It is no coincidence that we have launched The EverWalk Mile during the Corona pandemic. Yes, we have had dancing in our imaginations, since we opened our EverWalk doors five years ago, leading a national movement of daily walking. But, perhaps the ultimate irony, our stay-at-home lifestyles we Americans have adhered to for the most part over recent months has left many of us with walking as our main relief from isolation.

In our urban, suburban and rural op-ed pages, all across the country, people report seeing people walking in their neighborhoods in numbers never before witnessed. This doesn’t seem to be hard-core fitness walking. These Americans aren’t cranking their arms, busting down the street to set a speed record. These are couples strolling after dinner. Dog-owners taking Fido for his second or third outing on a beautiful day. Families spending some time together, stopping to notice the flowers at the corner, flowers they’ve never paid much attention to before.

We are, by virtue of collectively participating in the only safe, easy, free activity available to all of us, becoming better neighbors. It’s a daily happening Mr. Rogers could get behind.

I have lived in two different houses in the same neighborhood for some twenty-five years. I’ve been walking my different sets of dogs here for all that time, taking note of the various colorful birdbaths, the blossoming of magnolias come spring, the guy who restores vintage cars down the way. But it’s only these past few months, the Covid months, that I’ve actually gotten to know many of my neighbors themselves. All manner of people I don’t think I’ve ever seen, except perhaps in cars swooshing by, are now waving to each other. We all wear masks. We all give each other plenty of space to pass….or we politely cross the other side of the street, to give each other even more room. We stop and chat across the street, telling each other where are homes are, asking how kids have done with home schooling, checking in on the recent alarming numbers of new Covid cases in California.

The song “What a Wonderful World” captures so much of what we believe in here at EverWalk, allowing ourselves on walks to be enraptured by trees of green, skies of blue, clouds of white, colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky. And the lyrics to the song—most famously sung by Louis Armstrong and later Iz Kamakawiwo’ole—go beyond our embracing the beauty of nature but to our reaching out to our neighbors. “I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do.” Well, we’re not shaking hands right now but we seem to be saying plenty of “how do you do’s”.

We carefully considered the distance that would be right for everybody to make walking an automatic part of our daily lives and we came upon One Mile by simple analysis of time commitment. Yes, on the absurd end, race walkers can go a mile in 5 ½ minutes. Even among our intrepid EPIC EverWalkers, we have extraordinary individuals who can clock many consecutive miles at under 13 mins per. But for most of us mortals, 15 minutes per mile would be an effort, needing to swing the arms with gusto. 20 mins per mile would fall into a comfortable gait and anywhere up to some 30 mins per mile would still be moving along, enough to open the lungs, to ask the heart for some extra flow of oxygen, enough to get the legs striding with strength.

But any one of those miles, at any one of those speeds, brings us in touch with our neighborhoods. I happen to do all kinds of pretty extreme exercise, including medium-to-long walks. But I expressly walk my old hound dog Teddy one mile every single day, That’s my dedicated EverWalk Mile. It’s my bonding time with Teddy. It makes me so darn happy to see him still under his legs, still taking in every scent, inspecting each bush. It’s my time to slow down and observe. How can I walk the precise same blocks every single day and yet I notice some pattern on a flower, some geometry of a tree’s branches, I’ve never noticed before.

Yet more than anything, what’s new on my EverWalk Mile walks with Teddy each day is my neighbors themselves. An English woman came out her front door yesterday, with her English bulldog, and we walked several feet apart together down the block, fascinated by the fact that some English, such as herself, keep their crisp and charming British accents, even after years living here, while other Brits lose their accents to broad American strokes very quickly. Here we were, neighbors evidently for a long time, but now for the first time neighbors saying “How Do You Do.”

Many of us across the country speak of values and habits we’ve garnered since early March, things such as cooking good healthy dinners, that we intend to continue, even when and if non-Covid life returns. The value and habit we by all means envision continuing is daily walking. The EverWalk Mile’s time has arrived.

About Diana Nyad: 

 A prominent sports journalist, filing for National Public Radio, ABC’s Wide World of Sports, The New York Times and others, Diana has carved her place as one of our compelling storytellers and sought-after public speakers. .