By Sarah Pridgeon
If you have traveled through the canyon over the last week, chances are that you witnessed a lone figure trundling back and forth along a driveway. Depending at what stage of the process you passed by, you will either have noted her confident stride and swinging arms or taken pity as she crawled towards a water bottle.
That figure was, of course, me. And the reason for my ongoing endeavor is that I have somehow found myself a part of the collective effort to walk a thousand miles during September in aid of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.
I didn’t expect to be roped in and, in all honesty, I couldn’t tell you how it happened. One moment I was listening to an inspiring description of a little girl with cancer who wanted to help others in her situation and the next I was strapping my sneakers on. I would call it witchcraft, but my team leader knows where I live.
Never one to accept a challenge without being absolutely sure I can complete it, I decided to start with a practice day. It did not go well.
With the help of a calculator and a furrowed brow, I worked out that I would need to walk at least 3.6 miles every 24 hours if I was going to meet my hundred-mile target, which works out to be 7200 individual steps. Factoring in the inevitable days where I would be too busy (or lazy) to walk, I rounded up to four miles to be on the safe side.
I diligently counted my steps during a normal working day, which included wandering to the coffee pot and flailing up and down on my aerobic step. This revealed that I would somehow need to find time and energy for a couple of extra miles.
And so I experimented with adding superfluous steps around the office, but soon discovered that circling the desks failed to make a dent in the numbers and left me swaying dizzily. I tried walking to destinations when I normally drive but, as I already travel anywhere within a half-mile radius on foot, ended up behind my deadline and in serious danger of not bringing you any news.
There was only one thing for it; I was going to have to walk two additional miles each day on purpose.
A second problem to be solved was a lack of pedometer, because there is a reason I work with words instead of numbers: I cannot count. Unfortunately, my pedometer was no longer in the safe place that I had left it (and is probably holed up with my missing umbrella). I downloaded an app for my cell phone, but it clocked me at 143 steps while I typed an email, which led me to doubt its accuracy.
Dad-in-law, who has at least one of every item made by man squirreled away in his shop, provided me with two pedometer options, each with its own peculiarity. One was so well-loved that the digits had faded into obscurity and the other was solar-powered but didn’t seem to like the sun. A third was brought in for me by a thoughtful friend of the team, but lacked a battery.
With a pedometer in each pocket, I set off on an exploratory trundle. I returned with three entirely different counts: one from me and one from each pedometer. Not even when I averaged them did I come up with a useable figure.
Until I could rustle up a battery, there was nothing for it but to count out loud and tot up the total using my fingers and a piece of paper. A slight downside of this approach was that I found myself forced to ignore anyone who greeted me until I had reached a round number, lest I forget where I was and have to start again.
Obviously motivated by concern for my welfare and to help me avoid being rude, my lovely husband took to entertaining himself by shouting out random numbers as I walked. This quickly trained me to keep a precise count, but he was sent to bed without dinner anyway.
Bearing in mind my fear of mountain lions and dislike of sweating in public places, my next challenge was to work out where I could actually walk. The treadmill was immediately disqualified on the basis that the cat had been thieving bottle lids from the trash can and hiding them under the belt, which unsurprisingly caused it to malfunction.
I tried doing circuits of the living room and kitchen but it turned out to be somewhat soul destroying to reach the pantry door for the sixtieth time and have barely completed half a mile. I attempted to spend longer clambering onto my aerobic step, but ended up curled in a ball on top of it. I switched to crab-stepping on the spot, but got distracted and lost count.
Eventually, I realized there was no need to leave the safety of my back yard to find an acceptable walking circuit. Though not very long, the top portion of the drive is flat, even and entirely free from fanged felines. My husband was even able to join me, though the conversation did dwindle to a communal huffing and puffing.
With the freedom of space, I soon regained the walking prowess that I learned as a London commuter. It is said that moving from any single point in the capital to any other, no matter the distance between the two, takes precisely one hour. Though I was never able to disprove this theory, like every other commuter I toiled daily to whittle down my traveling time.
Presumably we are all laboring under the impression that, by cutting three seconds from the time it takes to cover the distance between stations, we can catch an earlier train. We simply refuse to accept that positive thinking will get you a long way in life, but it will not get you home more quickly.
Soon enough, I was powering back and forth along the drive at almost 60 miles per hour, strawberry-red in the face and counting steps on my fingers, while my aunt-in-law shouted encouragement from her deck and the dogs plotted to bowl me over backwards. And I shall continue to emulate the Road Runner until I have hit my goal and done my part to battle childhood cancer.
If you would like to find out more about our thousand-mile thought experiment, you can find us at www.millionmilerun.org under the team name “The Sundance Kids.” And if you find yourself mesmerized and wearing unexpected hiking boots, please be comforted in the knowledge that there’s room on my driveway for two.