Tales from the Trail: Why I’m a Walker

Everyone has their own reasons for walking.  Some are former runners who, for some reason, have had to take a step back.  Some are walkers because it’s one of the simplest forms of exercise—a great place to start a regular exercise habit.  Some (like my dad, back when I was a teenager) have been instructed by their cardiologist to get out there and get moving.  For me…it’s a little more complex.  And since we’ve been hanging out for a while and chatting about our walking experience, I thought it was about time that I shared a little bit of my story.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved being active, but I was never really into participating in sports—and, really, in my small town, there weren’t many options anyway.  It didn’t help that my ankles always seemed to hurt.  And telling my mom one too many times that my feet hurt when she took me shopping, she dragged me to a podiatrist, Dr. Wally, who did some tests and x-rays and discovered that I was born with a condition where I have extra cartilage in the middle of my ankle joints.  As he explained, it’s a pretty rare thing to have at all, and I had it in both of my ankles.  You know, because I’m extra like that.  He then told me, “It’s a good thing you’re a cute kid, ‘cuz you’ll never have cute feet.”  So…yay, me.

Dr. Wally’s diagnosis led to all kinds of super fun adventures.  When I was 9, I had surgery on my right ankle, which led to me sitting on the steps of the school during recess, while everyone else played with my crutches.  It meant that I had to wear ankle braces when I did any kind of physical activity.  And it meant that I had a note from Dr. Wally on file at school, saying that I could not participate in anything that involved running.  So, despite my love of being active, I was the kid who stood awkwardly next to the gym teacher, stop watch in hand, as my classmates ran the mile.  And I was the kid who’s still kinda bitter that she missed out on that Presidential Fitness Award in high school just because she wasn’t allowed to run.

That’s not to say that I never tried to run.  When I was in college, all of the girls in my dorm used to go running together.  I felt left out, so I decided to give it a try.  After all, I was an adult now, and I was pretty sure that I had grown out of all of those issues, right?  Well, no.  I went out there and ran almost the entire two miles with them.  And then I was in agony for a week after.

Through the years, I’ve looked for ways to stay active, but I never really found one that I truly enjoyed.  I’ve always loved getting out and exploring, though—even though our treks through London and Paris and Rome often left my ankles swollen and sore.  But it didn’t stop me.  When we went to Machu Picchu, I climbed that big ol’ mountain for the best view.  Twice.  Because I could—and because I knew that, with my messed-up ankles, there could come a time when I couldn’t.

It wasn’t until my daughter started second grade—in the fall of 2019—that I decided to get serious.  I’d put on the 10 pounds that you end up gaining over the summer while entertaining a kid with ice cream and donuts, and I remembered my doctor’s words: “When you’re done chasing a toddler around, you’re going to have to start exercising.”  So I decided to go for an easy walk on the treadmill every morning after she got on the bus.  I kept it up when COVID hit and my daughter came home.  We went for walks together.  And then I discovered virtual races.  I’d always dreamed of doing a 5k, but I didn’t want to be the only one walking—but I figured if I did it from home, on my own time, it didn’t matter.  And it became my favorite thing.  I signed up for a million races at MoonJoggers.com and made my friends join me—sometimes virtually, sometimes in person.

When the pandemic died down and in-person races started up again, I got my friends together to sign up for Gordy’s Pumpkin Run, a 5k through the city in the crisp, fall air.  And it was the greatest day ever.  I was so proud as I drank my celebratory Dunkin iced coffee on the way home that I was hooked.  I wish Dr. Wally could have seen me. And, admittedly, every time I tackle a new distance, I take a minute to tell the Dr. Wally in my head that I’m still going.  After my first half-marathon, I almost hunted the poor old guy down to mail him a picture of me with my medal—because I knew he’d understand why it feels such a massive accomplishment for this kid with the ugly ankles.

To me, walking is my peace.  It’s my therapy.  And it’s also a way to keep my heart healthy, so I don’t have to get to know my cardiologist as well as my dad knows his.  It’s time to get out and breathe some fresh air (even in the middle of winter or the sweltering days of summer—because I try to avoid my old treadmill now when I can) and listen to a book or a podcast or to catch up with a friend.  It’s great exercise.  It makes me happy.  So happy, in fact, that if you run into me on the trail, I may give you a big ol’ smile and a greeting that’s surprisingly exuberant for someone who looks like she’s sweating to death.

My walking journey hasn’t always been easy.  My ankles still swell to the size of my head sometimes.  When I wake up in the morning, they’re so stiff that it takes me a few minutes of hobbling before I can start walking like a normal person.  And I probably deal with more ankle pain than the average human, but it’s just a part of who I am, so I accept it and move on.  And don’t even get me started about what it’s like to get up and walk every day when you suffer from long COVID.  That’s another topic for another day.  But, through it all, I walk because I want to.  I walk because it’s what my body can handle.  I walk because it’s good for me.  I walk because it’s good for my family (because I’m so much crabbier if I don’t get a walk in).  And I walk because it just gives me joy—even on the worst of days, when I don’t have the time or energy to get my butt off the couch.

What about you?  What’s your story? Why do YOU walk?


Kristin has been hitting the trail (or the treadmill) for a walk almost every day for the past several years, and she recently completed her first half marathon. She loves sunny fall days, cushy walking shoes, and coconut caramel iced coffee from Dunkin.

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