Ok, here comes the confession. When Bonnie and I finished the Cuba Swim, an undeniably bad-ass endeavor—not only the final achievement of 53 hours non-stop swimming from Cuba to Florida, but also the thirty-five years of pursuit, the four previous hellish attempts, the hundreds of hours of grueling training—we sat down to conceive of a movement we might lead, a movement that would capture the awe of nature, the joy of traveling over the curvature of the earth by the strength of one’s own body, all of which we felt in spades throughout the Cuba quest.
Swimming was first on our minds, wanting to share the majesty of the ocean. But the logistics of swimming for the masses is difficult to pull off. Then we considered cycling. I had dived into endurance cycling for twelve years back in the 90s and had such fond memories of taking in the sights at 18mph, chatting with strangers along the flats, the wondrous feeling of having traveled a long road at the end of the day. I had been invited to take part in a Vietnam Vets ride from Hanoi to Saigon, with 100 vets of that war—50 Americans, 50 North Vietnamese—which turned into one of the most meaningful adventures of my life. My years in the saddle started with that 1,200- mile ride down the length of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
But Bonnie and I nixed cycling for our movement, thinking it would exclude too many people for reasons of equipment expense, time commitment, and potential dangers of falls.
Running was out. Bonnie and I had both been longtime runners, not competitively but for fitness training throughout the forty years we’ve been working out together. But we had both come to an orthopedic farewell to hitting the hard pavement. In 2000, while broadcasting the Sydney Olympic Games, on one afternoon off, I took a scenic run around Sydney Harbor. I was crossing the Sydney Harbor Bridge, enchanted by the Opera House and Harbor view, when my right knee buckled. I hobbled back to the hotel and, once back to the States, both my surgeon and my knees had a heart-to-heart with me. They said: You can swim and surf and play tennis and climb and walk and dance and do just about anything you want to do for the rest of your life, if you quit running right this minute. If you continue to run, you will probably debilitate your knees to the point of becoming unable to do just about everything else. That Sydney Harbor run was my last.
Bonnie and I–here’s the confession part–just couldn’t wrap our epic imaginations around walking. Walking? We were too badass for walking. Walking was for non-athletes. Walking was for the elderly. But we just had to step back and consider it. On my road trips, I began to head out the hotel door early in the morning for a ninety-minute walk. My mind was so happy to be taking in every little moment to every side of me, after being under the illusion that I was observing every detail going 18mph on my bike. Bonnie and I started going to the high school track and walking one hour, 4 miles at 15-mins per mile. We noticed our legs becoming very strong. I cold bound out of my car, instead of slightly struggling to stand up from that low seat. Our middles were tightening. And we weren’t distance walking at all. We were gaining respect for an activity we had just a few months earlier deemed unworthy of our badass selves.
We immersed ourselves in reading about walking, starting with the erudite Rebecca Solnit’s profound tracking of the human race’s walking history, Wanderlust. It hit us over the head, the revelation that walking was precisely the activity that would fulfill the two main objectives we had originally wanted to fulfill:
To be in Awe of Nature and The Sensation of Joy while Traveling the Curvature of the Earth.
And, thus, EverWalk, was born. We loved the name. We still do. We always will. EverWalk: meaning “for everybody, forever”.
Given our history as athletes (Bonnie, you may know, was the #5 on the Professional Racquetball Tour through the 80s), we pushed right away toward our EPIC walks. 135 miles in 7 days. Yes, people have walked farther. The tales of people walking across Europe, across the United States, around the world, some of them averaging an astounding 40 or 50 miles per day, speak volumes of true badass character. But for us, even those who have swum non-stop for two-plus days, these seven-day walks were a challenge. And the EPICS (we’ve done four of them to date) brought the element of community to EverWalk. We have had a wide range of talent and fitness levels join in on the EPICS but there has been zero sense of competition. We are all traveling that road together, helping each other up the hills, through the blisters, beyong the temptation to give up. Each and every one who crosses the final ACHIEVE line has been badass.
Our newest initiative at EW is The EverWalk Mile, the concept being to make walking a mile part of your everyday lifestyle. Just as you brush your teeth every day, you eat your meals every day, you walk a mile every single day. One mile is not badass. But any time you incorporate something positive, something healthy, something permanent into your life, you are badass. Any time you make a commitment to something that will bring you to awe of nature, that will take you over the curvature of the earth, that will connect with you community as you walk, you are badass.
So, in conclusion, yes, to be a dedicated, committed-for-the-rest-of-your-life walker, you are most definitely BADASS.
Diana, all your blog entries are thoughtful and engaging … this one particularly so.