Frances and Her Circle of Walkers
I first learned about my coworker Frances’s passion for walking as we chatted about our plans for an upcoming holiday weekend. She mentioned her top priority was to get in as many walks as possible. Not how people typically spend Labor Day weekend, especially in hot and humid Atlanta. It sounded awesome and I had to know more! I wound up learning ways in which walking can be core to a healthy lifestyle at all stages. I also joined Frances and her friend Bernadette for a 5K. How lucky for me!
Frances takes her walking seriously. It is a non-negotiable part of her routine to maintain good health, along with eating well. But Frances’s walking plan isn’t just about her. She’s created a circle of committed walkers and friends that she updates regularly and encourages to join if and when they’re ready. And while she is serious about showing and completing every walk, she also enjoys the process and ensures those around her do too. I believe what makes Frances so successful is accountability, adaptability, and camaraderie.
So, Frances walked her way through Labor Day weekend to prepare for two 5K (3.1 Mile) races in September. First, there was The Mayor’s 5K on the 5th Runway. This unique race takes place on a runway at ATL airport. It starts at 6:30 a.m. and there are strict time limits. If you don’t make it to the first mile marker on time, you’re escorted off the course. The world’s busiest airport can only close a runway for so long! Transportation to the race is complex, so the circle of walkers had to get up at 2:30 a.m. and complete the race at their best possible speed. They all did it with time with time to spare. Bravo!
Later that month, I joined Frances and Bernadette for the1980’s Themed “Breakfast Club” 5K in a lovely park north of Atlanta. It was a wonderful community run with a couple hundred people. The best part was meeting Bernadette and learning more about the circle of walkers, which has covered many miles since its start just one year ago. In September of 2018, Frances’s family suggested she sign up for a 1 mile walk as part of a big race in Virginia Beach. Frances checked it out and noticed was also a 5K option. As a longtime walker who covered three miles regularly, she opted for the 5K. She successfully completed the race, and, most importantly, thoroughly enjoyed it.
When some of Frances’s Facebook friends saw her post and about the race, they asked to join her on some walks. Bernadette told me she’d walked on her own but knew she’d be more consistent if she did it with friends. She appreciated Frances’s leadership. They’d meet at local parks or malls depending on the weather. As they fell into their routine, they felt accountable and kept coming back. When her friends have schedule conflicts, Frances is fine to head out on her own. On a recent solo mall walk, she saw another walker who looked like she needed to talk. They joined up that day and made plans to meet up the following week. The circle grows.
One year and 9 races later, the circle of walkers is going strong with even more races ahead. Next up is a The Under the Oaks 5K at Jekyll Island, Georgia on October 12th. Frances will return for a 2nd time and take four friends with her. This race is special because Jekyll Island is Frances’s home place, where she spent her formative years. It also falls on her 70th birthday and she can’t think of a better way to celebrate. By the way, the other walkers are in their 50’s and 60’s and often remark that they have no excuse when they’re tempted to slack off.
November kicks off with a race that I seriously wonder if I am even up for. I know, I know – no excuses, but hear me out. It’s the Race Against Time 5K on November 3rd. It starts exactly when the time falls back by one hour. As the website says: “Start time 1:50 a.m. – yes, that’s in the ‘middle of the night’.” What? How? Why?! Frances embraces unique races like this to keep it interesting. She’s also considering a cool night run along a course with Christmas lights, which I would love. But I feel like I need to do that middle of the night race to earn a spot at the Christmas one. We’ll see.
The momentum of this past year is really a culmination of a lifetime well spent for Frances. She’s walked to keep healthy since her teens. She’s always tried to eat well and has found success in Weight Watchers over the past 10 years. Most of us have probably noticed how our bodies change over time, along with our health and our lifestyles. Frances accepts this as challenge and experiments with her regimen to maintain her health and fitness. To her it’s all about consistent momentum so she can continue to enjoy mobility and independence. She currently walks a minimum of 10 miles a week over 3 or more days. I try to convey my admiration to people like Frances when I’m on a walk, at the gym etc. I want to be like them one day. But I seldom engage beyond that. I’m grateful for the opportunity to do so with Frances. I know I’ll use what I’ve learned on my own healthy journey. And I realize there’s still so much to learn. Accountability, camaraderie and adaptability. Unforgettable and timeless!