As I write this, I realize that title might sound like a creepy stalker invitation. To clarify, follow me on social media, as I walk the AFSP Out of Darkness Overnight Walk for Suicide Prevention this weekend. Saturday night will mark the fourth year that I’ve walked 16-18 miles overnight to raise funds and awareness for Suicide Prevention. We begin the walk at dusk, usually around 7:30PM, and walk through the night until we finish the miles, with the course generally closing around 4:30AM.
It was an event I’d long wanted to do, given my own struggles, those of friends and loved ones, and the loss of a second-cousin to suicide about 6 years ago. When the event came to my home city of Philadelphia for the first time in 2014 (it’s held in only two cities each year), I felt it was a sign. Knowing nobody else walking, I signed up. I raised the $1000 required to walk and trained hard. (Yes, you have to train for a walk. Have you ever walked 18 miles nonstop, only sitting down to pee – or not, because the only bathrooms are port-o-potties? The loss of toenails and other foot injuries are very real threats). The night of the event, I was lucky – weather was beautiful, not a cloud in the sky, and I connected with a group of other solo walkers who walked at my speed, which can be tricky as I like to walk fast – I’m not a night person, and the staying up that late is tougher for me than the walk.
The next year, I walked in Boston. It poured. I mean poured. Thunderstorms forecasted and 40mph winds actually caused them to shorten the route slightly, as apparently it’s ill- advised to be walking on a metal bridge over the water in lightening, and they removed that portion from the walk. I was lucky enough to connect with one of the men I’d walked with the year before, and had a walking buddy for my second time around. Last year in New York City, it again monsooned, but luckily only for under an hour at the beginning. While it’s not fun to begin 17+ miles in wet socks and underwear (it really, really poured), I again met a group of solo individuals who became my team for the year. Plus, my amazing fiance (the other half of Spread Hope Project), chased me around the city on the transit system and met me at every cheering station.
This year, I’m headed to Washington, D.C. We will be starting at the Lincoln Memorial, and walking past sites such as the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, U.S. Capital, National Archives, U.S. Treasury, Embassy Row, and through the heart of Georgetown. Our “Midnight Snack”, a.k.a lunch in the middle of the night, which we all know never to sit down for or you’ll never get up, is in Farragut Square Park. We finish back at the Lincoln Memorial.
Usually I finish the walk some time between 12:30AM and 2AM. It depends on how quickly I walk, how many “pit stops” I make (bathroom breaks, along with little snacks to take on the go and water/Gatorade refills), and a few other factors. We shall see this year. I haven’t gotten to train as much as I’d like, due to the rainy spring and recent 95 degree heat, along with longer work hours. I’m crossing my fingers for no rain, though there’s a 60% chance of storms so I doubt a dry walk is likely. I’ve walked in rain before, though, and I’ll do it again if the weather doesn’t cooperate.
For those who want to follow along, I will be posting pictures on both the Spread Hope Project Instagram and my own personal Instagram, as well as tweeting. For anyone in the DC area who may want to actually follow along and support those walking for this incredible cause, here are a list of cheering stations, along with “peak viewing times” (which kind of makes us sound like we’re safari animals, but is when they estimate the most people will be going through). If you plan to stop by a cheering station, I’d love to hear from you! And if you’d like to support the Spread Hope Project, feel free to get creative with cheering signage and/or to hashtag #spreadhopeproject in any photos you post.
And finally, if, by any chance any of my readers are also walking this Saturday, please let me know! I’d love a walking buddy if you like a quick pace, or to at least be able to connect and say hi. To all who are walking, who have donated, and who come out to support the cause, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
At the finish line in my first Overnight Walk in Philadelphia in 2014. Each luminary lit is for someone lost to suicide.