"Come on! You've made it! You can do it! Come on!" screamed Joe Way, waving his arms like some out-of-control windmill.
And JoAnn Miller, her arms and legs flopping wildly, lurched the last hundred yards across the Mall to the finish line of the annual March of Dimes Walk-A-Thon.
Miller plopped down on the bench next to the registration table near the Sylvan Theater, pulled off a shoe and began nursing a sore foot. "They're still there," She said of the feet that had just carried her around the 25-mile course. "They're sore, but hey aren't that bad."
"This is my fourth or fifth Walk-A-Thon," said Miller, a 23-year-old student at Northern Virginia Community College. "I've lose count. The first year I made it (only) 23 miles, the other years I made it all the way 55.
Miller said she gave out at the 23-mile mark that first year because "I pulled a ligament and it hurt too much to finish."
Miller's walk yesterday - which took her from the Sylvan Theater to the Capitol, back to the White House, through Georgetown, across Western Avenue to Military Road to Rock Creek Park and back to the Mall and the Sylvan - raised $115.75 for the March of Dimes, which is what the Walk-A-Thon is all about.
Miller was one of about 3,700 walkers and runners who signed up sponsors to pay them for every mile of the course completed. In Miller's case 19 sponsors collectively paid $4.63 a mile.
The Walk-A-Thon, which began in this area five years ago, is the direct descendant of the old Mothers' March, the campaign in which mothers went door to door to raise funds to wipe out polio.
The Mothers' March has continued to this day, but according to March of Dimes official Ike Hager, the Walk-A-Thon is "our largest fund-raising effort of the year."
The walkers raise more money through their sponsors than the organization could with a direct-mail campaign, Hager said, because "a lot of people know direct mail is an expensive way to raise money, so they hesitate to give. This is a healthy, happy way to raise money and involve the community."
The community is involved. Red Cross volunteers manned 'Poop-Out Wagons at each of the seven checks-in points along the march. Groups like the USCO, Army Reserve, Civil Air-Patrol and VFW provided manpower. Amateur radio operators provided communications.
And then there were the podiatrists, the blessed podiatrists, with their moleskin and corn pads and foot power and bandages.
Dr. Gerald Robin, of Chevy Chase, headed up the pedestrian medical corps. Working at the check-in point at Military Road NW and Oregon Avenue, he said "We're running into sprains of ankles, a lot of blister problems, one or two suspected fractures and some tired, sore feet. But a lot of kids are doing really well."
Robin, who said he was sponsoring two walkers at $1 per mile, said he had treated at least 350 feet by about 2 p.m., six hours after the official 8 a.m. start.
Dr. Kenneth Canter, the podiatrist handling the walk-in business at the checkpoint near Sibley Hospital, mile 10, said, "We're doing pretty well today because it's not as hot as last year."
"It's not as hot today as it was last year," said Canter, as he applied moleskin patches to 15-year-old Jodi Cliff's feet. "Last year we saw a lot of swollen feet."
Yesterday was Cliff's second Walk-A-Thon. "They're good," the Clinton, Md., resident said of the podiatrists. "They took me to the hospital last year. I made it all the way but I was on crutches for five weeks afterwards. I tore everything back in here." She gestured toward her left heel.
In addition to those who walked and dragged themselves over the 25-mile course, a few even ran it.
The first person to finish was a marine, D. R. Bennet, who covered the distance in 2 hours 17 minutes. Bruce Chrisman, a Navy man sprinted in just behind Bennet in 2:17:30.
While children and adults were walking and running in the District to raise money for the March of Dimes, youngsters in Virginia were participating in a Jaycee-sponsored project called the Walk For Mankind, and some Maryland young people mounted their bicycles to raise money for the mentally retarded.