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My Perspective: One step in front of the other… for 60 miles

Walking is a great way to get outdoors and get some exercise. For my wife, Karna, walking has also been for something bigger this summer.

Karna joined about 750 walkers in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk. The walk is designed to raise awareness and raise money for breast cancer research. This year’s walk was held Aug. 22-24  in the Twin Cities. It is one of several Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walks taking place across the country. Thousands of people raise millions of dollars for breast cancer research. In Minnesota alone, they raised over $2 million over the weekend.

Karna didn’t walk for any one person specifically. But like everyone, she has been touched by cancer. She lost one aunt to cancer about 30 years ago and nearly lost another aunt last year. She has had friends with cancer. Some beat it, and some have succumbed to it.

Over the last four months, she trained for this walk. A few miles to start, and gradually adding more miles as the event got closer. She followed a suggested training regimen that ramped up the length of her walks. Karna walked with five other women from the Belgrade/Brooten area. They had certain goals during their training. They wanted to build endurance and build callouses on their feet.

I just returned home from the closing ceremonies of the 3-Day Walk and it was quite an emotional scene.  Participants walk an amazing 60 miles in a three-day span, with an average of 20 miles each day (18.7 miles on day one, 22.6 miles on day two and 17.8 miles on day three). Day two was the hardest, because of its length, and day three was no picnic as temperatures reach 90 degrees and many walkers were suffering from blisters and foot problems. Some finished the race with blisters on just about every part of their foot.

The walking route took them through Minneapolis and St. Paul. At the end of each day, the participants slept in little pink tents, two to each tent.

Along the route, there were different viewing and cheering spots where visitors could find their loved ones and support them on their journey to 60 miles. As my boys and I waited for Karna and her walking partner (Josie Dingmann) to reach this point, we cheer on the other participants. Many of them were walking for someone who had been taken by cancer, or was currently fighting the disease. Some had photos of their loved ones on a sign or on a T-shirt. For others, you could almost figure out their story by looking into their eyes. You could see the pain, the determination and the hope.

There were some stories that stood out from the rest. Karna said there was one man who, after completing this walk, was only 20 miles away from reaching in the 2,000 mile mark in Susan G. Komen events.

One man walked the entire 60 miles in full firefighter gear. Quite a feat, and one that took quite a toll on his body. After finishing the walk, he was carted away to the medical area.

In addition to walking, Karna and her friends have been raising money for breast cancer research. Just to walk in the Susan G. Komen event, each participant needed to raise at least $2,300. No money, no walk. Raising this kind of money is no easy task. Karna asked every one of her family and friends for a donation, and then she and her friends got creative, setting up fundraising events that appealed to different groups of people. By midsummer, she and her friends had all reached their goal. Between the six of them, they had raised more than $15,000 for cancer research.

I am extremely proud of the six women, and especially proud of Karna, for taking on this extreme challenge, for raising so much money for a good cause and for finishing the walk. This was a perfect teaching experience for our kids. I told them that “mom is showing you right now that if you set your mind to it, you can do just about anything.” You could see the gears in their brains moving as this statement sunk in. They were very proud of their mom, that’s for sure.

This isn’t a walk for everyone. Some would not be able to do the walk. Some would not be able to do the fundraising part. But if you like to walk and you like to make a difference, this may be something that might be for you. If you like to walk but 60 miles is not possible, there are other walks every year that help generate funds for a cause as well as bring attention to the cause. Two of the biggest are the Memory Walks (for Alzheimer’s research) and the Relay for Life walks (for cancer research). The Relay for Life walks are generally held the first part of the summer and the Memory Walks typically take place in the fall. There are Memory Walks scheduled in Mankato (Sept. 13), Minneapolis (Sept. 27), Owatonna (Oct. 4), Red Wing (Sept. 20), Rochester (Sept. 6), Willmar (Oct. 4), Winona (Sept. 27) and St. Cloud (Sept. 27). There is also a walk for prostate cancer research coming to St. Cloud in September.

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