The Oxford Eagle
A University of Mississippi student journeyed to Houston, Texas, this spring to participate in a walk for breast cancer to honor her mother who died from the disease two years ago.
Hailea Lamer, a senior, walked 39 miles in the Avon 39: The Walk to End Breast Cancer to pay tribute to her mother and raise awareness about breast cancer.
Lamer first heard about the walk on a television commercial, and immediately decided to participate.
“I could not stop thinking about this walk,” she said. “I wanted to be a part of it so badly.”
Participants in the Avon 39 walk are required to raise at least $1,800 in order to participate. In two months, she surpassed her goal by raising over $2,200.
Lamer promoted her fundraising through links on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. She also shared her story with sorority sisters and asked for their help.
Lamer said most of the money she raised was donated from friends and family members, but not everyone was supportive.
“A lot of people doubted me,” she said. “People didn’t think I would actually be able to walk that many miles.”
Because it was personal, Lamer wanted to participate alone. She also wanted to prove people wrong and show she could complete the walk.
Her boyfriend, Sean Riley, said he was surprised she wanted to travel to Houston and walk alone.
“At first, I was confused and felt left out,” he said. “After a while, I understood where she was coming from and respected her wishes.”
Lamer did not have much preparation for the 39-mile walk. Participants received training manuals, but she only practiced long walks a few times.
“I thought that since I am pretty athletic, I would be able to get away with not training as much,” she said.
The walk took place over two days. Day one involved walking 26.3 miles, and Day two, 13.1.
On day one, Lamer had an early wake-up call. She boarded a bus to the walk locationat 4 a.m. and started her long journey of 26.3 miles at 7 a.m.
She had a strong start, but began to encounter problems the farther she went. With the hot Houston heat shining down and blisters on her feet, the walk was harder than she expected.
Throughout the race, tents with water, medical assistants, and bathrooms were on either side of the walking path. At the halfway point, tents were set up for participants to stop and enjoy lunch.
At 6 p.m., Lamer finally completed 26.3 miles the first day, and the organization had a small ceremony at the end congratulating everyone on a great first day.
Other tents for food, massages, and fun activities were set up after the ceremony so participants could continue having fun.
On day two, Lamer waited until 6 a.m. to board a bus to the walk location. The final 13.1 mile stretch started at 7 a.m.
Although she went alone, Lamer made friends throughout the walk. She talked with a mother and daughter about hometowns and hobbies, and during the last stretch, she spoke with an older lady battling breast cancer.
At 1 p.m., Lamer and her new friend proudly crossed the finish line together. A long an exhausting two days had finally come to a close.
“When I saw the finish line, I don’t think I have ever felt so much relief,” she said. “I have never been so proud of myself.”
After the walk was completed, another ceremony took place congratulating everyone and explaining that the 39-mile walk is nothing compared to what a cancer patient goes through.
“I was so proud of her,” Riley said. “She proved a lot of people wrong. It was really impressive.”
The participants raised more than $1 million that will help fund breast cancer research.
Lamer said participating in the breast cancer walk allowed her to honor her mother and raise money for those fighting this battle.
“I felt like it was a type of closure,” Lamer said. “She had a hard battle, and I felt like she was on the walk pushing me to finish.”
Lamer is ready to participate in another walk, and is hoping to attend one in Boston or Houston this spring or summer.
“One of my goals is to participate in every walk across America,” Lamer said.
With the drive to participate in many more walks, she plans to prepare differently next time to reach her goal.
“I’m definitely going to invest in some walking shoes,” Lamer said. “I’m also going to take the time to train more and build up my endurance.”