Putting together the Challenge Walk

Written by on January 3, 2012 at 8:59 am

NMSS chapter logistics manager Drew Davis looks at the variables, considerations, and factors that go into organizing the MS Challenge Walk Cape Cod.

The Challenge Walk may seem put together by magic, but there are months of preparations and many hands involved in getting the route ready for hundreds of walkers and crew. As the chapter's logistics manager, I've considered and helped others address walker safety, lodging, start/finish venue, length of route, rest stop sites, town approval, scenery, and ability to supply walkers medical care, transportation (if necessary), and food and beverage.

Walker safety — top of the list! Whenever possible, the route must include sidewalks, paths, wide shoulders, or dedicated walk lanes to insure that walkers are as protected from vehicle traffic as much as possible. While the Cape is quite long, it is not particularly wide, hence the majority of 'safe' roads for walking run East > West, and not North > South. Therefore, our choices are limited to a route that is either north or south of route 6 (which bisects the Cape along most of its entirety) and runs parallel to it, east-to-west.

Start/finish venue — Because of the importance of the venue for setting the tone for both the beginning and the end of the weekend, it is essential that it be relatively easy to get to and from, provide adequate and affordable lodging for Thursday night (more below), be aesthetically pleasing, and have adequate parking for both walkers and all of the vehicles from the Society that go into supporting the weekend (safety, medical, SAG, rest stop, and luggage trucks).

Lodging (pre-start and overnights) — With the early start on Friday morning, suitably comfortable hotels for Thursday night that are in close proximity to the start are essential. At the same time, we make a big effort to keep the lodging costs affordable. Taken together with the location of the start/finish and the route location itself, that limits us to the larger towns on Cape Cod. There are many more options available in Hyannis than there are, say, in Harwichport.

Route length / overnight lodging — Because the route is 50 miles over 3 days, the route must be some type of 'out and back.' Additionally, because we use the Cape Cod Rail Trail for so much of the overall route, we are assured of a safe, scenic, transportation friendly walk for more than 25 of the 50 miles.

Budgetary costs make a central overnight location the most cost effective, and the choice of somewhere that is capable of housing 500+ people on consecutive days while also providing access to all of the above, is quite limiting. Were we to stay in a different site each night, the costs associated with transportation and renting two locations capable of providing housing, meals, etc for all the walkers, staff, and volunteers would significantly increase the budget for the Walk. That would in turn reduce the amount of funds raised that could then be expended on MS research and programs.

Scenery — This is key, but it also has to co-exist with walker safety, rest stop, and transportation needs. There are many scenic areas on the Cape, but linking them all together while addressing the other three needs is what keeps us on our current route. To change one aspect is to affect all the others.

Town Approval —The towns from whom we currently secure permits are all enthusiastic to work with us each year, as they know the route, the routine of each day, where the safety issues are, etc.

It may be tempting to try a new route each year, or even to change parts of the existing one ? but when you add all of the above together, from a cost-benefit analysis, the current plan provides the best return on investment for both walkers and staff — and, most significant, it maximizes the fundraising dollars going to the cause.

Drew is the Logistics Manager for the Greater New England Chapter of the National MS Society. His role behind the scenes helps MS Challenge Walk Cape Cod run smoothly.

1 Comments so far ↓

  1. Donn Hockman says:

    Drew – I am sure I speak for my fellow walkers when I comment that we sincerely appreciate all that is done for us. We realize how much planning and effort goes into organizing this event.
    As a 9 year walker – thank you!