In the next 42 days, many East Durham residents will complete 26 miles of walking in partnership with a program run by the East Durham Children’s Initiative called the East Durham Trail Blazers. The group will walk a 1-mile loop around the Holton Career and Resource Center twice a week for the next six weeks.
“By the end of this you’re gonna have to put me in that stroller,” Mary Garrett, an East Durham resident, joked with her husband, Tony, motioning to a neighbor’s toddler.
“We walk every day, believe it or not,” Mary clarified—she and her husband are painters and construction workers. “Just not like this.”
On Saturday Oct. 11, the East Durham Trail Blazers began its initiative to improve personal health and encourage community interaction, with about 20 residents gathering to kick off the walking marathon.
One of the EDCI coordinators, Cate Elander, gave an opening speech before the group completed the Healthy Mile Trail down Taylor Street, across Eastway Avenue, up Liberty Street, back across North Hyde Park Avenue, up Southgate Street and around the Holton Center.
“We’re here because we’re going to walk a marathon before Thanksgiving,” said Elander, who is also the manager of community engagement at EDCI. “We’re going to earn our pumpkin pie and turkey!”
Elander explained that EDCI ordered pedometers for the participants, and if they can’t make it Tuesday or Thursday mornings, they can still log their miles by text or phone or record their laps in a logbook inside the Holton Center.
The East Durham Trail Blazers plan to meet ever Tuesday and Thursday at 9 a.m. and walk 2 miles. There will be prizes awarded to participants along the way, with a celebration at the end of the 26 miles on Nov. 22, the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
“When we work out together, you do better.”
Darryl and Lanishia Barnes pushed their 2 year-old son, Jacob, in a stroller during the 1-mile loop and explained how their health had diminished since moving to Durham from New York City a few years ago.
More driving, less walking and fried, Southern food has raised Darryl’s blood pressure and made Lanishia gain weight, they said. Two months ago they began walking the route around the Holton Center and now they’re dedicated to help leading the group every week.
“When we work out together, you do better,” Lanishia said. “It helps you because you want to cheat when you’re by yourself.”
Lanishia explained that she and her husband had asked for an exercise program like this at a community focus group in January and that a few months later, Cate shared the marathon idea with them. The Barnes and many others took to it immediately.
Agatha Schutte, a social worker for the Center for Child & Family Health, lives in North Durham but said she came to the opening ceremony to get to know the community better.
“Also just to encourage moms of the neighborhood, the people that I work with, to come and do it,” Schutte said.
The Garretts were convinced by the program’s other coordinator, Jen McDuffie, to join the marathon. They moved to East Durham two decades ago and met McDuffie three or four years ago at a neighborhood block party. McDuffie works part-time for EDCI as a health consultant and was at the kick-off along with Elander. McDuffie handed out fliers during the event and walked part of the way, picking up trash along the sidewalk.
The Garretts said they have seen major improvements in the area recently—including the construction of the Healthy Mile Trail they walk on around the Holton Center. They’ve also noticed housing reconstruction, safer neighborhoods and a variety of community initiatives.
“It’s always been a tendency of mine that when we move to a place, I walk and check it out,” Tony said. “It’s been a dramatic, big change that has happened.”
As the Garretts, Barnes, Schutte and 12 others walked down Eastway Avenue, they talked about how nice the new houses looked and the different trims and designs they liked. The group made a few turns and started up a hill on North Hyde Park Avenue—immediately a friendly uproar began.
“How am I going to get up this?”
“This thing is giant!”
Their pace slowed down, but they laughed and chatted all the way back. One mile down, 25 to go.
If you’re interested in participating in the marathon, call Cate Elander at 919-699-6873 or email Jen McDuffie at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. People of all ages and abilities are encouraged to join—the path is paved and passable with a walker, and runners are also welcome. There is no fee to sign up.