Walking 39.3 miles over the course of two days certainly sounds challenging — and it is! But it’s also empowering and motivating to join thousands of other fierce women and men of all ages who all share a common mission: obliterate breast cancer.
If you’ve ever been tempted to sign up or are simply curious to learn more about what it’s really like to take part in the two-day fundraiser, read Autumn Lugo’s firsthand account of her inaugural AVON 39 The Walk to End Breast Cancer in Santa Barbara, CA last year. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we checked in with the 20+ year Avon Representative as she preps for her second AVON 39, this time in New York City on October 15-16. You just may find yourself inspired to sign up for the walk nearest you next year!
Even though I’ve been an Avon Representative for 20 years, I only first realized the power of the Avon Foundation after a friend and fellow Avon Representative was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. She didn’t have health insurance at the time, so we researched and found a local Avon Foundation-affiliated center at the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at University of California, Irvine. She received wonderful treatment at the facility and is now in remission, thankfully.
The experience was a real eye-opener for me. I was so impressed that the money raised by and for the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade goes to help real women who are fighting breast cancer. I knew I wanted to get more involved.
For a couple of years, I kept saying I wanted to sign up for AVON 39 and that it was something I should do. Finally I declared 2015 the year I crossed off everything on my list of “want to dos”, and I registered.
I signed up to do the walk by myself. I didn’t care who was doing it with me, I was that committed to doing it. [Check out Avon’s Solo Strutters for more info on meeting and training with other individual walkers.]
After I registered, I learned from my mom that my great-grandmother, who was from Santa Barbara, was a breast cancer survivor (she passed when I was 8-years old of unrelated causes). The AVON 39 walk took us past her house and Santa Barbara High School where my grandparents first met and fell in love. Knowing that my family had once lived along the walk route somehow made me feel more connected to the event and my contribution even more rewarding.
Training for the AVON 39
I follow the training guide on the AVON39.org site, which is really helpful and I definitely recommend. During the week, I mix business with training — that’s one of the many benefits of being my own boss as an Avon Representative! I walk 4 or 7.5 miles a few times a week as I distribute my Avon books door to door throughout the neighborhood.
This year, my husband is doing the New York walk with me — he was motivated to sign up after watching me last year. On the weekends we walk to a breakfast spot then walk home. Not only do we get our miles in, but we get to spend quality time together doing something that is good for us.
My First AVON 39
Despite signing up for the walk on my own, I met up with three other Avon Representative who I found out were doing the walk as well. The four of us walked together and at times one would fall behind or another would go ahead. Many of the other walkers wore shirts saying they are survivors or doing the walk in memory of a loved one who lost her life to breast cancer. It’s so inspiring to walk next to them! And all the people rooting for us and cheering us on really helped keep me going and gave me energy. You would see the same folks at the Cheering Stations at 3 p.m. that you did at 7 a.m. It’s a shot of adrenaline to hear the crowd going wild.
The most challenging part of the walk for me was the end of the first day. My longest training walk was 17 miles, so when I got to that point on day one of the walk, I started to get concerned about how the last nine miles of the day would go. [Walkers can walk up to 26.2 miles on the Saturday and 13.1 miles on Sunday.] The last six miles were beyond a doubt the hardest, emotionally and physically. I was so tired! The cheering of the supporters is what really carried me through. [Want to cheer the walkers on in NYC? Here’s a list of Cheering Stations.]
Spending the Night at Basecamp 39
Friends asked me why I didn’t go to a hotel, but Basecamp — overnight in a sleeping bag in a pink tent — is really a big part of the experience. Plus if I had gone to a hotel with a comfy bed, I might never have made it back for day two!
Avon really does an amazing job and everyone who works at Basecamp was so helpful and gracious. You can sign up for a foot massage, body massage or chiropractor services. They offer yoga classes and, of course, you get dinner and breakfast. One of my favorite parts is that the showers are stocked with Avon hair and body products.
At the Finish Line
My husband and then 12-year old son walked the last mile with me. When I crossed the finish line with them and my Avon friends, I just started crying. It was so emotional! When I heard the cheering stations welcome me and my walkers, it really hit me that my walking really means something and is raising money to help women fighting a terrible disease.
At the closing ceremonies, Avon announces the total dollar amount raised and hands out the grants right then and there to the local charities and organizations. It’s so rewarding and amazing to see where the money we raised is really going.
Thinking About Signing up?
If you aren’t ready to sign up and walk the 39.3 miles or aren’t physically able, try volunteering for a year or get out to a Cheering Station and cheer on the walkers. It really does mean so much to the walkers! If you don’t live close enough to a city that hosts a walk to do either, consider making a donation to a walker. There are so many ways to get involved with AVON 39 and it’s such a worthy cause.
Follow Autumn during the AVON 39 Walk to End Breast Cancer New York walk weekend on her Instagram @AvnRep714 and consider donating to her campaign and her husband’s. She already plans to do AVON 39 Washington D.C. in 2017 and Chicago in 2018!