Last year, when I was about 10 months shy of turning 50, I ran across John Scanlan's Reflections essay, "The Ultimate Road Trip" [June 2010], on driving cross-country to mark his 50th. Like him, I felt that maybe I wasn't going to achieve everything I'd wanted. Somehow, life had gotten away from me. Where had the last 30 years gone?
Sure, I'd had some setbacks: two broken ankles, two bum knees. But nothing had influenced my life more than having been diagnosed on Jan. 1, 1982, with type 1 diabetes.
So I felt that I, too, needed a challenge, something to accomplish. To set a goal and complete it would lift some weight off my back and help release myself from the burden of diabetes. It would be a way to say, "You've done the best that you could." After gauging how much time I'd have and the limitations posed by the coming winter, I set my goal: to walk 500 miles by my birthday in April 2011. I planned to walk 100 miles every 50 days, which would put me right on the mark. That was 15 miles a week, or 3 miles or so about five days a week.
I simply walked around our small town, Berryville, Va., with my black lab, Onyx. We traversed the streets and did the 2-mile loop at our park. I watched the people of our wonderful little town. I talked with other walkers in the park and told some about my 500-mile venture and my diabetes story. During the summer there was a black bear sighting in the park. In the early evening, there was always a herd of deer to watch. In late November, Onyx spied a flock of 13 turkeys walking beside us in the tree line. We minded our own business and so did they.
Every 50 days or so, I'd figure out how far I could have gone with my mileage so far. First it was to Richmond, Va., or to Harrisburg, Pa. Then it was to Blacksburg, Va., where I'd gone to Virginia Tech. The miles added up, and the places kept coming: Philadelphia, New York, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Boston. In the end, 500 miles could have taken me to Atlanta, Montreal, or Portland, Maine. But, of course, I had really walked 500 miles to a healthier life and some stress relief.
As Onyx and I approached the park for our last 2 miles, my wife, Lee, and 15-year-old son, Macson, were there to greet me, along with a local newspaper reporter. It was an emotional 2 miles, as we shared the story of my walk and how diabetes has affected our family. Macson was also diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, at the age of 4. Since then, he and I have faced the challenges of diabetes together. The final steps of my 500 miles filled me with a strong sense of accomplishment. I had met my goal—with a week to spare! And now? I'm looking for my next challenge.
Dave McGuigan is a technology resource teacher who lives in Berryville, Va.