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Marilyn Marshall, left, and Maryann Willows are dedicated walkers in Hay River. They’re following their favourite route: Miron Drive from the Bob McMeekin Chamber Park to the Homesteaders, and back.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

There are dedicated walkers, and then there are Marilyn Marshall and Maryann Willows.

The two Hay River friends walk every day, unless there is some good reason not to do so.

And not just a walk around the block, but a six-kilometre jaunt in the afternoon or after supper.

“We’ve been consistently walking for three years, I guess,” said Marshall. “We try to every day.”

Last year, they didn’t walk on weekends, she noted. “But now we do.”

Willows agreed it is seven days a week of walking, if they can.

“But for sure Monday to Friday,” she said.

And the walking buddies have a particular route – on Miron Drive from Bob McMeekin Chamber Park to the Homesteaders and back, which is a six-kilometre roundtrip.

“It takes us about an hour and 10 minutes,” said Willows, adding that is a steady walk. “We try to keep up a fairly good pace.”

She noted some people go for walks and it’s more chitchat than walking.

There are a number of reasons why they like taking that section of Miron Drive, which is also popular with many other walkers.

First of all, Marshall noted there is not much traffic.

And Willows said there is less chance of running into a bear than on a wooded trail elsewhere in the community.

“I feel safer here,” she said.

Marshall also said she feels safer from bears, noting there is always some traffic on Highway 2, which runs parallel to Miron Drive.

They have never run into a bear there.

While she is walking on Miron Drive, Marshall may also be virtually completing a walking challenge from another continent.

She explained there are hundreds of such challenges on the internet.

“They’re called virtual walks and they’re all over the world,” she said, “and you can sign up for them.”

Recently, she finished the English Channel walk and the Inca Trail walk, and she is planning to do other virtual walks based in New Zealand and Australia, and Hadrian’s Wall in northern England.

Many of the virtual walks are actual events that people would normally run, Marshall explained. “But because of Covid-19 they’re all online, so anybody can sign up all over the world. They never existed before.”

The virtual walks do come at a cost, because they are fundraisers for organizations.

Participants receive things like T-shirts or medals, but Marshall usually just opts for a medal, along with a certificate.

After finishing the Inca Trail walk, she is actually considering taking it one step further.

“Now that I did this, I’m thinking that I really want to do the Inca Trail,” she said. “I think I’m going to put this on my bucket list.”

While she may be walking a virtual event, Marshall is still focused on Miron Drive and walking with Willows.

“I find it’s better with a friend because it seems to go by so much faster,” Marshall said. “Because all we do is talk.”

Willows noted that walking with a friend provides incentive to keep going.

“Because you don’t want to disappoint the other person,” she said.

Aside from the exercise and health benefits of walking, Marshall offered one more reason why she and Willows walk so often: “The thing is, once you stop, it is so hard to get back into it.”

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Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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