For Jimmy Thomas, the feat was less about a personal quest and more about being a good example for his grandchildren.
And what a feat it was.
The 61-year-old teacher’s assistant at Gentry Middle School has spent this year walking. And walking. And walking.
And then he walked some more.
Thomas is just a day or so away from his goal of walking 2,012 miles this year, a feat many much-younger people would find daunting.
But for him it’s simply about being a good example.
“I started walking for health reasons in 2008,” he said recently, “and tried to walk two to three times a week.”
Last year, he tallied his total and realized he had walked more than 1,700 miles.
Which is when Thomas started seriously considering the challenge.
“I have two grandchildren, and thought it would be kind of neat if they could some day tell their grandchildren that their grandfather walked 2,012 miles in 2012,” he said. “Maybe it’ll somehow motivate them. If I can do it, anyone can do it.”
Thomas said the walking regimen has simply become part of who he is.
“I really don’t know why I decided to tackle the challenge,” he said. “I just started walking and got to where I was feeling bad on the days I didn’t walk, like I was missing out.
“Then I just set my mind to doing it.”
This year, he has only missed seven days on the treadmill. Every other day he has walked at least three miles.
As for those seven days, Thomas said he doesn’t exactly remember.
“I think I was out of town a couple of days, and then on Easter weekend I didn’t walk,” he said.
Thomas does “95 percent” of his walking at ProHealth in Mount Airy, noting that the location and hours are convenient for an educator’s schedule.
And he isn’t going out for a stroll. Watching the speed at which his legs move when he gets going can be dizzying, but for him it’s all a part of his day.
“I’m in the habit now,” he said. “I can walk five miles in 65 minutes. This morning I’ve already walked six miles and on days that I’m going to take it a little bit easier I might walk a little extra before and after.
“I tell my children that it’s always been uphill because I set an incline,” he added with a laugh.
And the rewards are coming fast.
“I hope it’s healthy,” he chuckled. “I can tell you that since I’ve started walking I’ve been able to cut my diabetes medicine in half and have totally eliminated my cholesterol medication. And I’ve probably lost about 40 pounds and have been able to keep it off without even trying.”
He said he would totally recommend a walking regimen for those wanting to lose weight and get in better overall shape.
“Once you get in the habit, it’s not that hard,” he said. “I think everyone should try it. They’ll feel better. I feel great and I’m 61 years old. These days I enjoy my time playing golf and playing with my grandchildren.”
As for advice for others, Thomas said they should just go for it.
“Don’t get discouraged,” he said. “Don’t try to overdo it. Build up to it. I started with a goal of three miles at a time, and bumped it up this year so I could get to 2,012 miles. When I realized how close I was, I bumped it up a little more.”
And he’s just a couple of days away from his goal.
Is he going for 2,013 miles next year?
“I’ve thought about it, but I’m not making any promises yet,” he said. “I’m pretty sure that I’m going to keep on walking, but I don’t know whether I’ll be keeping a log.”
For reference, had he taken to the roads and traveled northwest, he would be closing in on Boise, Idaho. Had he chosen a Northern path, he would have passed through Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in March.
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.