Walking doesn’t usually require special clothing or supplies, but it’s a different story when you’re covering 60 miles in three days.
Alice Bartels wears two pairs of socks and stuffs her fanny pack with a rain poncho, extra socks, sunscreen, tissues, bandages, moleskin, sunscreen, lip balm and water bottles.
“Your shoes need to be a little bigger than normal because after you walk that long, your feet swell, and you don’t want to lose toenails or get blisters,” she said. “Shoes are probably the most important thing.”
Alice, 58, of Hamel, is a breast-cancer survivor and leader of a team of four metro-east women who will travel to San Diego, Calif., this weekend for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, a walk that raises money for research, education, screenings and treatment.
Organizers expect more than 2,000 people to walk, another 400 to volunteer as crew members and thousands more to line the route showing support. Walkers will cover 20 miles a day and sleep in campsites with pink tents and portable shower houses.
It’s fun. You don’t have to worry about cooking or laundry or cleaning house. All you have to do is get up in the morning and start walking.
Debbie Wiemers on walking three days
“It’s fun,” said Alice’s neighbor, Debbie Wiemers, 57, a retired telephone company employee who joined the team three years ago. “You don’t have to worry about cooking or laundry or cleaning house. All you have to do is get up in the morning and start walking.”
Debbie lost her sister-in-law to breast cancer 10 years ago, and one of her former co-workers is a breast-cancer survivor.
The metro-east team, Every Mile a Mammary, has raised nearly $200,000 for Komen and other cancer charities by participating in seven 3-Days all over the country since 2008.
Chicago and Tampa, Fla., were flat, San Francisco was hilly and Boston had one monster hill so steep that walkers could ride a shuttle around it. But the women found Seattle most challenging.
“You know you’re in trouble when you look up a big hill and you see an ambulance at the top,” said Joan Bussen, 65, a Smithton homemaker with two grown children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Joan joined the team last year. She always had loved to walk and wanted to do something for the cancer cause.
Joan teared up seeing thousands of walkers gathered for the Seattle 3-Day, knowing many had survived cancer or watched family members and friends die of cancer.
“I was doing the walk for my mother (Opal Marshall), who had lung cancer,” she said. “She and my grandmother (Hazel Petty) both died of lung cancer, so it was very emotional for me.”
This year will be the first 3-Day for Lynn Grotefendt, 63, a grandmother of 11 who helps run a farm in rural Edwardsville. Her son is married to Alice’s daughter.
For years, Lynn has helped make gift baskets and quilts for team fundraisers. Komen sets donation minimums for 3-Days. This year, each walker pays $2,300.
I never considered walking until Alice asked me to do it this spring, and I said, ‘No way can I walk 20 miles a day.’ I was on the fence for a long time. But I am just so impressed with what she has done, so I’m going to try it, just to support her and see if I can do it.
Lynn Grotefendt on her first Komen walk
“I never considered walking until Alice asked me to do it this spring,” Lynn said. “And I said, ‘No way can I walk 20 miles a day.’ I was on the fence for a long time. But I am just so impressed with what she has done, so I’m going to try it, just to support her and see if I can do it.
“I’m not a long-distance walker, so to do this 60-mile stretch in three days, I don’t know how my body’s going to react.”
Alice is an IT analyst for a coal company. She underwent a double mastectomy in 2005 after a mammogram revealed cancer in both breasts.
Alice formed Every Mile a Mammary in 2008 and walked in her first 3-Day in San Diego. Teams have ranged from three to 18 members. They distribute funds through the non-profit organization, Stridin’ and Survivin’.
“We pay for our own trip expenses,” Alice said. “None of it comes from fundraising, and I’m pretty adamant about that because I think if people are donating to the cause, that money should go to the cause.”
This year, the team got a boost from Jack Schmitt Ford-Lincoln in Collinsville, which donated $100 for each car sold in May, totaling $10,300.
$2,300 Donated by each walker
2,000 People (or more) expected to walk
Alice is excited about San Diego, where the community is particularly supportive. People line the 3-Day route, cheering with pom-poms, handing out snacks, playing music and honking horns.
“You see older men who are so passionate out there,” Alice said. “And you can just tell that they’ve lost their wives to breast cancer.”
Komen volunteers add to the merriment by dressing in crazy costumes. Crew members haul luggage, so walkers need only carry fanny packs or backpacks. They can get water, snacks or first aid and use portable toilets at pit stops.
San Diego’s route goes through residential and commercial neighborhoods and along the beach. Debbie considers the scenery a big perk.
“We got to see a lot in Chicago, and Seattle was beautiful,” she said. “The walk started at the Space Needle and ended at the Space Needle. I’ve never been to San Diego, so it will be something different.”
Many walkers use a Komen training app to prepare for 3-Days, covering longer distances each week. Alice, Debbie, Joan and Lynn have spent many hours at parks, in fitness centers and on neighborhood streets lately.
Each 3-Day includes moving opening and closing ceremonies. Large campsite tents house vendors, caterers, masseuses and memorials to walkers who have died of breast cancer.
The metro-east team has lost one member, Jen Ashauer, 40, of Hamel, to breast cancer. The mother of 10-year-old triplets was diagnosed with a recurrence shortly after signing up for the Chicago 3-Day.
“We carried (signs with her photo) throughout the walk,” Alice said. “We laminated her picture so if it rained, it wouldn’t mess it up.”