Walking track more popular than anyone expected
December 13, 2017 3:57 pm
The walking track at the PotashCorp Sportsplex has turned out to be more popular than anyone expected.
The original plan was for the Sportsplex to operate over the winter and close entirely in summer.
The group of dedicated walkers didn’t want to give up walking over the summer, so volunteers were found to keep the building open two hours a day over the summer for walkers.
Now that the facility is open again, more and more people are walking all the time.
“When Mike (Schwean) was planning the Sportsplex, he just thought this was wasted space, so why not add rubber to it and make it a walking track,” says town recreation employee Catherine Jaenen.
“The Shriners donated to build the track. Then it was Mike’s idea to do the Number One Walking Challenge, where we count their laps and measure their distance walking across Saskatchewan.
“We thought that would take people forever.
“Nope. Lots of people are already done.
“The challenge was to walk the distance across Saskatchewan on Highway 1, which is 650 kilometres, which is 6,500 laps.
“Some of them finished that and the walkers were waiting for the new challenge to start November 1.
“Now we have a lot on the new challenge—it’s from the Alberta border to English Bay in Vancouver.
“It’s 1,345 kilometres. The walkers keep track of their laps and every few feet we have stops along the highway on the wall. We have some facts about each town. We put the names of the walkers with the town they’ve made it to.
“We have about 35 working on the first walking challenge, and we have 12 who have started the new one. You have to finish number one to start number two.”
The walking track has proved so popular that the walkers convinced the town to keep the Sportsplex open in the summer for walking—the original plan was to close the Sportsplex entirely in the summer.
Instead, volunteers opened the Sportsplex each day for two hours so people could keep walking.
“During the summer we had 15 to 20 regulars,” says Catherine. “Now it’s getting very busy again. The other day there were 47 walkers. On average there are 30-40 a day walking. There are new walkers all the time, and I’m expecting in January there will be even more with all the New Year’s Resolutioners.”
The walking track is open Mondays and Tuesdays 9:30 to 11:30 am, Wednesdays 10 am to noon and 4-10 pm, Thursdays 9:30 to 11:30 am and 4-10 pm, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays 10 am to 10 pm.
“We’re hoping to get a system for the door so they can get in early morning, and noon hour, but we’re trying to find a system that will work for us,” said Catherine
She said the walkers appreciate the facility, and many believe there are health benefits to regular walking. “We have one person who has lost over 60 pounds since she started walking nine months ago,” says Catherine. “She started walking nine laps and now she’s at about 130 a day.
“We have another walker who has asthma and had to stop to catch her breath after two laps. Now she can do almost 30 laps without having to take a break.”
There are other benefits as well.
“A lot of our walkers have made new friends in town,” says Catherine. “They have started walking with people they wouldn’t have known, they have made a lot of friends and connections.”
She said the walkers appreciate a safe, warm, dry place to walk. “A lot of them are scared of the ice and slush, so walking on the track they have no fear of falling.”
She said there is a wide range of ages and abilities among the walkers. “We have people from their 30s to their mid-80s.
“Some people are there for an hour. One lady does 100 laps in the morning and 30 in the afternoon, because she’s going with someone else. That’s 13 k a day.”
She said the walking track is more popular than anyone expected.
“I didn’t think it would get like this, but people really love it. They really appreciate the work that went into the challenges, because it keeps them motivated. They’re so thrilled when we move their names to the next spot on the challenge. They all really enjoy it.”
Linda Doll of Moosomin is one person who really appreciates the walking track. “I started walking in February, and now I don’t know what I would do without it,” she said. “Once you get going, you want to do it every day. In summer volunteers ran it from April 1 to November 1. We didn’t want it to close in the summer. Some people would rather walk there than on the streets. There’s a seat if you need to take a rest, there’s a washroom. It’s just better for walking.”
What does she enjoy about walking?
“I enjoy meeting people I’ve never met before, walking along, chatting getting to know them. The challenge Catherine figured out is unbelievable. It’s definitely an incentive to keep walking and see where you are. She needs to be commended for it.
“The new challenge is twice as far as the last one. Some of us have been looking up the stops to see where they are.” The challenges are a big incentive, she said. “One walker walked across Saskatchewan twice before the second challenge started,” she said. “How’s that for determination?”
She said there has been a big increase in the number of walkers this fall.
“Since November 1, the number walking has been unbelievable. One day we had 40 people on that track. I think the people walking are grateful the volunteers are opening it earlier in the day.”
Before the walking track opened, Linda didn’t walk regularly
“I didn’t really walk. I’m a fair weather walker to start with, and our streets are made for water runoff, not for people to walk along the side of the street.
“The walking track is just a better place to walk. I think the Shriners went way above the call of duty to donate that track.”
She said walkers are appreciative of the track.
“You hear it every day. People say ‘I can’t believe our town has this’ and ‘We’re so fortunate we do have it.’ Everyone is very grateful.”
She said there are many benefits to the walking track.
“Some people who were thinking they needed knee surgery no longer need it. We have some who are recuperating from surgery, and it helps them get back to walking way quicker. Some walk to release the stress in their life, not just for the physical benefits.”
She said there are still new walkers coming out to the walking track.