“It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
The Watercooler editorial board hears those words all the time from Keith Rutter, POGO’s unflappable Director of Operations. But recently, Keith, along with Pam Rutter, POGO’s Web Manager, and Erin, Pam and Keith’s daughter, put those words into action, and traveled to San Francisco to participate in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer—a two-day, marathon-and-a-half jaunt to raise money for the fight against breast cancer. The Watercooler recently caught up with Keith to find out what inspired them to make the trip and to get the lowdown on the whole experience.
The Watercooler: Why did you decide to walk 39.3 miles in two days for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer?
Keith Rutter: The short answer is that Pam’s brother Wayne was going to do it with his office in San Francisco. He asked Pam to join him and we all decided to take part.
The long-form answer is that POGO’s small, tight-knit family has been directly affected by breast cancer. It started with [POGO General Counsel] Scott Amey’s sister, Cheryl. She was in her 30s and married with two young kids when she died because of breast cancer. Then Pam’s mom, who had moved in with us to seek better treatment for her breast cancer, lost her battle. And last year, as many of you know, after a long, seven-year struggle, Beth Daley succumbed to breast cancer. Right now, friends of POGO—Mary, Shelly, and others—are battling breast cancer. Doing what we can to help stop breast cancer was a no-brainer. POGO staff and alums were very generous in donating to the cause. Finding a cure for breast cancer is not in POGO’s mission, but we are all on board to find a cure.
The Watercooler: What kinds of people participated in the walk?
KR: That was one of the things that was really amazing. The walkers were very diverse. Folks of all ages—our daughter Erin was the youngest person in the walk—from all over the country participated. We were surprised at how many companies and groups had teams of walkers. I swear I saw t-shirts with something like “Dockworkers to Stop Breast Cancer” on them. KRTY, a country music station in San Jose, sent a bus of 65 walkers. They also had a van with a bunch of folks who circled the walk route. They were the greatest folks. (But they did play a lot of Toby Keith 😉 ). We heard that over 1,900 people started the walk, and that didn’t count the hundreds or more of folks who lined the streets.
The Watercooler: Can you describe what a typical moment on the course looked / felt / sounded / smelled like?
KR: Most of the walk was surprisingly like if you mixed Mardi Gras and the Tour de France. There were hundreds of folks who lined the streets where we walked to cheer you on. Many of the folks were in costumes. You saw everything from cops in pink tutus to women in big feather masks with angel wings. The only thing that was consistent was that everything was pink.
Folks along the route would pass out candy, bottled water, inspirational buttons and even beads. A lot of people brought boom boxes and would blare music and dance while they were encouraging you to keep going. You would pass some folks and they would wait until everyone would pass and then get in their cars—or some on bikes—and then drive ahead on the route to cheer walkers on again. There were even long stretches for a few miles where we were walking on a path through marshlands of Marin county and there were folks there with crazy outfits and music yelling “Go go go!”
We were also very thankful that it was in San Francisco, because Washington experienced an incredible heat wave when we were gone for the walk. So we were thankful for the cool temperatures of northern California. As for the smell, well, it was a mix of sweat, suntan lotion, and ocean breeze. Your standard victory smells.
KR: Bet you are thinking some of those famous San Francisco hills we went up. Or maybe you are guessing the last mile. But actually the hardest mile was crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on Sunday. The bridge walkway, which was about eight feet wide, was jammed with not only over a thousand walkers, but also hundreds of tourists—both walking and on bikes—and also lots of hardcore cyclists looking like they were in the Tour de France. Folks going both ways on the bridge. Bikers not wanting to stop riding and walk their bikes. It was bedlam. And we had walked over 30 miles at this point so we were tired and were not as patient as usual.
The Watercooler: What was your first thought when you crossed the finish line?
KR: “What do we have to do to check out, because we have got to get to our hotel.” We had to beg the hotel to let us have a late checkout and we thought we would be back in plenty of time. But, it took us over an hour longer to complete the walk on the second day than we thought. So we crossed the finish line, checked out of the walk, posed very quickly for a few photos, and literally ran…well, some of us did more of a hurried hobble. We had to rush back to our hotel and grab our stuff and had a couple minutes to spare. It was more “Yakety Sax,” the song from Benny Hill, than it was the theme from Rocky.