The ground is wet. I see that it rained the night before, but the sun is out and will burn-off the two or three puddles that I see along the trail in no time. We’ve taken a small handful of steps, but I can see already that my wife’s pace is brisk and determined and I’m already starting to sweat. In the heat and high humidity, my shirt will be soaked in no time.
My wife and I started walking together most mornings earlier this summer and it’s become a daily ritual. A daily must-do. Today, we’ve selected a trail a short drive from our house that crosses a busy road and starts out flat and wooded, but takes a right turn and snakes its way up a long hill. The woods gives way to a wide open path with only a few shady spots. By the time we’re done, we’ll have cranked out a short five mile walk and my burning thighs will be sure to get a workout.
My wife was up late the night before with work, so the talk in the early going is sporadic. I remind her to turn on the stopwatch on her phone and she taps her watch twice to show me that she’s already on top of it. I step in front of her when we see a bike rider coming barreling towards us near the start of the trail, but other than that we rush through the first mile in a quiet hush.
My wife is the first to break the silence. She reminds me that she’s getting together after work with one of her friends who recently had a baby. The night out will be the first time that she’s been out of the house in a while. The calendar mention reminds her to ask about my upcoming doctor’s appointment. I tell her that we’re fine, that there’s no conflict, but I quickly change the subject, asking instead about one of the kids, best to talk about our three kids then to spend the hour focusing on my health. Fortunately for me, she misses the slight of hand.
My wife and I first started walking as a way to get us both out of the house with us both home because of COVID-19 and to walk off a few extra pounds. We figured what could it hurt.
I’ve never been much of a walker. I’ve always been more of a runner. My thinking has always been: Why walk, when you could run. Let me be clear, I’m not much of a runner. I’ll never break any records. Moroccan middle-distance runner Hicham El Guerrouj, the current world’s men’s mile record holder with a time of 3:43.13, has nothing to worry about with me. In fact, I’m more of a plodder when it comes to running. I have tons of stamina, but have never had much speed. So when it comes to walking, I’ve always had three gears: avoidance altogether, a slow waddle, and an “amusement park gotta-get-there-first shuffle.”
So when my wife first suggested that we go for a walk, I wasn’t jumping for joy. I worried about another honey-due item being added to my list. In fact, I worried that our walk would start out like Dorothy and Toto in the Wizard of Oz, with everyone happy and excited, and quickly turn into a Frodo and Sam from The Lord of the Rings death march into the gates of hell.
Despite my early misgivings, I’ve changed my mind and have found that I’ve come to enjoy the exercise and time with my wife. In fact, I’ve come to look forward to the time on the trail.
I was laid up for a couple of weeks recently and I was surprised by how much I missed our daily walks. Here’s a few things that I’ve learned about walking that serve as good lessons for life:
–Keep your eyes open, you never know what you might find. We’ve run across more rabbits, turtles, and deer than I can count, but we’ve also comes upon a few inquisitive snakes. We ran across one the other day. I believe it was a simple Black Snake, but I must admit that I wasn’t waiting around for him to tell us that he wouldn’t bite.
–Enjoy the journey. When I run, I tend to have one goal in mind. I may not always pay attention to the clock, but it’s always in the back of my mind. How fast can I run three miles? What’s my mile time? Do I feel good enough to add add more mileage to today’s run? Oh, I enjoy the chance to get out, but I’m still focused on the end goal, to become a better runner. When I walk with my wife, I find that the goal is secondary: Enjoying the walk or the journey takes precedence over everything else.
–Enjoy the company. I’ve learned to like walking alone. I find that I solve the world’s problems best when I’m alone—if only anyone would listen—but I’ve been surprised with how much I’ve enjoyed “just being” with my wife. In the end, I guess it comes down to the company you keep making all the difference in the world.