Nicki Ziepke walked 36 miles on Friday, June 21.
Her plan had been to walk all the way home to Manawa from Appleton, which would have been over 46 miles.
The 36 mile journey was 10 more miles than she had ever went before.
“My heart is broken because I always complete what I start,” Ziepke said. “You know when they say – in a marathon you hit a wall. Well, I hit two of those walls. Wow, the mind can certainly overcome the pain the body is feeling.”
She began the journey alone for the first four hours.
“At mile two, it started to pour and lightening. It rained and rained until about mile six,” Ziepke said. “My camera died, my music died and my watch died. I laughed and thought the only thing that didn’t die was me.”
“When my music died, I started to sing ’99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall’,” she said. “That was exciting.”
Her family – husband Allan and daughters Emma and Kate – met her in Winchester.
The girls walked with her for about a mile and Allan walked as much as he could with her towards the end.
“He saw many tears roll down my face and the words ‘this is too far.’ He motivated me and got me through my second wall,” Ziepke said.
Along the way, people cheered for her and some joined her for short stretches. Her mother-in-law also walked with her a little towards the end.
“I walked for almost 14 hours straight and had to give up the ship,” Ziepke said. “I have never in my life decided enough is enough – 36 miles and the feet just couldn’t do it; the whole entire body hurt.”
“Doing things like this help to remind you that you are alive,” she said. “When everything hurts and you gave it your all, you feel that pride and you changed things up from everyday life.”
Ziepke chose to walk on June 21 because her son passed away eight years ago on June 22. At the age of seven, he choked on a ball.
“I always have a hard time with the week of June 22 and doing the walk gave me time to be with him and talk,” she said, “and it helped me to keep in mind that I am alive and I can survive. Walking/running is the way I have dealt with this.”
Along the way, she waved at every car that passed.
“The best thing that made me smile was this little boy in his yard,” she said. “He looked at me and his mouth was shape like an “O” and he pointed.”
She also smiled when a little girl said, “Look – a super hero.”
“Little things like this made it worthwhile,” Ziepke said. “We all need to make ripples in this world. (On Friday) I made a little ripple wearing a cape with lady’s names on pink ribbons, superman shirt and hat, wonder woman underwear on the outside of my shorts, this cool walking stick that a lady at work, Joy, gave me to fight off critters. and Wonder Woman socks and my crazy spirit walking down the road trying to raise money for breast cancer.”
“Ripples is what makes life wonderful.”
She recalled the coworker who was the last person to give a donation before the walk began.
“The expression on his face when I added his mom’s name to my cape is what got me to mile 36,” Ziepke said. “The last two miles were the hardest and I just kept thinking about that expression he gave me.”
“This year I didn’t make it to 48.3 miles,” she said. “Next year watch out – Nicki will be back and even more crazy.”
The adventure is not over. She walks in Detroit, Mich., on Aug. 16-18.
“We will be walking 20 miles a day and I still need sponsors,” she said.
Ziepke needs to raise another $1,600 before the Detroit marathon.
The money is all donated to the Susan G. Komen 3-Day fund, with 75 percent going to help support national research and large public outreach programs. The remaining 25 percent supports local community and affiliate outreach programs.
To donate, visit The3Day.org and look for participant Nicki Ziepke, or call 1-800-996-3Day.
Donations are tax deductible.