By Randy Pierce
On May 31, I had walked roughly 54 miles in 22 effectively consecutive hours (less meals and bathrooms) with the final stretch including a bit of running needed to keep to an arrival time at our Applebees fundraiser. My feet and ankles had begun to swell significantly from the cellulitis infection I didn’t know existed. I had been awake for 36 hours and knew I’d repeat much of it the next day. In short, I was not at my enthusiastic and inspirational best.
I was, however, standing beside the “hardcore four” who had been with me every step of the way and would repeat it with me. They were pretty inspirational but similarly drained, until the throng of 50 folks at Applebee’s congratulated us with a mighty cheer! The people, their kindness, and encouragement continued throughout the evening. I was inspired, perhaps most of all by a little metal pin that said “Believe” in English on one side and Braille on the other, though my hands were too swollen to feel and read the letters. It was in my hand when I went to sleep for a few hours that night.
During the morning of June 1, I gave a few presentations, and by 1:00 p.m. I was back on the road. Somewhere around mile 80, I started dedicating each mile in my mind to a person who was part of this tribute to 100 years of service by the New Hampshire Association for the Blind. Whether it was Mary Chase the NHAB walk coordinator and incredibly kind and caring friend who coordinated my send-off and arrival; fellow client Dick Clark and his wife Linda who arrived at the send-off with some inspirational words; Glenn Gunn who taught me mobility skills with a blind cane; Karen who gave me the “Believe” pin in my pocket; Sarah and Robbie coordinating the team and growing it while I was walking; Bob Werner for donating the chase car; Tracy for jogging with me; Deb for the top Facebook support; Jennifer for the most Facebook posts; Robert for walking through his birthday; Chris for pushing all his limits beside me; Tracy for her half marathon beside me; Quinn and more people than there were miles…
On June 2, it was cold and rainy at 6 a.m. as I trotted the final miles of our quest. A few blisters had split badly and another 20 hours of consecutive miles had drained me incredibly, despite the many miles I spent in gratitude. The swelling in my feet and ankles had turned ugly colors and crept up my shins. The rain turned driving and my feet no longer even fit into shoes so I crammed them into crocks and hobbled with my wife into the lot at NHAB.
Hundreds of people were there laughing, shouting, and ignoring anything the weather was throwing at us. They cheered, they congratulated, and they absolutely buoyed my spirits. I stepped up to the microphone after some very kind words by George and I thanked those “fabulous, well-meaning lunatics” (to borrow a quote from the Silly Wizards). I told them how proud I was of them all for being there and how moved I was by their presence and by their support of an organization who, in giving 100 years of service, had far surpassed my 100-mile tribute. I told them sadly that the miles had been hard and that I couldn’t now walk the 3K with them but that I’d stay and support them through it… and …that I was sorry.
As I walked over to my team, a team of incredibly more than our 100-person goal, I could not believe the claps on the back, the words of encouragement, the laughs, the hugs, and the numbers, the incredible numbers there to support me and NHAB in this driving rain. I was asked to help get them started. As I led the way to the start, the adrenalin and inspiration of so many amazing people flowed into me. Ten steps and I walked a little easier, 20 steps and I thought about maybe I could walk a bit with them, 30 steps and I asked Tracy before I turned and told them all I couldn’t help myself, I was going to walk it with them… and I did.
I talked with many of them but not nearly enough as we strolled the final miles of my long journey. Yes, my legs hurt, yes, I was exhausted, but most of all–yes, I was inspired. I was so full of pride at such wonderful and inspiring people giving me the strength and courage to take a few more steps and celebrate all that experience brought to us all.
I do a lot of things to help support the so many worthwhile causes that I believe deserve my best efforts. I hear heartwarmingly often that my efforts matter and are appreciated. I hope to express as clearly as possible how very many people inspired me on the 100-mile journey and most especially on the final steps. Most of the names in my mile dedication appeared during those final moments and they were surrounded by oh so many more. I had a lot of time to reflect on the folks at the walk and along the way to and from it actual and metaphorical.
When people need inspiration the most they may reach deep into their reserves of help and hope. Thank you to all of you who are part of those deep reserves of help and hope from which get so very much inspiration. Please remember you are my inspiration and I am very, very grateful! – and please “Believe.” I sure do!