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Shoes are made for walking

Written by on May 28, 2010 at 9:59 am

As my semester ended and the rigors of graduate work slowly started to fade into memory, I knew it was time to begin training in earnest for the Challenge Walk in September. But as a new walker, I was missing something very important: shoes! I'm the kind of person who can live in the same pair of flip-flops all summer (and the same boots all winter), so the idea of investing in a good pair of athletic shoes was a little daunting. Still, I knew it had to be done, and I solicited the advice of others to find out where to shop.

In response to my message on this site's forum, Heather Hancock kindly suggested that I look around for a Marathon Sports. Luckily enough, there was one a short distance from where I live. I knew from their Web site that they had some high-end shoes and would do consultations to get a good fit, so it looked like a smart place to buy. My only worry was that with all the personal consulting, I'd be pressured into buying the most expensive shoes in the store.

Marathon SportsI went in on a quiet Friday. A salesman asked me what kind of shoes I was looking for and watched me walk across the room and back to give him an idea of what sort of fit would work for me. As he went in the back to collect a few pairs for me to try, I watched as a woman (obviously an avid runner) put on a pair of new sneakers. She took the clerk's suggestion to try them out — which she did by running out of the store and around the block. I jokingly asked if they ever had problems with people not coming back, but the clerk gestured to the woman's sandals, purse, and cell phone on the floor, telling me it usually wasn't an issue.

While we were chatting, the clerk who'd gone to fetch my shoes came back with a couple of pairs and informed me that since my feet were slightly wider than average, but not wide enough to necessitate a "wide"-fit shoe, he picked shoes he knew to have the most toe space. The first pair I tried on was just right — cushy and comfortable, but snug enough that I wouldn't have to worry about blistering. And to my surprise, he had brought me some of the lowest-priced shoes they had in stock!

And so it was that within 15 minutes I had a perfect pair of walking shoes in my possession, and I was excited to give them a test run on the way home. After a successful five-mile walk in Laconia, I think my new puppies are well broken in and ready for some serious training! And if my shoes are that enthusiastic about walking, it's hard for me not to be.

Kahmmie was a first-year walker in 2010 and had just started to get involved with the MS community, with the inspiration of her then significant other, Ken, this site's webmaster. She lived in the Boston area and attended graduate school full-time.

Prepare for rain

Written by on July 20, 2009 at 11:49 am

Such a rainy June bought me back to last year's walk. I took for granted that, for four years previous, the weather was absolutely gorgeous; I should have know that it would not last forever. On the second day of the walk in 2008, we were hit hard by the remnants of Hurricane Hannah. I could not believe how hard the rain was coming down! It was mentally the most grueling day of walking that I have ever experienced, and there was no real way to prepare myself for that.

What I was able to do, however, was make sure that I did have a nice dry pair of sneakers to wear the next day. I did not go out and spend $70 on new pair of sneakers; they were an older pair that I had used for the previous year's walk. They were a little bit worn but, man alive, was I psyched that I had those the next morning.

I recommend everybody have an extra pair of sneakers that are broken in. You never know what the New England weather will bring us, and it would be such a bummer to start your day by putting on a pair of soaking wet sneakers. While you're at it, pack a really light rain poncho — not a full slicker, because it is too hot, and you'll get sweaty. But something to keep you dry is a must-have.

I hope I didn't just jinx all the walkers by writing this! What are the chances that we'll be hit with a hurricane two years in a row?!

Caroline is getting ready to walk her fifth MS Challenge Walk. This is also the anniversary of when she was herself diagnosed with MS. Her walking team is Kranny's Cruisin' Divas. Caroline spoke at last year's last year's August Celebration and is a member of the walk's steering committee.

How DO you walk 50 miles?

Written by on July 8, 2009 at 12:41 pm

The first time I walked in the Challenge Walk was in 2003. I thought it was going to be easy, as in my head, I compared 50 miles in three days to my profession as a physical therapist. I'm on my feet all day every day: walking, lifting, climbing, walking moving, walking, turning, walking, and walking. I did attempt to train, but those efforts fell quite short. I'm almost ashamed to say, that even after five years, and 250 miles, I still need to work on my training.

Even though I'm not consistent or compliant with the training, I do strongly advocate it. As a PT, I know that it is important to train in the manner in which you will be performing, as training will help build up the tolerance of pounding the pavement in my feet and leg muscles. I've also learned that training will give me valuable information about my body, such as where my "hot spots" are on my feet, how my shoes are, how my socks are, how my MS is in with each passing mile and in a variety of conditions.  My MS, however, is unpredictable. And as you've read on other blogs, so is the weather, and the temperature. There are a few things, in addition to training though, that can make you successful with however many miles you walk.

  1. Correct-fitting, well broken-in, comfortable shoes. This is so important! DO NOT wait until a few weeks before the walk to get new shoes! New shoes + many miles = lots of blisters and discomfort. In New Hampshire, we have a store called Runner's Alley, and they are very knowledgeable about feet and shoes and will help you to find an accurate fit, as any good shoe store should. They also will educate you on considering that your feet WILL SWELL on such a long walk, and how to plan for room for swelling. Bring a back up pair of sneakers, and they also should fit well and be well broken in.
  2. Good socks. I prefer the thick, wicking socks that help to pull the moisture away from my skin. You can also buy them with added heel and arch comfort/support. Others prefer the bi-layered socks which are designed to take the friction themselves, rather than your feet . Bring at least enough for 3 pairs per day.
  3. Change your socks and shoes at least at lunch time. Some walkers don't change their footwear at all, while others change their socks even more often than once a day. This is where training comes into play as well, and knowing your body.
  4. EAT! It is so important to eat little snacks that are provided along the way to keep refueling your body. Eating things like the oranges and bananas can help prevent muscle cramps. Granola bars and carbohydrates are good as well to keep your sugar and energy up. Proteins are good for longer lasting energy. Don't skip meals in the dining hall. Listen to your body; at meal times, it will tell you what it needs. My body cries out loud for milk for whatever reason. I'm not sure if it's from my feet pounding the pavement so hard, or from Sarge giving me a swift kick in the butt multiple times throughout the day.
  5. DRINK! You have to drink! The volunteers don't tell you to drink water and gatorade to add to their already raspy and horse voices! If you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated. Drink water at the starting line, carry two water bottles with you, and for every 2-3 bottles of water you drink, drink a bottle of gatorade. Your body needs the sodium and electrolytes that are in things like Gatorade and Powerade. It can actually cause harm, such as a seizure, if your body doesn't have enough sodium. So mix it up, and DRINK! DRINK! DRINK! Regardless of the weather and the temperature, drink!
  6. Pee. Sounds funny, right? But if you're drinking enough, and you're hydrated well, you should be peeing at every rest stop to every other rest stop. And don't hold it even if the lines are long. If you're not peeing, or your pee is really dark, then you're not well hydrated. Drink more!
  7. Stretch. Whenever you stop to grab a snack, refill your water or gatorade, or pee, stretch. Your muscles can get tight or cramp from being used the same way for so long. Stretch the fronts and backs of your lower legs, the fronts and backs of your thighs, stretch your butt muscles, stretch your back, raise your arms and hands in the air so your fat sausage like fingers can drain. Stretch in the morning and stretch at night. Trust me, you'll feel better.

Along the 2007 route at a rest stop themed "Med-Rock", there was a sign that read something like "Eat. Drink. Stretch. Pee. Repeat". My oh my, how true it is. If you do these things, your journey will not only be more successful, but also more comfortable. In my opinion, by doing these things, that is how you walk 50 miles and get to the end and SIGN UP TO DO IT AGAIN!

Heather lives in Hampton, NH, and completed her first 50 miles in 2003 in honor of her great-grandmother who had MS. Ironically, she began having symptoms in 2004, and was finally diagnosed with MS in 2006. This will be her 6th walk, and her first as team captain of "All Smiles for 50 Miles". Heather recruited 7 friends to walk, and her mom to volunteer on the Crew. Heather is a pediatric physical therapist in NH.