On the first weekend of November, our family and a friend participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Jacksonville.
Alzheimer’s is a disease that has touched both sides of our family. My great-grandmother and great-uncle both passed away while suffering from it. Most recently, Mr PugRunner’s father was diagnosed with this devastating ailment, and Mr PugRunner wanted to honor him by joining in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
He assembled a lovely team, including us, my parents, his dad and stepmom, his brother and a runner friend of ours.
We were all very excited for the 2.7 mile walk. We arrived at the venue about 90 minutes in advance of the start time (as requested).
On the plus side, we were able to get a great parking spot, at the Jacksonville Landing, and we got checked in and settled down to wait for the start.
We selected our Promise Flowers to carry. There were different colors, representing the different reasons for joining the walk: blue for those who have Alzheimer’s, purple for those who have lost someone to Alzheimer’s, yellow for someone who is the caretaker of someone with Alzheimer’s and orange for those who were out to support the cause. We wrote the names of those we were honoring on the flowers. At the end of the walk, they would be “planted” in the Promise Flower Garden.
Unfortunately, it was hot. Oppressively, miserably hot. I didn’t love that the start time was 9:00 AM – and then we found out that the actual walk start wouldn’t be until 9:30, due to speeches and acknowledgement of the fundraisers and walkers (all of which is very important, but when you are dealing with some older people and absurdly hot temperatures, safety needs to come first).
At 9:30, we lined up, along the side of the Jacksonville Landing, and we were on our way. We fell into a couple of groups: me and C, my parents, and then Mr PugRunner, little man, Grandma, Pop Pop and my brother-in-law.
The route was great. If it has been a 5K in the middle of Florida winter first thing in the morning. However, at 9:30, in 90-something degree heat, with participants in wheelchairs, it was a bit poorly conceived. The walk started out with a shaded portion alongside the train tracks, but then went up the rather steep and long Acosta. There was a water stop at about the halfway mark (which ran out of water rather quickly), and then a brief reprieve by the Riverside Arts Market. After that, it was a bright and sunny walk alongside the river, with the brutal ascent/descent up the pedestrian walkway/circular ramp to cross back over the water.
C and I finished in the middle of the pack. At that point, 45 or so minutes in, there was very little water left, and a lot of the refreshment areas were breaking down. I texted Mr PugRunner to see how his dad was holding up – they had not gotten any water at the organized stop, so took a break at the Riverside Arts Market to get some ices. I offered to get a set of car keys from my mom so I could drive over and pick them up, but he said they were going to keep going.
My parents were a little further along, so I said goodbye to C, got one of the last bottles of cold water and headed back to keep them company. My stepdad needed something to eat, so I went back to try to find a snack. I ended up with a banana, which did the trick.
The three of us passed the finish (me for the third time). I took our flowers to plant in the Promise Garden, only to see that volunteers were already starting to pull them up.
The rest of our group was still a bit of a distance off, so we decided to grab a table in one of the restaurants to get out of the blazing sun, hydrate and have something to eat. We were able to work it so that by the time everyone else arrived, there were some snacks and cold drinks on the table.
While I loved the cause and providing support for it, I definitely had concerns regarding the implementation. There are plenty of two-three mile flat routes in downtown Jacksonville, and there is no reason to have so much “administrative” time before the vent. A lot of those procedures can be streamlined to get walkers out earlier before the heat of the day.
If the whole family participates next year, we will definitely show up way closer to the start time, rather than the preferred “arrive by” time, and I will probably park a car close to the Riverside Arts Market and make that our official end point, since it’s so much cooler and will avoid the last, more treacherous part of the route. There really didn’t seem to be too much of an “after event” for the finished walkers, so there wouldn’t be any reason to return.
With all that said, I’m very proud of our family and C for sticking it out, and we are all incredibly grateful to those who donated to Alzheimer’s research, either on behalf of my father-in-law or for their own loved ones. Most importantly, I am so glad that some of Mr. PugRunner’s family got to spend the weekend together, sharing quality time and making memories.
Do you have a cause that is dear to your heart?