as cheering wagons with their fabulous decorations, but also performed a very practical purpose of delivering the injured walkers to the nearest pit stop and into the hands of the medical team. But apparently it is a very popular way to volunteer. If you think a sweep van driver's job is easy, think again. They have to know the neighborhoods, through which the route goes, know where they can turn around, how to pick people up safely, how to get to the pit stops as quickly as possible. We were in Atlanta - the city known for its insane traffic. As far as I'm concerned, those van drivers are heroes.
There were designated cheering stations set up all around the city, plus there were tons of improvised ones, where people just showed up with posters, snacks and water. Many brought their kids and dogs. I swear I must have hugged at least one dog per each mile I walked and high-fived at least one kid. Many local businesses put tables next to the route with coffee, tea, water, cookies, food bars, fruit, bread and tons of other stuff.
When we passed by restaurants people sitting outside having their lunch stood up and applauded. When we passed by police and fire stations, the men on duty at the time lined up and saluted. Random drivers beeped, waived and cheered from their cars as they drove by.
One of my favorite series of cheering stations was set up by a group of teenagers - boys and girls. Up front were two kids with huge posters "Save second base!" and "Save boobs, kahunas, gozongas, melons, cones, tatas..." Sure this gave them an opportunity to talk about boobs endlessly in preparation for, during and after the event. And they probably enjoyed getting hugs and kisses from many women, fetchingly boosted up by their sport tops and bras. But who cares? We loved them anyway.
Of course, the sheer fun wasn't always enough. Sometimes, medicine was required along with it. The medical crew members were volunteers too: real doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and podiatrists who finished their work week and went right back to work along the 3-Day trail. I don't think I ever received better or more timely medical care with my health insurance.
I came to particularly appreciate the medical team during Day 3, when my only walking companion for the day was agonizing pain in my left foot. I went not from pit stop to pit stop but rather from one medical tent to the next. They iced me, cleaned me up, braced me, re-braced me, gave me pain killers and sent me on my way. During the last stop, to which I was brought by a medical van after nearly collapsing at one of the intersections, they recommended that I take the van to the Turner field where the closing ceremony was to be. I told them I would think about it. They knew I wanted to walk the last bit. So, they just did their job and let me make the decision.
If you ever do an event like this, please remember the value of fun and moral support. Joke with strangers, smile, make funny faces.
When I was adopted by the group of women during Day 2 who helped me hobble through, I repaid them the only way I knew how: I kept them in stitches as much as possible, feeding the my own brand of random geeky humor and covering mile after mile. I may have been a bit slow, but I hope I wasn't a burden.
If you are one of the fitter walkers and have energy, join the dancing crew during the lunch break. There was one group of younger people, including one guy, who joined the Zumba dancers, and boy did we love them for it! The young man who participated became so popular that during the next day's dancing session, people bodily dragged him out and asked him to shake it up again. This kind of stuff is priceless.