The East Durham Trail Blazers—an exercise group formed by the East Durham Children’s Initiative to improve personal health and encourage community interaction—walked a total of 262 miles in less than six months, despite the heat, the cold and fatigue.
EDCI challenged the group, composed entirely of local residents, to walk 26 miles in six weeks, using a 1-mile loop around the Holton Career and Resource Center and logging their miles manually or by phone. A few residents had a head-start—having begun logging their miles in the summer when the group first formed.
“When I received the invitation, I was really excited about the opportunity for my family to walk with me,” participant Ana Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez earned the prize for logging the most miles in the program, walking 50 miles since this summer. Her and her daughter, Julisa Ramirez, were the only participants to reach the marathon goal—with Julisa logging 27 miles. Gonzalez’ son and middle daughter, also named Ana, walked 8 miles apiece as well.
At the final celebration on Saturday, Nov. 22, Gonzalez was awarded a gold medal along with a pedometer, several walking-themed magnets and hand weights for walking the most miles. The participants who recorded up to the fifth-highest mile tally also received prizes.
One of the EDCI coordinators, Cate Elander, passed out the prizes and congratulated every participant on their hard work.
“I just want to say thank you to everybody for coming to walk and bringing your friends to walk,” she said. “There were 30 people who participated this summer and fall, and we walked over 10 marathons!”
The other program coordinator, Jennifer McDuffie, held up a sign that read, “We walked 262 miles!” and the Trail Blazers gathered around it with Sharpies to write their names and the amount they walked.
Darryl and Lanishia Barnes were some of the first residents to sign up for the Trail Blazers. They had requested a program like it at a focus group in January. Since moving to Durham from New York City a few years ago, the Barnes said their health had declined because of a decrease in exercise and an increase in unhealthy food.
Elander contacted them in the spring, and they have helped lead the group since its start six months ago.
“I’ve been feeling a lot better lately, health-wise, breathing-wise,” Darryl said. “I’ve lost some weight too—like 5 lbs.”
Darryl has been working out with a church group as well, and the couple would routinely push their 2-year-old son, Jacob, in a stroller around the 1-mile loop.
Although neither husband nor wife completed a marathon in six weeks, they came in third and fifth for most tracked miles, with Lanishia completing 22 miles and Darryl completing 18.
“So together you walked well over a marathon!” Elander pointed out.
When the official push to walk a marathon began in October, Lanishia routinely vowed, “When we work out together, you do better.” She said that motto held true for the last six weeks.
“When the other person didn’t want to get out of bed, the other person said, ‘Get up!’”
“We pushed each other,” Darryl said.
Lanishia and Darryl wear the pedometers the program gave them, and they each have a goal of walking 4,000 to 6,000 steps each day, or 2 to 3 miles. Most days they walk at least a mile or two, Lanishia said.
She said they plan on continuing their workout regime in the winter: “Gonna bundle up more, and keep it warm, and do some inside working out, too.”
Gonzalez also said she would walk “every time I have the opportunity.”
“I think that the neighborhood is safer when we walk in it, too,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez walked two loops two or three times a week for the past six months. Her youngest, 5-year-old Anel, could have tracked the most miles if she had been recording: she did every mile with her mom in a stroller.
EDCI plans to continue the program in the warmer months.
“Hopefully everybody keeps walking in the winter,” Elander said. “Hopefully everybody keeps warm.”