What We Learned In 24 Hours

There is still time to donate. Meg and I are $402 short of our goal. Please donate to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

For days before our 24-hour walk for suicide prevention I watched Meg get more and more excited about the walk. As she grew more excited I grew more nervous. What if something goes wrong? What if a ranger stops us as we get into the late hours of the walk and tells us we can’t be on the trail at night? What if one of us gets injured and cannot continue? What if we encounter a bear, a snake or even scarier a person with bad intent?

I have completed a lot of different distances over the years but it occurred to me as we were making the final preparations for this walk that it was not just the distance that scared me. It was the fact that I was organizing it. There was no race director. There was no club sponsoring our event. There were no volunteers (except of course my wonderful husband). This was all on me.

The night before we started I didn’t sleep a wink. Instead I worried. I tossed and turned and tossed some more before finally getting up and going through our supplies on more time before the sun came up.

Luckily none of my worries came to fruition. We made it through the night, we were not kicked off the trail and though we ran into four men in the middle of the night, they went out of their way to give us space and prove that they were safe. All in all it was a great experience.

As the walk came to an end, Meg and I lowered our poor abused little bodies to the packed dirt trail and waited for Blaise to bring the car our way. Our feet hurt, our legs were tired, our heads were muddled and we were shivering because we were so cold. If you had asked us in those first hours after the walk whether we would do it again, we would have told you in no uncertain terms, NO!

But, a little over a week later and we have started planning next year’s walk.

What’s the first step in planning a comeback event? That’s easy. Learning from the one you have just completed.

So, what did we learn?

1. The moon matters – We had not thought ahead of time how dark it can get in the middle of the woods in the middle of the night. We had headlamps and handheld flashlights. But we also had a new moon. That made for a very dark and daunting overnight walk. Next year we will plan the walk for a full moon.

2. Chafing can be hell – Yes, I have learned this over the years but never quite so much as on this walk. We will definitely be changing our clothes halfway through next year’s walk.

3. We are seriously dependent on constant communication – On the Allegheny Passage Trail there is very little cell service and the trail is often miles away from a road so even walkie-talkies are useless. Next year we will be more prepared for being completely alone on the walk.

4. Remember why you are out there – David Murphy offered me this advice before we started the walk and it was so true. Remembering that we were out there to raise money and awareness about the stigma surrounding depression kept us going. Throughout the day as we walked through one tunnel after the other we were reminded of how important that light at the end of the tunnel truly is. In the evening as we struggled to get through each mile we were reminded that even in the darkest part of the night, the knowledge that there will soon be light was all it took to push on. This cause matters so much to our family. There was no way we were going to quit easily.

5. Keep the Garmin going – it seemed like such a small thing. When my hands started swelling and I became too uncomfortable to wear the Garmin I took it off. There were mile markers. Why did I need more? In the end, knowledge is power and having the Garmin and all of the information it provided had acted as a cheerleader of sorts for us. Next year, we will find a way to have a continuous running of our time, pace and mileage to get us through.

6. Schedule food – This year we decided we would eat when we were hungry. We didn’t count on the fact that after 8 hours of walking neither of us was hungry at all. We needed the fuel and both felt like we suffered in the late hours of the walk from poor nutrition.

7. We will begin fundraising earlier – This year we hoped to raise $2500. We raised $2098. We are very happy to have been able to contribute to the cause in this way but next year we will start earlier and aim higher.

This walk was meant to be a once in a lifetime event for Meg and I. But after having completed it, after seeing just how much we can do while raising awareness about suicide prevention and the stigma of depression, we want it to be more. We want it to be a yearly event. Something we will look forward to each year. Eventually we want it to be a reminder of what our family went through and overcame.

We are still accepting donations, so please take a minute and donate if possible. Depression is a life threatening disease and too often it is hidden behind a stigma of weakness and failure. Let’s help put an end to that.