By Pat Deprey, Walk to Mary – Event Director,

A couple of weekends ago, Gary Kozloski, one of the 3 organizers of the event and I walked the Walk to Mary route.  Well, I have to admit, Gary walked the whole route and I met him at the first “join in” point – SS Peter and Paul Church.  On Divine Mercy Sunday I walked from the National Shrine of St. Joseph at St. Norbert Abbey (the start) to SS Peter and Paul Church so I already experienced the first phase of our journey.  It is absolutely beautiful, walking early in the morning along the shores of the Fox River, experiencing the beauty of God’s creation.  Gary felt the same way.  What a way to begin our pilgrimage.  However, every phase of our journey has different beautiful characteristics.  We will even walk by an eagle’s nest up in a tree in the middle of a farmer’s field.  Gary and I wondered how eagles pick their nesting place.

Gary left at 7 am from the National Shrine of St. Joseph, just like we will, and together, at 2:30pm, we arrived at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, tired and exhausted.  We didn’t stop and rest like we will on our May 4th journey, so arriving early doesn’t accurately reflect our planned schedule.  However, what our bodies told us represents quite accurately what all of you will feel and experience.  This journey will not be as easy as you think.

Allow me to explain it this way.  Gary, who has completed 24 Birkebeiner 50 kilometer ski races, numerous century bike rides (100 miles), several triathlons and long distance runs, admits the Walk to Mary is as challenging as many of the events he’s experienced.  I have to confess I had lower leg (calf muscle) cramping issues 4 miles down Van Lanen Road.  We only had 3 miles to go to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.  I had to stop, drink more water and stretch before I was able to continue.  We are sharing our experiences to help, not to scare you.  Here are the key things we learned and thought about:

  1. Be prepared – train by walking regularly and walk for longer distances.
  2. If anyone is questioning whether they can make the entire journey we’d recommend you “join in” at a point along the way to make the journey shorter (SS Peter and Paul Parish – 17 miles, UW-Green Bay – 10 miles, Holy Cross School – 7 miles).  We will have transportation available if anyone feels they can’t complete the event, and medical staff to consult with any issues.  The Walk to Mary event will be held each year on the first Saturday of May.  You can try the whole route next year after you experience what this pilgrimage will be like.
  3. Dress properly for the weather.  Dress in layers.  Bring a back pack to carry your clothes.  Make sure you bring a water bottle.  WE WILL EMBARK ON OUR JOURNEY RAIN OR SHINE!  Bring along a poncho and/or rain gear.  We both took clothes off and put them back on numerous times during our journey.  When the wind picks up walking along the ledge overlooking Green Bay it can get to be quite chilly.  A hat to shield you from the sun and keep your head warm is also important.
  4. Good fitting, broken in shoes are critical.  Good cushiony socks are key.  I plan to bring an extra pair.  If it is raining, keeping your feet dry will be necessary.
  5. Stretch your leg and back muscles each time you have a chance.  We have periodic rest stops on the route.  Use them to stretch!
  6. Drink plenty of water during the event and starting for days before our journey.  You must remain hydrated or you will experience cramping, like I did.  To make sure your potassium levels are proper eat a banana or two.  I plan to bring a banana along.
  7. I wear contacts and my eyes got dry by being outside that long.  I plan to bring some rewetting solution along so my eyes remain moist.  Sunglasses are also a must.  You will be outdoors in the elements for many hours so it is important to keep your eyes protected.
  8. My lips got dry from the wind.  I plan to bring along some lip moisturizer.
  9. I applied sun screen before our journey.  This is highly recommended.
  10. After 4 knee surgeries with only half my knee cartilage remaining I wish I would have had some Ibuprofen along.  I plan to bring some along and use it for pain relief, if necessary.
  11. We both brought some snacks along.  The extra boost in energy really helped.  Apples, bananas, nuts, raisins, peanut butter crackers are all good to bring along.  We’ll stop for lunch at Holy Cross School.  We didn’t.  We ate some of our snacks instead and kept walking.

I hope sharing our experiences helped you.  Our Walk to Mary committees and volunteers have been working hard to keep you safe and free of injury.  May God bless you as you prepare for your journey from St. Joseph to Our Blessed Mother which will ultimately lead you closer to Jesus!