Whatever the weather

Written by on May 5, 2009 at 6:01 am

The MS Challenge Walk is held rain or shine. Last year, Susan learned that, no matter the weather, you can't keep these walkers — or their spirits — down.

The sky is gray, it's raining, and all is well in my world. I am in what I consider to be the perfect rain moment. My commute is over, I am warm and dry, and water is heating up for tea. At this point you may be wondering what relevance this has, if any, to the MS Challenge Walk in September. I'm glad you asked!

This September will the eighth time that I have participated in the MS Challenge Walk. Just as September evokes thoughts of the start of school for many people, the mention of September causes my mind to drift toward the Challenge Walk. I think of how fortunate I have been to have met so many wonderful walkers, crew, volunteers and National MS Society staff during these years of participating in this walk. Then I think of the weather. Yes, as important as the people are, my mind always comes back to the weather.

Do I normally fixate on the weather? No. Did I track the weather ever so carefully leading up to my wedding day? Not a chance. But for a 50-mile walk, well, that's another story. I have visited more weather predicting Web sites than you can possibly imagine in the days leading up to the Challenge Walk each year. Would the dreaded "rain" be predicted for the walk dates? Rain, which raises the specter of larger than life blisters and images of soggy walkers, crew and moods? There was very little rain to speak of during years one through six. Each year I obsessed about the weather, and each year we dodged the bullet.  It couldn't last.

Year seven found me perusing the weather web sites yet again. Was there rain in the forecast? You could say that…if you consider hurricane remnants to be in the rain category. I was feeling pretty down. I looked forward to the walk, but we would be a wet, grumpy, blister ridden group. How would people maintain good spirits while walking in the rain? How could the crew, volunteers and staff possibly cheer the walkers on in their usual energetic way during such nasty weather? Chalk year seven up to a wonderful learning opportunity for me.

One of my best memories of last year's Challenge Walk was walking into the mess hall for breakfast on day two. It was dark, rainy, windy, early, and people were heading into mile 21 of the walk. As I pushed open the door, I prepared myself for a room of quiet, grumpy people who were going to grudgingly go out into the rain for the day, but only because they had to. They didn't have to like it.

The first step into that room was like a surprise party. People were chatting just as loudly as on every other morning of the previous walks and seemed to be in a good mood. The positive energy that keeps me going for 50 miles each year was just as strong on that morning as on any other. Nasty weather or not, this group of people was on a mission. MS doesn't get to sit it out in bad weather and either did we. Yes there were blisters, yes we were wet, but it could have been in the 70s and sunny based on how people carried on.

I'll still start checking the weather 14 days before the walk this year, but not with quite the same concern as in the past. I'll have to find something else to obsess about.

Susan lives in the greater Boston area and has been involved with the National MS Society since she was diagnosed with MS in 1995. She has participated in the MS Challenge walk for the past seven years and currently serves on the event's steering committee.

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