Sunday, October 16, 2016

Going the Distance in the Heart Walk

Yesterday was a picture-perfect day for the annual Waccamaw Heart Walk here in the heart of South Carolina's Grand Strand.

Temperatures were in the 60s, the ocean waves were gentle, and the sky was a sparking blue on race morning at Plyler Park in downtown Myrtle Beach. There were signs of damage to beach dunes and some structures done by Hurricane Matthew just one week earlier, but there were more signs that the resilient area is on the road to recovery.

A sad reality is that elsewhere in the area and many miles inland, rivers are still flooding horribly in Matthew's wake and bringing the kind of devastation some residents experienced just one year ago in the freakish storm that resembled a fire hose aimed at South Carolina. Prayers go out for all those affected.

Heart Walk Photo by Joel Carter 
The Heart Walk is the culminating event for fund-raising done all year long by individuals, organizations, and businesses to support the good work of the Heart and Stroke Associations in advancing prevention, research, and treatment in the cause of healthy hearts. So it is a joyful occasion with lots of music, pep, smiles, conversations from (or about) the heart, and then of course the walk -- one or three miles, each walker 's choice. The event brings together folks young and old, many with inspiring stories to share, and some walking with their beautiful dogs. I didn't bring my sweet rescue dog because she still tends to resent -- and bark at -- other dogs being walked. Maybe Ellie can join us next October.

Our Mended Hearts chapter again staffed the Survivors Tent where we handed out bright commemorative caps for heart-surgery and stroke survivors, along with annual renewal pins to go on the caps. It is also inspirational to meet folks who have met their heart-health challenges and are living active lives. (That is what Mended Hearts is all about -- an organization of heart survivors who lend support to others now facing their own challenge.)

Our Mended Hearts crew staffing the Survivors Tent

The walk itself is a major event for me personally every year. Besides cherishing the fun and friendship, I use the walk as a goal I can set for myself.

 In recent years, I have chosen the shorter distance because of my knee replacement and stenotic back, and I thought I would do the same this time because I walk Ellie dawg about a mile (sometimes a little more) twice a day. However, as we started down the Boardwalk (some 2,000 of us!) I was uncertain what the turnaround would be for doing just the one-mile walk, so I kept going with the flow all the way to near the Second Avenue Pier, where we turned around and walked back along the beach. The breeze off the ocean helped keep me going.

As I got to the finish line, the Coastal Carolina University cheerleaders sweetly cheered just for me and my accomplishment. (Three miles felt like the 26. 2 miles I managed to finish a couple of times decades ago.) I must have looked like a bedraggled old man who needed an ego boost. (Flashback to being cheered when as a defensive lineman back in the '50s  -- yes that long ago -- I recovered a fumble to seal a win against our school's big rival.)

Cheerleaders for Heart Walkers -- Yay team! 

I can hardly wait 'til the 2017 Waccamaw Heart Walk. It is my goal to be there for it.

                                                © Robert G. Holland  (2016)

Photo from Ed Piotrowski, ABC15 Chief Meteorologist and co-Emcee of the 2016 Heart Walk festivities

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