1000 kilometres. That’s the distance you go to train for your first marathon walk. There are people who do this all by themselves. But it goes better with friends. Or at least one friend.
It becomes a journey, but not just to the finish line on race day.
I walked mostly alone for decades. Then for a few precious years, I gave myself over to group walking, first as participant then as coach.
As a coach, I tried to convince people, one on one, to imprint their brains with the necessity and the pleasure of everyday walking. Most of the time, we were preparing for a race day, gaining the strength required to take us through many finish lines: 42 km, 21 km, 10 km, 5 km.
Sometimes it would be a group of young mothers, having delivered their pre-teens to school, and before they carried on with the rest of their multitasking days, they would come together for a big walk. The idea was to make it a daily habit, with or without the group.
There were sometimes very overweight people who could years on end stare at the front door, thinking they should step out but never did. Together we did go through the door—so many times it became a habit and I was no longer needed.
I have walked with people training to go on the world famous Camino de Santiago in Spain. Whether for the full 1,000 kilometres over six weeks, or the partial versions over ten days to two weeks, they were seeking a once-in-a-lifetime experience, possibly a bridge from a difficult past to a better future, possibly as an act of redemption for various sins or commission and omission along the way.
Many do this walk without any preparation as if the inevitable suffering is part of the goal, an agony wrapped up in sainthood, perhaps. I would try to convince them to prepare, prepare, prepare. It is the mind, the spirit, not the body, that needs repentance or a new understanding. Let the body be ready to open this door so mind and spirit can fly to new better territories.
Time spent in walking groups opens a door toa new kind of friendship, the kind that happens when people come together for the seemingly innocent project of “going for a walk.” They end up talking and listening for hours about stuff that really matters. And having a good laugh every now and then as well.
Walking Friends Forever is not just about a walk now and then but the difference it can make to the bigger journey of an entire lifetime. I would not have arrived to it and its premise of intentional walking everyday forever, without giving up for a few years the pleasures of waking alone for the pleasures – and the education — of walking in groups. Alone or together, there is a right way to walk and it involves all aspects of good health: posture, core training, nutrition, and technique.
It is good for those who walk alone to also walk with friends now and then. Because in that shared experience we articulate an essence that wealone share.
A few days ago, the typical event occurred again. I heard a shout-out, the screeching of wheels on brakes, the honks of horns as someone tried to change three lanes in five seconds. It was a walker pal from ten years
ago. She jumped out of the car and ran over and hugged me. And then she was gone.
We are walking friends forever.
Now I walk mostly alone again, accompanied by Wolf, my ever-ready-for-a-walk canine companion. I walk with the knowledge of all that I learned during those social years. Still working on posture and proper nutrition, but I do know the rules. My body is free to range as wide and as long as time and strength permits. My mind released from work and the daily struggles, an hour or so at a time, now thinks new things and has fun doing it.
Walking Friends Forever is about lifelong learning about walking and why it is a core element of the good life. It is about body care and respect. It is also about the mind, how it loves to wander – and improve– along with the feet.
To be continued.
Yours, Dawn MacDonald Deme
PS You may have noticed: our blog has gone through a redesign, thanks to the excellent work of child fiction artist Simon Goodway (www.simongoodway.com). Original art designer (2009) was Genevieve Holt.