Why I Walk: Madison Vigneault '18

It was the third day, six miles in, two water breaks passed, and three miles until lunch. After lunch, we’d have 11 miles until our longest day of 19 miles was behind us. I was on my first RFH, and with my sports watch flashing the time on its digital display, I could tell you not only what time it was, but how long we’d been walking for since our last break, how many miles left in the day, or even in our 130 mile journey. Sometimes in my head I’d calculate our percent complete. If I’d had an accurate pedometer, I’d probably even try our average miles per hour.

IMG_6707With my nerves taking over and the uncertainty of whether I’d be able to complete this long journey, I’d hide in the numbers to keep my mind busy and put the anxiety and pain at bay. But then day 4 came. And day 5. And 6 and 7. And then before I knew it, it was day 8 and I couldn’t remember what mile we were on or when our last break was. I wasn’t even wearing my watch anymore. It was safely tucked away in the pack that had once been cumbersome and foreign, but now felt like a familiar extension to my body, as normal and essential as my left arm.

As we walked towards Rimmon Heights neighborhood we could start to see our home up on the hilltop. Our final destination. But as happy as I was to know we were almost at that 100% mark I’d spent the first few days trying to calculate, the numbers were now inconsequential. Because now, I found myself in deep conversation with my walking buddy and didn’t notice the pain of each weighted step, but only the passion in her voice as she described to me how she decided on her major at Saint A’s.

At some point along the way, the conversations on the road began to carry my tired, heavy feet and was the fuel I needed to put one foot in front of the other. When I finally discovered this, I was able to exit the confines of my over analytical mind and dive into interesting, thoughtful and meaningful conversations with my peers. United by our goal to raise funds and awareness for nine great charities, and having a mutual understanding of the pains of the road created a sense of solidarity and invited honest and vulnerable conversations. Allowing myself to be present with them and take each stride one at a time, the walk became less about a mission to walk 130 miles, and more about a pilgrimage shared with friends for a worthy cause. Instead of focusing on the physical journey itself, I began to let myself experience it alongside my fellow walkers. It truly became “an outward journey with an inward destination.”

While I prepare to embark on my third Road for Hope, the winding roads from Lewiston to Manchester are as familiar as they’ve ever been. And while it’s a great route to walk, it’s the magical spaces of these conversations that I can’t wait to return to. It is in these conversations that I have gained so much respect for my fellow walkers, perspective on our journey, and thoughts on my faith. Terri Guillemets once said “You need special shoes for hiking, and a bit of a special soul as well.” I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to experience two amazing Road for Hopes and as I prepare for this final walk, I can’t help but think about all the special souls I’ll encounter. I am excited to lace up my shoes, put on my pack, and walk alongside my classmates for one final pilgrimage. And this time, I’m not packing my watch.

  • https://www.werecoverdata.com/ Sam Elder

    You both are looking so cute, Rod for Hope 130 miles, nice keep it up