The Great Walk…

The Accidental Athlete – Ken Diewert

1000 people registered for the 23rd Annual “Great Walk”, North America’s toughest walkathon. There are 1000 different reasons, 1000 different stories.

This is the story of entrant # 224.

March 10, 2000 – In the Beginning…

I have just finished reading Jon Krakauers “Into Thin Air”, the chronicling of the ill-fated 1996 commercial expedition to Mount Everest where 9 climbers were killed. I am inspired to do something extreme. I am afraid of heights so Everest is out.

On March 21st, 2000 I’ll be 37. My doctor tells me I need to lose 15 pounds. I’m on cholesterol lowering medication and have borderline high blood pressure. I have a family history of heart disease and had re-constructive knee surgery on my right leg in 1994.

It’s March 10; I have just registered for the 23rd Annual – Great Walk. It is advertised as “North Americas Toughest Walkathon”. The course is 63.5 kilometers (40 miles) along a logging road between the two small towns of Gold River and Tahsis on the rugged west- coast of Vancouver Island, BC. It is scheduled to start at 4:00AM June 3, 2000.

March-ing On

I now begin training in earnest. I have a 10 km (6mile) loop that has a steep ascent and a moderately steep descent (they say the hills are the killers). These walks take two hours each. I’m having a hard time finding the time. My thighs chafe. I try different underwear. Someone tells me to use Vaseline. I try using massage oil… It helps.

My body begins to feel relatively good after my 10k walk. I am trying to manage three walks each week. I’m hoping to get up early one of these Saturdays and double the walk to 4 hours.

I find out that a female friend and her walking group are also registered for the walk. They have already made multiple 30km (20 mile) treks. How do they find the time?

Another friend tells me his brother is coming over from the mainland to “compete” in the walk. He runs 10km in 40 minutes and has qualified for the Boston Marathon... And he’s a mailman!

April 13 – All Pain …

Feeling pain in sole of left foot. I think I hurt it playing golf. I thought that golf could be considered training. Will have to rest it a couple of days. Only 6 weeks to go.

April 27 – …No Gain

A couple of days of rest turn into a couple of weeks. The pain is diagnosed as “plantar fascitis”, a tearing of the miniature tendons of the foot. I am wearing a heel lift to avoid re-injury. I will have to step up the training but still is hard to find the required time.

May 5 – Why didn’t I think of this sooner?

I joined the gym. I have accelerated my training by using the treadmill and stair master.

May 29– Ouch!

I accidentally kick a chair with the outside of my baby toe and am left with a bleeding scrape. The next day on the treadmill my walking shoe rubs the scrape. I decide to not exercise for the rest of the week.

My wife Kathi and a co-worker now get involved and pester friends and neighbors for pledges. Together they have raised $500 for the British Columbia Children’s Hospital Foundation where my son Zachary spent the first 3 weeks of his life in the Special Care Nursery. Fortunately most people pledge a fixed amount and not a per kilometer rate.

May 31- A fear of chafing

An irrational fear of chafing between the thighs has me obsessed with finding a cure. I buy a pair of high tech underwear for $30. I would have bought 2 pair but I’m already over budget. I have already bought many lotions and potions to try. I seek last minute advice from every possible source.

June 2, 2000 – Day of Departure

4:00 pm

Before I leave I check out the web site again and print out an elevation profile, something that I had deliberately not looked at since that first night of planning. Panic rises, as I look at the course… not the elevation so much as the distance. I had planned to make at least one long walk of at least 4 hours during my training but the furthest I have actually walked is about 14km. That’s to checkpoint 2 of 12!

My wife (the realist) tells me that making it halfway would be a great accomplishment. I scoff. Death before dishonor

The walk starts in 12 hours.

As I leave the house, I set my trip odometer; I want to really see how far 63.5 km is. Until now, 63.5 km has just been a number. The drive to Gold River is about 4 ½ hours from my house. I expect the odometer to read around 60 km at the north end of the city of Nanaimo. Disbelief strikes me as my pre-determined point turns out to be a mere 45km from my house.

I arrive in Campbell River at 6:30pm, the last chance for supplies. I realize just in time that I have forgotten my toothbrush. I know now that the weather is expected to be hot. At least 20 degrees Celsius so I buy a lighter hat a white T-shirt and two more pairs of underwear (my phobia persists).

I am afraid to leave Campbell River; I know that there are no sources for anything significant from here on. When you leave Campbell River cell phones cease to work and even radio signals fade to nothing.

I realize too late, that I forgot a pillow and an extra blanket (I’m sleeping in the car).

Gold River – 9:00PM

I stop at the entrance to town where I see people lined up at a kiosk that serves as the registration point. As I stand in line I compare footwear and calf muscles with others. I befriend two girls in line beside me who walked last year and I solicit their advice. “Don’t stop to rest… you won’t get back up” and “raise your hands often because your fingers swell up like sausages when your arms hang for that long”. Someone else had told me to rest often. I overhear someone talking about ibuprofen and it’s benefits for the walk. I ask what the ibuprofen is for?… “The pain” .

I did manage to find some extra strength Tylenol at the gas station.

Many of the walkers have support vehicles that are allowed on the road to position themselves ahead of the walkers where they can wait with provisions. Because I am alone, I must carry everything I need (and think I could need) with me.

I now look for a place to sleep. I hear that the “quarry” is as close as you can get to the start line but may already be full. I don’t want to walk a single step further than I need to.

I find a place on the side of the road within 300 meters or so of the start and try to sleep. I toss and turn to the sound of an annoying frog until about midnight, when sleep pays brief visit. I set the alarm on my cell phone for 3:15AM. I don’t want to sleep in.

June 3 – 0200

I awaken to the crunching of tires on gravel, car doors and voices. People begin arriving. I am paying the price for my close proximity to the start line.


My anxieties about sleeping in are alleviated as the start line generator fires up and the giant flood- lights shine in my windows. I slowly get up and prepare for the walk.

I meet up with a neighbor, Michael, who was also making the walk. He is traveling very light. When I tell him I am bringing spare shoes, he scoffs and manages to talk me out of it. “They’ll just drag you down,” he tells me.

We work our way to the start line. He is wearing two T-shirts. I elect to wear a fleece pullover with no T- shirt under it even though I know I will have to either carry or discard the pullover when then sun comes up.

As the count down begins I am agonizing over my decision to not bring extra shoes to relieve my feet of pressure points. My neighbor, though 15 years my senior is a much stronger and determined walker. We work our way through to the front third of the crowd of nearly 1000 walkers. I spy in the darkness a spare pair of shoes dangling from a backpack. I panic, I want to go back to the car and get my other shoes, just as the countdown from 10 seconds begins. I let my fear of footwear wash away as the countdown hits zero and I go with the flow. Michael bolts ahead of me. I will not see him again until after he has finished the walk.

100 metres in, I am surprised to see another friend, Marlene. I wish her a good morning we exchange a mobile hug and she asks how my training is going. I tell her I’m opting for ‘on the job training’. She is with a group of five ladies who regularly walk together. They pull away from me. I wish them well. I will not see them again until after they have finished.

The first several kilometers in a steady incline the mass of humanity stretches the width of the road and extends for at least a kilometer behind me. At the crest of a hill, many others and I glance back through the ghostly light and witness the procession. Someone likens the procession to soldiers marching into battle…  I think of lemmings.

As we climb, talk diminishes. Gravel crunches. I feel strong though it seems every one is passing me. I track several people who match my pace. I feel better. I know the only chance I have of finishing is by maintaining a slow and steady pace.

Somewhere nearby, the irritating clanging of a bear bell annoys me. We are a tightly grouped band of nearly 1000 marchers, what bear would dare… The clanging continues. As the sky lightens, I see a lady with the despised bell on her shoe. Unfortunately our pace is similar.

People begin to peel off the formation into the trees at roadside to pee. After hydrating heavily before leaving I too seek relief in the woods. I can’t help but feel lucky as I see ladies having to work harder and walk further than men to find relief.

As I merge back into the formation, I am glad to learn the bear bell is no longer audible.

I don’t wear a watch and I forgot my elevation map so I am not really sure where checkpoint #1 is. I should have known that it was 7.8km from the start. In my early morning confusion, I had neglected to eat anything and had left my fruit and trail mix in the car. My water bottle was now empty and I know I will need nourishment soon. Someone told me in my home- town that the checkpoints were well provisioned; I hope that they’re right.

Just when I need it, checkpoint #1 appears. Much to my relief, my home- town source was right. I re-hydrate, fill my water bottle and selectively eat orange slices and several cookies. I squirrel away a cheese sandwich for later.

Between the start and checkpoint #2 at 13km, there is an elevation gain of 400 meters (or about 1200 feet).

Just after I clear checkpoint #2, I feel a twinge in the ball of my left foot. A twinge just like my sock has a wrinkle in it. I immediately fall out of formation, pull of my shoe and see a perfectly smooth sock running the length of my foot. Panic flashes. I pull off my sock and find a tender spot. I don’t believe that my foot could be blistering so early. I had faith that my high tech shoes and socks alone would be enough to repel blisters. I was reluctant to try cornstarch or Vaseline on my feet for the first time today.

I know that this is the price of no road- work. Damn! I find my paint on blister treatment, wait for it to dry and replace my sock.

The elevation gain continues to kilometer 17, where the walks high point is 500 meters or about 1500 feet above the starting point.

At checkpoint #3, 18.1 kilometers from the start, a volunteer tells us that there is only 45 kilometers to the finish. It is at checkpoint 3 that I learn of moleskin, a soft bandage that is used to prevent and protect blisters. Though I had a package of high tech blister bandages in my pack, I opt to try the moleskin. I also add cornstarch to the inside of my sock. I continue on.

I meet Sandra and Shona for the first time. They kindly retrieved my dropped water bottle. They are from the Sunshine Coast of BC. They tell me they must finish because their local paper printed a feature article on them.

The road now drops rapidly and we descend 300 meters (900 feet) in the 4.8km between checkpoints 3 and 4. I have begun putting weight on the outside of my left foot to protect my worsening blister. At checkpoint 4, I find the moleskin bandage has rolled up and is not even working to protect the blister. I finally put my high tech blister bandage in place of the moleskin. I feel immediately better but I know that damage has already been done.

I push to checkpoint 5, a slightly ascending stage of five kilometers. The outside of my foot is now hurting as I fight to protect the blistered ball of my left foot. My right foot feels great but I begin to realize that my blistered left foot will prevent me from finishing.

My walkman provides a needed distraction, books on tape. I am listening to Dale Brown’s “The Tin Man”, a crime drama novel that I picked from a limited selection at the library. I am saving Deepak Chopra’s “How to know God” for emergencies.

The sun is now over the mountains and I am now clearly in the tenth percentile, the back of the pack. As the ‘Tin Man’ fights drug dealing bikers and foreign terrorists, I long to borrow his thruster boots that propel him 50 feet forward at a time. I grow disappointed. The knowledge that the blisters will not let me finish frustrates me. I actually feel great from the ankles up.

At checkpoint # 5, (28 km from the start), I redress the blister on my left foot and place a high tech blister pad on the ball of my right foot where a similar blister was considering it’s genesis. I pour corn- starch in my socks. I wasn’t going to go down without a struggle. Small black flies swarm and bite me. The lady who sits next to me seems to be immune. We have met up at the last three checkpoints.

I realize just how good the high tech blister bandages are as my right foot is immediately comforted. I berate myself heavily for not using one on my left foot as a first treatment option. I did not forgive myself for that mistake for the rest of the day. Frustration and anger replace disappointment. I tell some who will listen that although I am noticeably limping, “From the ankles up, I feel great”.

The pack has now thinned to the point where I am alone for the first time. In my line of sight I see no one ahead or behind. I use the opportunity to pee without having to walk far off the road. I see a sign “Tahsis – 34km”. I take a picture. I struggle into checkpoint #6. The pain is not from the blister but from the outside edge of my foot where I put my weight to favor the ball of my foot.

The ‘Tin Man’ has defeated the bad guys and has saved the city of Sacramento.

Checkpoint #6

Located just past the halfway point between the start and finish, checkpoint #6 is more elaborate than any others. There is an almost festive atmosphere here where many people had previously decided to end their walk. Checkpoint #6 is where a special foot shaped punch is put into your numbered ID tag. When you make it to checkpoint #6, you have earned a commemorative T- shirt.

Here the warm volunteers serve soup, sandwiches and drinks. I decline food; the days heat is now intense. I lay in the grass beside a bench with my feet elevated on its seat and seek shade under the large awnings. I am told it is 12:15 PM; I have been walking for over eight hours to get half way.

I lay for 20 minutes under the shade of the awning. Four girls sit at the table that my feet are leaning against. I listen to their conversation. One finished walking earlier and has offered to transport the non-essential gear for the rest of them to Tahsis. The three remaining girls will now share only one pack. They leave ahead of me. They look pretty strong.

I am still agonizing over when to stop. I was surprised to feel more tightness in my thighs when I elevated my feet. I’m not feeling ‘as good as I thought I was’. I don’t bother to take my shoes off to check my feet. I now have resigned myself entirely to the certainty that I will not finish. Why should I risk serious harm to my body when there is nothing further to be gained? I have my T-shirt.

A girl from my home- town named Kim has walked this event 3 times and made it only as far as checkpoint #6 each time. She is small and slightly built. I am 6 feet tall and at the start weighed 230 pounds. One of the few constant and reliable things in a largely unpredictable world is stubborn male pride.

I drink a lot of water, eat, refill my bottle and find a straight dead branch to use as walking stick and push the 4.2 km to checkpoint #7.

I expect my feet to feel somewhat refreshed after being elevated for 20 minutes. My left foot feels more swollen than before. As I leave checkpoint #6 alone I am limping badly, leaning on the stick. Two people sitting in a red van cheer for me as I leave and pass them. 300 meters later they drive alongside and ask if I need help…  I decline… They continue on.

Ahead of me I see a lone walker, surprisingly I am slowly gaining on him. I soon catch him and slow my pace slightly to match his. He is a tall elderly man, wearing a full-sleeved shirt and pants with a heavy hat. Beneath his thick classes he wears darkly shaded plastic lenses to protect him from the sun. He has a long walking stick and uses both hands on it. If his hip doesn’t get any worse, he says, he should be able to finish. I don’t believe him. He tells me he is writing a non-fictional adventure book and I tell him I plan to write an article about this walk. After 10 minutes together, he pauses to rest… I limp on.

At checkpoint #7, I again meet two slower but strong walking ladies who I had seen at several stops earlier. The older lady smiles, congratulates me and tells me I should make it. “No I won’t, but thank-you,” I say with absolute certainty. The 3 girls from the bench are preparing to leave as I arrive. One of them finds candies and Girl Guide cookies. I investigate and devour several cookies. I look back down the road see the tall elderly man hobbling into the checkpoint. He asks how I’m feeling. “At this exact moment, I feel really good.” I tell him. He tells me he is feeling pretty strong too.

I pocket several candies and decide to push for checkpoint #8. I am buoyed by the liberation that comes with giving myself permission to now stop when the pain becomes intolerable. The pain on the outer edge of my foot has me redistributing the weight back over the blister. The 10km between checkpoints 6 and 8 is really quite level but I would be gone without the walking stick.

I meet up with Sandra and Shona whom I first met near checkpoint 3. Sandra is limping badly. Her left knee is slowing her progress. Their husband’s who are driving support vehicles now stop every kilometer or so. I carry on when they make their next stop. I now listen to Deepak Chopra. It’s time to get to know god.

Checkpoint #8

I’m still alive. At checkpoint #8 there is a foot massage station. Four volunteer reflexologists are massaging the walker’s feet. The three city girls I met at checkpoint #6 are waiting their turn. I don’t want to wait because I know that to stop is to stiffen. The walk between checkpoints 6 and 7 was the absolute worst I had felt. In contrast, the walk from 7 to 8 is the best I have felt in 4 hours. But I haven’t checked my feet since checkpoint #5, over 4 hours ago.

My left foot is so sore that I worry that I may be doing it some serious damage. I assume that my bandages are no longer in position. I sit and wait my turn.

As I wait I remove my socks in preparation for the massage. I am relieved to see that my high tech bandages have held. They’re very good. I wish I’d known how good they were at checkpoint #3.

One of the three city girls, Tanya, I think, a close cropped blonde with a nose ring sits at the chair in front of me. She has a bad open blister on her left heel. There is no moleskin at this checkpoint. One of the reflexologists says she’ll bring some next year. I am very disappointed to hear this. I had hoped for a change of bandages. I have one high tech blister bandage left and consider offering it to Tanya… I don’t… The reflexologist puts a regular band-aid on her open blister.

Sandra and Shona walk past checkpoint 8 as I wait for my turn.

I overhear that we are actually 19.5km from the finish. For the first time since checkpoint 3, I briefly consider the possibility of completing the walk.

When my turn comes, the massage exposes some blisters forming on the toes of each of my feet. I consider switching to a pair of dry cotton socks but opt to remain with the anti-blister socks that I’d been wearing since checkpoint #5. A young boy, whom I met earlier walking with his mother, is surprised to see me still walking. I am surprised to see him still walking.

When I get up to go, I feel worse. My left foot is very tender, and the soles of my feet feel ready to explode. I continue on; the next checkpoint is a more distant 6km away. When I get there, I will be 50.3km from the start. From there I can quit with dignity.

I try to protect the blisters by walking on the smoothest, flattest part of the road that is the crowned portion in the center. Gravel roads in this area of high rainfall are graded with a high crown that slopes away to the sides. When a support vehicle drives past, walkers are forced to the side of the road. I wince every time my left shoe lands on a rock in the ball of my foot.

The 6km stage to checkpoint 9 is a gradual relentless climb of 250 meters (750 feet). Had I known that this stage was like this, I would not have even attempted it. Ignorance is bliss. At each corner, I expect relief in the elevation. There is none. I bow my head, stare straight down and ‘get to know God’.

I have long been a fan of Deepak Chopra.

Just when I need it the most, his monologue describes the ability of marathon runners to block out pain and climb the “Wall” and similar acts of mind over matter.

I am surprised to see for the first time a dust cloud coming down the hill toward me. A train of half a dozen vehicles is coming toward me. I prepare for dust and grit that will follow their passing. I remember that after 4:00 the vehicles are allowed southbound from Tahsis to Gold River. That means I’ve been walking for over 12 hours. I’m angry at the cars, I have to move from the smooth center of the road to the torturous side.

I am surprised and overwhelmed when each of the vehicles that passes claps and cheers for me. I nearly start to cry.

I catch up to Gary, from Madison, Wisconsin on the hill. He came all the way here just for this walk. I slow slightly to match his stride. He is a strong looking walker in his late 50’s. He tells me he is weak today because he walked 20km yesterday to ‘limber up’. I can’t believe it, but do. He is an avid walker who completed the walk last year and regularly travels to walking events in Europe. I explain to him that my longest walk before today was about 10 miles.

The conversation provides a needed distraction from the pain. My fingers look like sausage links. I’m glad I took my wedding ring off earlier.

We walk together to checkpoint #9. My feet are burning. I am now 50km from the start. It is 5:00PM. Although I know I can quit now with pride, I decide to continue. Though the foot massage didn’t help me physically, it at least convinced me that whatever injuries I was sustaining would likely heal in time.

A checkpoint volunteer told me that the last 3km of the walk were flat and level. Subconsciously, I subtracted that from the remaining distance and thought of the 10km that I needed to walk to that point. I know that the remaining 13km will take at least 3 hours to walk at the pace I am setting. I find another walking stick. I am now using two.

I now envision finishing.

Just after leaving the checkpoint we pass a teenage boy staggering sideways. I saw him at the foot massage booth. I slowed to tell him that it was OK to stop now; there was nothing to be ashamed of. He told me he was going to finish; he didn’t want to come back next year. I told him to try a walking stick and left him without stopping.

I knew how he felt. I now had grown stubborn; I did not want to come back next year to finish.

We walk beside an inlet or a lake; a gentle breeze keeps us cool. The terrain is level and the road fairly smooth.

Gary stops to rest at checkpoint #10. I refuel and press on. Checkpoint 11 is only 2.3km away and is slightly downhill. I am now 8.6km from the finish. I feel strangely energized. Vehicles continue to offer encouragement. I wave and thank them.

I recognize Sandra’s husband’s truck up ahead. Her friend Shona is beside it. I know before I get there that Sandra is finished. That last time I saw her, she was struggling badly. As I pass, I can see she is crying, Her husband and Shona are consoling her. I want to say something comforting… but I just walk past.

The tenth percentile, the back of the pack, is a group of people whose only goal is to push as far as they can to the finish. There is no concern for time or style or form. We have a mutual understanding of the pain we feel and our tolerance of it. We are people that are out of league on a walk like this. We should be in the local community 10km fun run. Not here… We walk together when our pace matches, and are forced to abandon each other when our pace changes. We meet again at checkpoints and commiserate.

At checkpoint 11, I don’t stop. I have lots of water and I know it’s a short 2.7km sharp descent to checkpoint 12. I pass the three city girls stopped at the rest stop and wave. I feel fresher than I have for several hours. I pass 2 groups of two walkers that I’ve never seen before. I even give away 2 walking sticks to people who are struggling. It is a real struggle though to leave the road to find replacements… I decide not to give any more away.

Vehicles continue to provide encouragement. I fight back tears.

As I near checkpoint 12, I see my neighbor Michael and his wife Claire returning to Gold River. I last saw him 15 hours before at the start line. He offers encouragement and waves goodbye.

I elect to pass checkpoint 12 without stopping again. I am now 3.6km from the finish.

My pace slows as the descent levels off… I am spent… I now realize that I cannot stop to rest. If I stop I will not be able to start… I am alone… There is virtually no traffic either way now. I turn the first bend and look at the long straight stretch of road in front of me. I lower my head and stare at the ground in front of me.

My feet are numb. The last several kilometers were downhill so I could walk on my heels… I was now pressing my full body weight right down on the blisters on the balls of my feet. I remember the story told to me by a veteran walker of a poor soul that he saw who had blood leaking from his shoes. At the time I didn’t understand how someone could be that crazy. As I look down at my feet…, I wait for the blood to start leaking.

I hear the sound of music in the distance. Though I know I can’t be that close, I am convinced that it is coming from town. Where else could it be coming from? Disappointment and anger rises as the dust cloud coming towards me reveals a beat up station wagon with loud speakers on the roof advertising a pancake house.

I settle back to my hobbling. I have very little left.

Two boys on bikes are cycling toward me. “You’re going to make it… there’s only half an hour to go!”

Half an hour! It can’t be possible. I must be closer than that… I hobble on… I find a lollipop in my pocket and try to squeeze out a few more drops of fuel. It’s a Lifesaver brand, how ironic.

When I read “Into Thin Air”, I could not understand the obsessive compulsion of one of the ill-fated clients who, the year before, was forced to turn back 300 feet from the summit of Everest. He had worked two jobs to pay for the return trip. What is the shame in stopping 300 feet from the peak? How many people make it that far? I never understood his obsession… until now.

I remember telling someone that it wouldn’t bother me if I had to stop with just a few kilometers to go. Now here I am… If I stop now I know I will be forced to return next year to finish… And I know I will be obsessed by it.

I guess you really do have to walk a mile (or 40) in another person’s shoes before you begin to understand what they go through.

I round one more bend and see the Tahsis sawmill in the distance… I fight back tears… I am still struggling but I am buoyed. I know now that I will finish. The last 2km I had walked were by far the hardest all day. I had discounted the last 4 level kilometers as being a sort of victory lap. It is not. The finish line is still deceptively distant.

The sun has dropped behind the mountains surrounding Tahsis.

As I enter town, the place looks deserted. After all the encouragement I had received from walkers leaving town on the road, there are few people left now to welcome me to town.

One girl waits at the entrance of town. I recognize her as being the friend of the three city girls. Shortly past her, a man and his wife sit outside their RV and he bangs the side of his beer can with a spoon to welcome me. I thank them. A sign tells me there is 500 meters to the finish.

I had heard that a fire truck follows you for the last steps to the finish. I guess they had parked it for the night. I don’t see any pile of burning boots either. It doesn’t matter. I am limping, not swaggering towards the finish line but I am proud of myself. I am accomplishing something that I had considered virtually impossible for me to do. The few people who remain give me a very warm welcome. The people who had left town early gave me the encouragement I needed when I needed it the most, starting between checkpoint 8 and 9.

I cross the line and check in for the final time. My elapsed time from start to finish is 16 hours and 26 minutes.

I want to wait for my comrades at the finish line but am forced to the first aid room fighting nausea and alternately, chills and fever. The incredible volunteer first aid staff – treat my blistered feet and I rest and try to regain my equilibrium.

Instead of chatting and celebrating on the bus ride back, I silently fight nausea, discomfort and pain on the 90- minute bus ride back to Gold River.


1000 people registered for the event, 921 people started the walk, 744 people finished including the three city girls, Gary from Wisconsin and Shona from the Sunshine Coast. My walking colleague between Checkpoints 6 and 7 is the last walker to cross the line. He is 70 years old. My blistered feet took nearly a month to fully heal. My left ankle was tender for at least that long.

I was the 728th person to cross the finish line. It is the single greatest physical and psychological achievement of my life… (so far).