With the rising sun peaking over the horizon, Sandy Giovanini arrived at the Clifty Farms home of her friend, Inge Wilson, and was handed a cup of coffee.
Although the two have walked together, along with other friends, for the past 14 years, this particular morning was a bit different. Usually, Wilson begins her walk and other members of their group join along the way.
This time they gathered first at Wilson’s home to talk about the benefits of staying active, walking in events such as the Mill Race Marathon and about friendship in general.
It was important that Giovanini was there because Wilson wanted to use her as an example.
“Sandy is in excellent shape,” Wilson said as she looked toward her longtime friend.
The other walkers, Anna Shores and Linda Scheidt, looked toward their group’s ringleader because they knew more was to come.
Wilson didn’t disappoint them, adding, “for her age.”
Giovanini, who is 69, gave a little sigh and then a laugh. What are friends for?
Apparently to laugh as much as possible with a little workout on the side.
Scheidt, who was busy raising a family, had forgotten about friends when she joined the others for the regular morning walk.
“Before Inge invited me to join the group, I was so focused on family,” said Scheidt, who is 61. “I was missing that in my life for quite a while.
“We have a group of friends who can laugh and who can cry together. We enjoy each other so much.”
Walkers are encouraged to enter the Mill Race Marathon, Half Marathon or 5K on Sept. 27 in Columbus. Here are the paces that must be maintained to receive an official time
MARATHON: 15-minute-per-mile pace.
HALF-MARATHON: 17-minute-per-mile pace.
5K: 20-minute-per-mile pace.
NOTE: Participants (including walkers) who complete the full or half-marathon and receive an official time are eligible to win the Cummins-powered 2014 RAM 2500 Crew Cab heavy-duty pickup truck.
While staying healthy and active is a huge part of their determination to walk five or more days a week, this group of women say the social aspect has kept them together.
“We carry on different conversations on different days,” said Shores, a 54-year-old substitute teacher and yoga instructor. “Some of it is the camaraderie.
“But walking makes me sleep better, and I feel better about myself. Walking is free, and you can do it at any time of the day. And it is just a joy to walk out here. It’s a very safe neighborhood.”
Although Wilson lives in the Clifty Farms area, the group’s course takes them through Highland Ridge.
Wilson’s late husband, Harry Wilson, was always joking with the women and he eventually came up with a label.
“One day Harry told us, ‘You’re the Highland Ridge Streetwalkers,’” said Inge Wilson, who at 70 is the group’s oldest member.
Harry Wilson died four years ago, but the name took hold.
The group had shirts made that they wore last year during a 5K walk in the inaugural Mill Race Marathon event.
Scheidt brought home a purple shirt with “Highland Ridge Streetwalkers” emblazoned across it. “My daughters said, ‘Mom, do you know what that means?’”
Her friends all laughed as she told the story. Then they told stories about walking at the Mill Race Marathon with their shirts and attracting stares and laughter.
However, the group can be at its best during tougher times as well.
“This has been great for my social life,” Wilson said. “After my husband died, they were there for me. Now I whine and cry and all those other things.”
Everyone takes turns listening or giving advice on a wide range of topics.
“We do try to solve the world’s problems,” Shores said. “And we have. It’s just that nobody listens to us.”
The group has a fifth member in Jamie Champlin, a 50-year-old Columbus North teacher who moved across town and now isn’t able to walk quite as much, especially with school starting again.
They all have been there for each other through the years and will once again walk the 5K portion of the Mill Race Marathon event Sept. 27.
Although they don’t walk the half-marathon distance of just over 13 miles at the Mill Race Marathon event, they have covered that length twice — once in the Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini-Marathon in 2003 and once in the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon in 2004.
They didn’t walk another event together until last year’s Mill Race Marathon event.
“We didn’t see the need to do any more (half-marathons),” Wilson said. “And Anna does get grouchy.”
Shores laughed and admitted that she didn’t like when the group followed a training schedule to prepare for the longer walks.
“We were walking eight to 10 miles on a Saturday,” she said. “I couldn’t wait to see my rooftop. I wanted to get home.”
While the women were good about training properly for the longer walks, they said they don’t follow any schedule when it comes to walking a 5K, or for just walking on a daily basis.
“We were all in pretty good shape when we started 14 years ago,” Wilson said. “We’re all still in pretty good shape.”
Shores noted that walking has few negative effects on the body, such as running might, and that walkers don’t need a whole lot of instruction or equipment, aside from a good pair of shoes about twice a year.
“I buy a new pair of (walking) shoes every year, whether I need them or not,” Wilson said.
The key is that they keep on walking, rain or snow, cold or heat, happy or sad.
Reasons to walk
Wilson took a brief break after back surgery three years ago but was quickly back on the road with the support of her friends. She said originally she was worried about slowing them down.
The group would have none of it. They just slowed down a bit while she was recovering and did what they do best.
“If you can talk, time just goes by,” Giovanini said.
In fact, Giovanini said that would be her best advice to anyone who is thinking about walking for fitness.
“Find a friend,” she said.
The group often invites people they see to join them, but seldom does anyone new catch the fever.
“I don’t know that anyone else can convince you to walk,” Shores said. “I know people would feel better if they had more movement.”
Wilson shook her head and said she wasn’t going to add to the positive reasons for walking.
“I don’t preach to anybody,” she said.
With that said, the women headed outdoors to start their workout.
Wilson wasn’t preaching, but she was talking, as usual.
So who in the group does the most talking during their walks?
Wilson shot a surprised look at such a silly question and came up with a quick reply.
“Who do you think?”