Cancer walk takes Jennifer Martin to the nation’s capitol

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 12, 2002

Features Editor

Jennifer Martin had seven blisters on her feet and Stephanie Hardy had shin-splints. They never knew hurting could feel so good.

The two friends had just completed a 60-mile trek to benefit cancer research and the good feelings they got from doing something so worthwhile soothed any aches and pains they had.

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Jennifer, special projects director for the City of Troy, and her best friend from middle school had vacation time to their credit and they wanted to spend it together.

But, they didn’t want to spend their time basking in the sun or storming the mall. They wanted to do something that would make a difference.

"We had heard about Avon’s Breast Cancer 3-Days and we decided there wasn’t a better way to spend our vacations than joining the fight against cancer," Jennifer said. "The 3-Days event is a 60-mile walk to raise money for research and raise awareness about cancer. It’s organized by a company called Pallotta and they have nine walks all across the United States."

The friends chose the 3-Days from Baltimore to Washington D.C. because it would be an interesting walk and because Stephanie lives in New York and could easily fly down and Jennifer could easily fly up.

Both girls did some serious training for the walk and some not-so serious training, but when they arrived in Baltimore May 2, they were confident they could make the walk.

"We got there a day early and were ready to start walking on May 3," Jennifer said. "There were 4,500 participants in the walk and Stephanie and I outwalked almost everybody the first day. We were among the first 100 to get to tent city."

Pallotta had set up 2,000 tents for the walkers who came in all sizes and shapes and all ages and from all walks of life.

Some were experienced walkers; some weren’t.

"It was amazing to see all of the people who were walking to find a cure for cancer," Jennifer said. "There was the one woman that I couldn’t believe. She was a 71 years old and a chain smoker. And, she was a nun. She walked kind of crooked, but she kept up and she was a real inspiration."

After the first day and night, some inspiration were in tall order.

The blisters Jennifer had worked up during her fast start out of the gate were painful and she had to go the the first aid tent.

"They popped the blisters and put gel on them and I was good to go," she said. "I could not have made it otherwise."

The temperature dropped to 30 degrees and the girls weren’t prepared for a cold night on the ground. Had it not been for three pairs of pants, three shirts and a jacket they couldn’t have made that either.

The next day they slowed the pace and had a very pleasant walk, taking time to enjoy the sites and chat with other walkers.

Even though day two and day three were shorter routes, Jennifer said she decided that a city mile is longer and harder to make than a country mile.

"We started calling them Pallotta miles," she said, laughing.

The second night in tent city brought rain, but that was better than the cold and the legions of walkers got up ready to take the walk home.

"The entire walk was an incredible experience,"Jennifer said. "It was amazing to see so many people dedicated to one cause. But, the most awesome thing was the walk up Pennsylvania Avenue. We held hands and walked toward the capitol. There was such a wonderful spirit among the walkers and a real closeness."

The survivors wore pink shirts for the closing

walk and a lot of people wore tee shirts with pictures of their loved one.

"One guy was walking in memory of his mom and he was walking and crying," Jennifer said. "I said, to myself, ‘This is why I did this – so that others might not have to die from this disease.’ This event was so much bigger than any of us. It was an incredible experience and I would do it again in a minute. I will do it again."