The Atlanta 3-Day – Finding a key that opened a heavy door

2015-10-20 12.26.352015-10-18 14.31.38 2015-10-17 09.53.312015-10-17 20.24.04  2015-10-18 07.39.472015-10-16 17.33.16 2015-10-18 14.24.43  What an amazing journey that I was fortunate enough to take this last weekend. I completed my 19th 3-Day 60 mile walk with a wonderful Miles for Martha team, and the continued love and support from good friends, both old and new. My team was small, just 4 of us, but strong in body and spirit. Glen Dekeyser (25th walk!), is the gentlemen that helped open my eyes to the 3-Day 3 years ago, and a masterful Ole and Lena joke teller as well. My incredible twin nieces Katie and Lindsey provided me with love, laughter, and often moments that just make you scratch your head! This was their first 3-Day and as I had hoped it will not be there last. They brought joy to the route and were touched by the stories they heard, while their own indelible spirit lifted many a walker along the way. Each event has a different effect on me, this one more than others. I thought for some period of time that I had been handling my grief in a positive way. I was open, talked about Martha and what she meant to me and our family. I felt the pain of her loss at certain times or on certain days. Wondered aloud why it happened to someone that had already been through so much. What I did not realize is that with each episode, each sense of helplessness I was pushing those feelings back behind a door that was difficult to open. A door that I did not know even existed. Some may call it being strong, others may call it suppression, but at the end of the day when you don’t even know what you are doing, it is just hiding the inevitable. With each day of this long walk I could sense something within. My nieces were using many keys to open the long dormant door, some of them worked and I felt my emotions starting to escape. Yet I kept pulling the door closed, trying to be the strong example. They kept at it though and on Sunday they really started to pull at that damn door. While holding Lindsey’s hand, and with my arm around Katie, I shared a story that really started to open me up, and I know that they sensed this as well. Yet once again strength, and more so the concentration of getting through the final day finally won out. We finished with laughs, hugs, and incredible memories. They had to leave before closing, and I had lost Glen along the route, so I was taken in by my amazing friend Carolyn Parks and her team, Feet to Beat breast cancer. A tailgate led to good conversations and primed us for an inspirational closing. Closings always get to me, I often lose it the minute I take off my shoe. I always feel so honored to be a part of this, and to help the survivors know that there is hope. I do also feel my loss when the survivors make their way in. I so bad want Martha to be there, but I soon realize she is, in the presence of each and every one of these amazing women.  This day was different though, no matter how hard I tried to rationalize my feelings, the women of Feet to Beat kept bringing them back to the surface. Then it happened, the person with the final key, the one that would open the door wide, took hold of me. My incredible friend, one of my original walking angels from 2013, Carolyn, hugged me. It was within her embrace, surrounded by loving friends and the support of this 3-day family that I truly just let go. I felt myself trying to breathe, as my emotions flowed, and then she said, “I will not be the first one to let go” with this I lost hold of the handle and the door was kicked aside.  I tried to let go but could not, I was not just holding Carolyn, I was holding Martha, my daughter Ally, my son Rob, my nieces, and even my new love Lisa. All were a part of opening me up, but it was Carolyn who was chosen as the Angel to allow it to happen.  God bless her, her team, my teammates, the 3-Day family, all helped to bring something out of me that needed to be exposed.  I was so emotionally spent that I had to find a curb after the ceremony to sit on for a while just to take it all in. Upon arising I felt renewed, exhausted, but renewed.  A feeling that will help carry me each day, moving forward, while holding the past so dear.

Once again it just proves the strength of this amazing community, and that it is never “just a walk”

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Sorry, I have not kept this up to date!

I want to apologize for not keeping this blog up to date. I have been spending any free time for Miles for Martha keeping the website and the Facebook page current. Because of this, the writing has suffered. I will catch up soon and have as always appreciate the kind words I receive from so many about my posts from the past.

Thank you for your understanding.        John

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Looking back, while moving forward – The Twin Cities 3-Day

I recently completed my 900th mile upon finishing my first 3-Day this year. As exhilarating as that was, it was the beginning of this event that took me to a familiar place. As I stood on the steps of the opening ceremony stage waiting to appear and honor my Martha with brief yet meaningful words, my legs began to tremble. I felt this wave of loss, and thought back to all that she had been through, all that we had been through and wondered to myself, why. Why did she have be taken, she had paid her dues, fought the fight, and was a winner. I think about her daily, but without a doubt, it is in church, and at each Komen event that I feel her presence the most. I tried to calm my legs so that I could make it up the steps carrying the “Wife” flag and say the words that would help to once again let others know of her presence. Then as it always seems to happen I felt her hand on my shoulder, calming me, giving me strength, and telling me she is OK. She was a winner, no longer in pain, in the presence of a God that she so fervently had faith in, and showing her grace to me always. I had words on paper, but once I started they just came from my heart. I grabbed the hand of my fellow presenter, we made our way down the stairs and I into the waiting hug of my daughter Ally. She knew, she knew that her mom had just touched me, and in her hug I felt her presence. This was the beginning of another beautiful, amazing 3-Day experience. I walked with angels from last year, and met new ones along the way. I was able to reflect on how far I had come and the path that she has led me along. She allowed me to, and taught me to love again. Her grace and unselfishness has allowed me to be happy, while still feeling a permanent sense of loss. She delivered to me a walking angel in Chicago that now walks with me into a brighter future. I am now on my way to Seattle for miles 901 to 960, and a reunion with good friends from Leave it to Cleavage, and Valley Girls and Guys. The next 3 days will once again take me a familiar place, yet it is one that I look forward to visiting the rest of my life. I will never tire of looking back, for it always takes me another step forward.


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Just the first training walk, it’s never “just” a walk


As I started out on my first training walk of the year with the Twin Cities 3-Day just over a month away, I was immediately met by something so familiar, tears. I had not even gone a half mile of my 8 mile effort when the thoughts of the past year rushed back in. I could not stop the flood as I recalled just where I was at this time last year both physically and mentally. I was just getting started on an incredible journey, one that would take me to 14 cities and begin the most amazing healing process. With each step last night all of the sights, the sounds, and the love from my fellow walking community came rushing back. I had forgotten just how inspiring and spiritual a simple walk can be. The key component is time, many dread the training because of the time involved, not me. I love being able to decompress, open my mind, and allow the thoughts and dreams to invade my space. I still think of Martha and all that she meant to me, my kids, and what she went through with each step. Her presence will be forever felt and reminds me that the battle is still not won, which gives each step purpose. I am still amazed at the resiliency of the human heart. Mine is much larger than I ever imagined, and to be able to have a permanent hole in it while encompassing a new and very special love baffles me. God has truly gifted me with a heart that holds a life I will always treasure, and gives me hope for the life I have ahead me. I look forward to my next walk and what each step will bring. Because it’s never JUST a walk.

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John’s Journey of Love

A story done by Rena Sarigianopoulos of Kare11, the Twin Cites NBC affiliate.

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The big finish, San Diego, saving the best for last!








It has taken me a long time to come to grips with the fact that my journey is over, well at least for this year. I have wanted to write this post for a while but knew once it was done, so would I be. Well it’s time to move on, and I have say the 3-Day could not have picked a better place to finish their year. San Diego was the most amazing walk of the whole season! First, I had my daughter along for the ride, second, of the first 40 miles at least 75% of it was along the Pacific Ocean, simply beautiful. The energy from everyone was infectious and I had conversations with so many wonderful people along the path. I once again was so humbled by how people treated me for the journey I was on, a constant flow of hugs and tears greeted me everyday. So many called me a hero, or said they were incredibly proud of what I was doing, but to me I was just following a voice inside. Somehow my Martha had guided me towards this 3-day journey, and I had the most amazing opportunity to tell her story to thousands over the summer. I do not see myself as special, only a man that missed his wife and wanted people to know what an angel she was both in life and after.
This was a walk of goodbyes and the blessing of good friends that joined me. Ally and I were joined by five couples from Minnesota that decided to join us on Saturday for a good portion of the walk to support us and to see what this whole 3-day thing was all about. What they saw was an electric community of people that are united in this fight against breast cancer. I know they were there to support us and to honor Martha, but my hope is that they will return of their own volition either to walk or the support of a walkers efforts. One of those couples really put in a special effort this year, Hope and Jamie Scannell were there in Boston, in Philadelphia, and to finish with them in San Diego was very special. Over these three events they walked 60 miles total and have earned the victors shirts that I have provided them. Thank you guys, you are amazing!
Saying goodbye to my Komen family was the toughest though. The love and support that these selfless individuals showed me over the summer helped heal me in ways that I am sure they have no idea of. I would love to name them all but I know I would miss some and I could not live with that. You guys know who you are, from taking care of my stuff, to morning hugs, from front of line treatment to getting a bus to move when it shouldn’t. The favors, the smiles, the honest friendship is something that I will carry with me forever. God bless you all, you will be a part of my heart as long I can breath. There were others as well, the amazing crew, my coach Maggie, and even the folks that sold the buttons, Brij and Brian. A bond was formed with all that I will continue to come back to each year. Brian and I had a little “bromance” that is evident in the attached video, something Brij said was just wrong in so many ways!! Hey, it’s the 3-Day, anything can happen!!
Thank you San Diego for making this such a great finish. I will be back!!!

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Arizona – Stopping to smell the desert flowers!




It was most definitely time to slow down and take my time. I had the past two walks been running with the rabbits to get done sooner for a myriad of reasons, but the only thing with going fast is you miss some of the wonderful people along the way. Arizona came along at the perfect time. It was the first event this year that I did have at least one person that was going to join me or stalk me along the route. I made the conscious decision to slow my roll and take in the environment and all of those around me. I have often met an angel or two in each city that have provided me with conversation and companionship on my journey, this walk was so different and wonderful. I was so lucky to have the problem of too many angels to count on my walk, each so kind, each with their own story. The flowers are simply a metaphor for the beautiful spirits that helped guide me along the path. To highlight one or two would have been unfair to others that touched me along my way this weekend. The diversity in the desert flowers mirrored the people I encountered, each with its own unique beauty. I am so glad that I slowed down and took more time to meet more of the amazing people that find a passion in helping others. Thank you Arizona for making this walk so memorable and in turn healing. I am also including a couple videos from my walk, first are the male singers from Arizona State, “Priority Male” , they came to the camp show on Friday and wowed the crowd. And then a short excerpt from a bagpipe corp that was on the route early Sunday. This was a little bitter sweet, I have always had an affection for the pipes, it’s a music that really just touches my soul. As I stood listening and recording I was suddenly struck with a wave of emotion, I felt Martha next to me, but I could not reach her. I stopped the recording and quickly walked away listening to the music as I tried to connect with my bride. She then answered back with another walking angel that helped to ease my pain and once again provide me with peace and hope. My finish on Sunday was very special because I was able to finish with two awesome ladies Rachel and Bobbi. I have seen them on other walks and had some small conversations, but had never had the chance to really get to know them. Rachel completed her journey this year of completing a walk in everyone one of the Komen cities. She may not have done it all in one year, but she did it just the same and I applaud her commitment. What a wonderful way to finish! I will never forget this walk, and the people that made it so special. Just one more to go, I cannot believe it is almost done. What an amazing journey.

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