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Kathy Johnson is going for a little walk this weekend - 60 miles, to be exact - and getting ready for it has become a life-changing experience.

Johnson, East Central University's director of campus life and leadership, will walk in the Dallas-Fort Worth area's 2007 Breast Cancer 3-Day, beginning early Friday [OCT. 26] in Plano, Texas, at the "Dallas" television show's famous Southfork Ranch. Friday's walk: 21 miles.

As far as anyone knows, she is the first person from Ada to participate in the 3-Day, which benefits Susan G. Komen for the Cure, part of the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Johnson was "adopted" by a team from Norman for the walk. On Sunday, three long days and 60 miles later, they will arrive at Southern Methodist University in Dallas for the closing ceremony.

The walk is one of 12 around the country that raises both awareness of breast cancer and money to find a cure. Entrants must raise a minimum of $2,200 to participate. Johnson raised $3,000 from her family, friends, employees at Valley View Regional Hospital and others in the community.

"It's just been a great experience," she said. "I can't believe the support from my family, friends and people I don't even know. I'm just really excited and a little nervous."

Johnson has participated in the Race for the Cure, "but certainly nothing like 60 miles," she said, or while carrying up to 35 pounds on her back, including a sleeping bag. The walkers will camp in two-person tents in a "sea" of about 1,500 tents.

"I'm hoping this will contribute in some way to making a difference for someone," she said.

Johnson said her family had never been affected directly by the disease. She made the commitment to do the walk at the end of March and began training in late April.

"In June, one of my closest friends since college was diagnosed with breast cancer," she said. "The weekend before she knew, I was at her house and she and her daughter were interested in why I was doing this. I said that I had wanted to focus on something bigger than I had ever done.

"The next Tuesday afternoon, she called and said, 'You're walking for me.' That really got me. It hadn't been that close to home before.

"There has been a little laughter, a lot of tears," she added. "It's been a real life-changing experience."

Johnson has a background in fitness, so she was somewhat prepared for the training and began walking on her own in Wintersmith Park, then going longer distances around Ada. She received a weekly training guide in a 24-week regimen that set certain distances for each day.

Shortcuts didn't matter because she had to get in the miles - five or six on Tuesdays, six to eight on Thursdays and 10 miles on Saturdays and Sundays. Wednesdays and Fridays were cross-training days and on Mondays she got to rest.

Johnson, who can cover 10 miles in three hours, usually started her day by walking at least a mile on her treadmill before coming to work. She started her outdoor walks from her house, finding some great neighborhoods, friendly people and a few scary dogs along the way. A typical walk might take her by Valley View Regional Hospital to Wintersmith Park, the ECU campus and then back east to Monta Vista and home.

She also spent time picking stickers off her shoes and socks.

"Some (drivers) honk and wave and others won't give you an inch," she said. "Some actually swerved at me. I have started a few mornings yelling at people," she said with a laugh.

Johnson has met people from her Norman teammates to people around Ada that she never would have known otherwise, she said.

"It's been very rewarding. It's all about raising awareness of breast cancer and promoting education and pre-screening as well as research to find a cure," Johnson said. "The Susan G. Komen Foundation has expanded its work and now offers free screening to people who couldn't afford to have mammograms."


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