5K Walks – Why Do We Do It?

By Neil Earle

Neil and Aida as his witness. (Photo by triathlon coach Michele Bingham)

For the tee shirt, right?

Can’t be. Must be other motivators that persuade people to rouse themselves of a Saturday morning and double-time through the cool Spring morning in support of a worthy community cause or, more likely, to just breathe in deeply of the great outdoors with which Memphis is so abundantly blessed.

In fact, all three are worthy motives in an era when we have been encouraged to stay home, avoid people and wear masks. None of these measures are bad in themselves, perhaps, it’s just that when 250 people can betake themselves to Shelby Farms Park Conservancy where County leaders had bravely rallied on bicycles the week before, well, maybe, just maybe, the foul virus is starting to lose its terror.

Besides you get to meet great people – maybe the best benefit of all. Two of them kindly passed on these race photos we’re using in this article. One was a young couple who spotted my Anaheim Angels cap and asked if I was from California! Small world. We’d both been visiting Anaheim Stadium at the same time over the years it seemed. The other was from a capable lady photographing friends whom I just sensed would not only take the picture but get it over to me – what we once called, “follow up.” Bravo! Here’s a trait becoming rare in this world.

When I bungled the start through unfamiliarity with the terrain, Beck and Aida from “Start 2 Finish” assured me the error could be corrected. Better still, I would make the video!

“Ain’t braggin’ if ya done it,” said Yogi Berra. (Photo by Kyle Tingley)

“The Right Stuff”

Something about us average folks trying to recapture some of that zest of youth, showing our version of “the Right Stuff,” on a Saturday morning. Yes, something about all that which leads to a “feel-good” experience well within the legal limits prescribed by society. The now well-known endorphins stirred from deep inside our bodies have been catalogued as fact since Dr. Cooper began to promote jogging back in the late 1960s. (I’m in my seventies, so I remember.) The beautiful thing is that we now know that walking has exactly the same effect!

Something else about the 5K experience is the hearty breakfast meal at Waffle House on Canada Road where Lisa, Bethany and Mary do their usual sterling job of boosting endorphins with hot coffee, toast and steak and eggs while hungry customers line up outside. Social distancing just can’t stop some people from getting out!

“How was your food?” asked Bethany.

“I’m in heaven,” came the quick reply as the endorphins kicked in again.

So praise to all these great folks who make such events special occasions. A strong fellow-walker named Jennifer who works at Meridian Life Sciences gave me a lift back to the exceptionally safe-distanced parking lot. The camaraderie of the early morning!

Though never a Usain Bolt or a great athlete I score well on the participation scale, having been latched on to the need for exercise since my days in the Royal Canadian Air Cadets and their 5BX program in the late 1950s. (More proof of aging, you see.) The thing is, just sheer physical exertion helps get you through some tough patches in life. My aunt, who just died at age 98, was told decades ago to lose 50 pounds or take insulin. She walked her way to near-centenary status! After all, if you can get a 5K walk behind you while trying to stay ahead of diabetes and other ugly things, you prove to yourself you’re still involved in the game of life.

What’s more you join in the great company of “walkers and movers” from St. Paul to William Wordsworth down to Teddy Roosevelt and Michelle Obama and the lady in my home town who celebrated a triumph over heart surgery by executing a 5K-walk past the hospital where she’s been treated. The Right Stuff, indeed!

Something there is about exercise in the great outdoors that beats any thrill from scanning Netflix or bemoaning the protocols. All that and helping out your local charities as well. Hard to beat!