Sore feet, big smiles

Harry Palumbo faced a lot of obstacles as he at­temp­ted to walk 66 miles in two days to raise money for the Amer­ic­an Can­cer So­ci­ety.

Palumbo, a 45-year-old Fox Chase res­id­ent and Frank­ford High School his­tory teach­er, walked on rough con­crete, dodged potholes and crazy drivers and nursed sore feet and a swollen right ankle on his trek from Fox Chase Can­cer Cen­ter to At­lantic City. He’s also 14 months re­moved from re­con­struct­ive knee sur­gery.

Nev­er­the­less, Palumbo com­pleted the walk when he reached the Trump Taj Ma­hal. The Don­ald was not wait­ing to greet him, but he did re­ceive con­grat­u­la­tions from some gam­blers and oth­ers on the board­walk.

“I was so over­whelmed with emo­tion,” he said. “I cried like a baby.”

So far, Palumbo has raised about $3,000 for the can­cer so­ci­ety through flat dona­tions, pledges per mile and T-shirt sales. He’ll con­tin­ue to raise money un­til June 1 and then will present an over­sized check to the char­ity.

Palumbo, who has taught at Frank­ford High School for 14 years, walked to hon­or his par­ents and ac­quaint­ances who’ve battled the dis­ease. Vir­gin­ia Palumbo died of meso­the­lioma. Mi­chael Palumbo suc­cumbed to stom­ach can­cer.

Five months ago, the 5-foot-9 Palumbo weighed 235 pounds. He began eat­ing bet­ter, walk­ing ex­tens­ively and work­ing out re­li­giously at Power­house Gym in Lawndale.

Today, he’s 180 pounds, and his size 36 pants don’t fit any­more.

The walk took place on April 26-27. A friend, Joe Timcho, caught up with him in his car at vari­ous in­ter­vals along the way.

On the first day, Palumbo star­ted at 5 a.m. He walked along Cottman Av­en­ue to Bustleton Av­en­ue to Har­bison Av­en­ue to Levick Street, then across the Ta­cony-Palmyra Bridge.

In all, he walked 37 miles that first day, stop­ping at 5 p.m. He thinks he lost 10 pounds.

“At the end of the first day, I was ex­hausted,” he said.

Palumbo checked in­to an Econo Lodge in Ham­mon­ton. He soaked his feet, watched the NFL draft and ate pizza and pasta be­fore fall­ing in­to a sound sleep.

On the second day, after a break­fast of cold pizza and pasta, he star­ted at 6 a.m. He was happy to see a, “Wel­come to At­lantic County” sign.

“When I saw that sign, I saw light at the end of the tun­nel,” he said.

The second day con­sisted of 29 miles.

When he reached the casino at 4:20 p.m., he texted, “Done,” to his fol­low­ers.

Then, just when he was ready for a peace­ful ride home, he had to walk an­oth­er six blocks to Timcho’s car.

Palumbo said the trip — on Routes 73 and 30 and smal­ler streets — was as chal­len­ging as he ex­pec­ted. His thighs and hips ached.

After learn­ing Palumbo had turned his ankle, re­tired Frank­ford foot­ball coach and teach­er Mike Capri­otti en­cour­aged him to go on.

Palumbo also thanks the folks at Temple Or­tho­ped­ics who per­formed his knee sur­gery and the staff at The Run Around, a Roslyn store that gave him qual­ity sneak­ers at a good price.

The trip gave him plenty of time to think and look at what seemed like an “end­less road.”

“The body is not meant to walk sixty-six miles in two days,” he said. “It was a mara­thon and ten miles , then a mara­thon and three miles, back to back.”

Palumbo, who swal­lowed his pride by wear­ing a fanny pack around his waist, had no choice but to fin­ish after telling fam­ily, friends, cowork­ers and his stu­dents that he would com­plete the walk.

“When you open your mouth,” he said, “you have to back it up.”

Palumbo said he was men­tally and phys­ic­ally pre­pared for the trek. He walked 32 miles one day on a Power­house tread­mill.

“Talk­ing and plan­ning and train­ing is one thing,” he said. “Do­ing it’s an­oth­er.”

Along the way, he tried to avoid walk­ing on con­crete when he could in fa­vor of softer as­phalt and grass. He listened to mu­sic on head­phones, an iPod and a small tran­sist­or ra­dio.

As he walked, he sent text mes­sages to teach­ing col­leagues, Power­house mem­bers and oth­ers.

The weath­er co­oper­ated, and Palumbo ate ba­na­nas and drank plenty of wa­ter, Gat­o­rade and cof­fee. He sweated plenty, and most stores were kind enough to let him use their re­strooms. He also had a nice chat with mem­bers of the Winslow Town­ship Fire De­part­ment.

One Crack­er Bar­rel em­ploy­ee wanted to know where the rest of Palumbo’s crew was.

“You’re look­ing at the crew,” he told her.

After ar­riv­ing home sore and tired, he was greeted by his Fuller Street neigh­bors and en­joyed a much-needed drink at Sweeney’s Ver­ree Tav­ern.

When Palumbo re­turned to the classroom, he shared his ex­per­i­ences with his stu­dents. The les­son?

“Don’t quit,” he said.

Dona­tions can be sent to Fight­ing for Can­cer Step By Step, P.O. Box 24666, Phil­adelphia, PA 19111-24666. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

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