Monday, September 21, 2009

The Queen (City) of Hearts (Disease)

This week I was faced with an ethical quandary-Is it considered stealing if you take from one philanthropic organization while supporting the efforts of a different, yet equally important, philanthropic organization?  Before you judge, I have to share the details of the day that lead me to this Robin Hood-esque situation.

This weekend I visited Charlotte, NC to attend a Friday night concert.  Saturday morning called for a 10-mile walk and with a beautiful breeze and temperatures in the low 80s, I took to the streets of the Queen City.  We were in the Uptown area of town and had ventured out on Friday evening to a local brewery/restaurant that Google maps indicated was 1 mile from the hotel.  My plan was to do the 2 mile loop from the hotel to the restaurant and back 5 times.  It was an easy walk; sidewalks the whole way, well lit, fairly flat, several small coffee shops and boutiques to window shop along the way. On the first loop toward the restaurant, I noticed that there were several side streets that were blocked off with cones and signs.  The sidewalks were still open so I continued on my way.  When I reached the road where the restaurant was located, the number of people on the street increased dramatically with every block.  There were folks traveling in packs making their way to the intersection of 4 major streets. It appeared that there was an organized walk happening! 

As I approached a major intersection, I could see that there were balloon arches, a stage area, several local radio station vans, and about a dozen booths set up in the street.  The sidewalks were filled with folks huddling with their teams, awaiting the start of this big event! My first thought was that this could be a breast cancer event!  My second thought was that there was no way this was anything close to a 60-mile event!  All of the teams were gathered drinking coffee and chatting. No one was stretching or warming up with calisthenics.  They were wearing matching t-shirts, a Breast Cancer 3-Day “Do,” but the shirts were cotton, a major Breast Cancer 3-Day “Don’t.”   The teams were equipped with gear, another BC 3-Day “Do” but rather than CamelBak water carriers, blister control equipment, and pink boas, they were hosting baby strollers, breakfast sandwiches, and dogs on leashes!  I wasn’t sure how far these folks were planning to walk, but it couldn’t be too far carrying their Starbucks cups, pushing their kiddos, and strolling along with their canine companions! 

I had to know more about this event so I continued along the sidewalk up to the stage area.  Here it became clear that this was a 3-mile walk to bring attention to and raise funds for Heart Disease!  How wonderful!  While Breast Cancer is my passion, I can appreciate a good walk for heart disease!  Congrats to the folks in the Charlotte area for their efforts. But, I must move on; I have 10 miles to complete before GameDay begins at 10am.

I completed 2 laps from the hotel to the restaurant, restaurant to the hotel, each time passing through the area where the heart walk was being hosted.  On my 3rd lap around (miles 5 & 6), I was greeted by a volunteer who offered me a Subway sandwich.  Subway was clearly the major sponsor of this event with their logo displayed on every banner, t-shirt, and merchandise booth.  I kindly declined the offer and smiled to myself realizing that these folks must think I am incredibly dramatic showing up to walk 3 miles carrying 3 liters of water in my backpack, sweat rag dangling from the strap, loaded down with spare socks, electrolyte replacement drinks, 2 iPods, and my camera.  On the return lap, a different volunteer offered me a sandwich and after my decline, followed up with an offer of Baked Lays-my favorite!!!  Again, I declined but made the mental note that these heart disease people sure were friendly, and generous, and I hoped that we have Subway sandwiches and Baked Lays at our event!

Five miles comes quite easily these days. I hardly break a sweat as I crank out the first 90 minutes of a walk.  But, by mile 6, I was ready for a snack!  I was considering my options: I had a granola bar in my backpack but had started the morning with one of those in the hotel room; the CVS on the corner may have some peanut butter crackers but I don’t think they were open until 10am; and what I really wanted was a piece of fruit!  Typically, I pack apple slices, some grapes, or an orange when I walk anything over 8 miles.  But, since I wasn’t at home, I didn’t have my usual provisions.  I decided that on the return lap I would venture off the regular route and find a coffee shop that may have fruit offerings and I would buy an apple or a banana and take a stretch break. 

I made my way through the last pass of the heart walk area and a young man who worked for a radio station held out a huge, beautiful, red apple and greeted me with “Congratulations!” assuming I had just completed the 3 mile trek. Perhaps it was the energy of the other walkers finishing their 3-mile journey.  Perhaps it was the atmosphere of people coming together for a shared cause.  Maybe I am just a dishonest cheap skape who, after turning down a full sized sandwich and chips… I don’t know what got into me!  I’ve seen Snow White!  I should have known that this might not turn out for the best but I accepted his shiny apple and responded with a “Thanks!” and continued on my way, my prize clutched tightly in my hand, traveling against the crowds of now celebrating walkers as they finished their journey and approached the Subway sponsored snack tents.  

I tucked the apple away in my backpack as I made my way back toward the hotel. Guilt was setting in fast and I knew that with the walk coming to an end, the commotion around the heart disease area would be increasing.  I could hear the radio announcer kicking off the closing ceremonies as I traveled with a quick pace away from the blocked off area of the street, the apple burning a hole through my bag and into my back. This must be what they mean by reacting to crisis situations with fight or FLIGHT! My feet hardly hit the ground as I turned my back on the scene of the crime.  I stole an apple!  I stole from the heart disease people!  Do heart disease and breast cancer people really understand and applaud each other, or is it like the Jets and the Sharks?  I imagined a posse of walkers closing in behind me chanting,  “When you are a Heart Disease walker you are a Heart Disease walker all the way!!”

What I needed now was a Plan B! I couldn’t continue on the familiar route to the restaurant and back-that would put me right back at the crime scene.  Yet, I still had at least 4 miles to complete! I knew that the hotel was approximately 1 mile from the stadium where the Panthers play and, since there was not a home game this weekend, I thought the stadium would be a safe place to knock out a few miles (and hide from any suspecting Subway investigators). I made my way to the stadium and was met by the disturbing sight of two enormous one-ton panthers!  This is not a dramatic exaggeration!  I looked it up

and the two statues, (there are 2, identical to the one pictured here) called Indomitable Spirit, are perched on top of a 10-foot tall pedestal and stand 8 feet tall and weigh in at 2,000 lbs each!   The eyes on these fellas were the most impressive part.  They were a glowing shade of green and they followed me in whatever direction I moved.  The stadium area was completely deserted except for me and I quickly decided that this was not a safe place for a fugitive to hide! 

At this point I had exhausted all of my options.  I didn’t know how many city blocks made up a mile (I have since learned that it is 8-12, depending on the city), and the only 2 stretches of road that I was familiar with lead me either back to the scene of the crime and into the packs of wild heart disease walkers, or under the watchful eye of the Panther duo.  With nowhere else to turn, I sought sanctuary at the Hilton and finished my remaining miles on the treadmill in the hotel while watching a Golden Girls marathon.  When I was done, I bid farewell to Dorothy, Blanche, Rose, and Sophia and as I made my way up the elevator and back to the room, I dined on a yummy red delicious apple (Honestly, it was the BEST apple I have ever had) while offering “Cheers” to those who are advocates for curing heart disease.

Judge me if you will, but I think that the perfect placement of that perfect apple, just as I was making my way to find a snack to fuel my own walking efforts, was more than just a coincidence!  It was magic in the Queen City!

Here’s some news for those of you who live in the Atlanta area, or know anyone who does.  This Thursday night, September 24th, the New Kids on the Walk are hosting a fundraiser at Capozzi’s in Decatur at 1355 Clairmont Road.  If you dine at Capozzi’s on Thursday, and tell them that you support the New Kids, a portion of your bill will go to support our team! Stop by and see Kim, Meredith, & Michelle and have some delicious Italian food!  Note: If you plan to attend or want to share this with a friend, send me an email so I can send you the flyer.

This week I logged 25 miles and 47,582 steps. This weekend is the big one!!  We have been dreading and looking forward to the longest training walks of the 24 weeks:  18 mile Saturday + 15 mile Sunday!  I’ll be tackling this one on my home turf in Columbia.  Wish me luck!

Happy Stepping!



  1. Jen, you are freaking hilarious! I laughed my @$$ off at this story. Keep up the good work!

  2. I should have known that thievery would appeal to you!