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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.

Don't count blisters

Written by on May 15, 2009 at 1:11 pm

When recently asked about my experience as a four-year Challenge Walk veteran, the word "counting" popped into my head.

"So," you might ask, "what do walkers count?" Walkers count miles, of course — those we've trained and each and every one between one and fifty. We count the distance to the next rest stop, and we keep an accounting of our fundraising money.

Sadly, also to be counted, are blisters. Over the past four years, I have seen some pretty scary blisters — blisters whose size and quantity become legendary through bunk bed whispering and campfire tales. However, those blisters have been on others' feet, not mine. What lies between my skin and sneaker is what has helped keep my count low.

Here's what works for me:

  1. Lubricate. Friction is not your friend. Products such as BodyGlide work. Most drug and sporting good stores sell it and it's often for sale at the Challenge Walk kick off party. I use Vaseline. It's cheap and I find I get better coverage than using a stick application product. The downside is it's messy.
  2. The right (and left) socks. Walkers' feet need to stay dry, and 100% cotton socks don't do the job. I wear a moisture wicking liner under a cushioned sock such as Thorlos. Do some price comparisons online at sites such as Sports Unlimited or NexTag. Target and other retailers are a resource as well. Best deals are generally packages of multiple pairs.
  3. Be fresh. Each day at the lunch stop, reapply the lubricant and change into fresh socks. The one time I skipped doing this resulted in two of my four blisters.

Taking the time to prepare your feet helps to prevent blisters and that's something you can count on.

Joan joined the MS Challenge Walk in 2004 when her friend and now Blister Buddies team captain, Patty Thorpe registered to walk. Patty, diagnosed with MS over 10 years ago, shared her diagnosis with Joan early on in their friendship. The undertaking of that first Challenge Walk and the three that followed not only strengthened Patty's and Joan's friendship, it began an MS educational journey that continues well after mile fifty each year.