Ten years and counting for walking clubBy ANTHONY WARREN,
Five nights a week, Northsiders might hear a group of loud, boisterous men walking the streets of Sherwood Forest,
Wild Valley and Massena Heights.
Don’t be afraid, it’s just members of a local walking club, and you probably don’t want to hear what they’re talking about anyway.
The group has been walking five nights a week for 10 years and has attracted men from virtually all backgrounds and age groups to participate.
The unofficial club was started by Randy Abraham, who was trying to get down to his normal pant size before going to his son’s soccer tournament in Dallas.
“I went to the store to buy a shirt and pants. I needed to bump up a size and I wasn’t satisfied,” he said. “The week before the trip, I walked everyday with my wife.”
While in Dallas, he continued walking - every morning before the Texas sun was at its worst - and when he returned home, he was joined by Mark Baird.
After several months, another guy joined, and another, and so forth, until around a dozen guys were walking regularly.
Little did Randy know at the time that the group would last 10 years. Nor did he know the impact that it would have on his and his friends’ lives.
“People have become tight friends because of the group,” Randy said.
“We really do love each other – we’re like a fraternity,” said Mark, the group’s self-proclaimed “best athlete.”
Members meet up each night, Sunday through Thursday, in front of Randy’s house.
In one hour, they cover roughly four miles, perhaps a little more when the oldest member, 70-year-old Paul Moak, shows up.
“When I see Paul, I’m like, ‘Dang, I have to walk fast tonight,’ ” Mark said.
Like clockwork, the stroll starts at 8:30.
Members are advised not to miss too often, or they’ll be the subject of much conversation - and ribbing.
“If you skip a night, who cares?” asked Randy. “Two or three nights, it’s ‘where have you been?’ You miss a week …
“And we’ll dog you,” Mark said. “If you’re not there, you’re going to get talked about.”
Members range in age from their mid-20s to 70. They include doctors, dentists, lawyers, business owners, bankers, business and insurance executives and stock brokers.
Some names and faces have changed, as guys leave the area to take on new jobs, or are simply no longer able to walk because of health issues. But many of the core members, including Cal Wells, Jimmy Moore and Sandy Carter, still remain.
“Everyone joins for different reasons. But if we didn’t have the camaraderie, we wouldn’t keep coming,” Mark said.
Thick skin and a sense of adventure help.
Over the years, members have been chased by deer, tripped by wet dogs and involved in an owl rescue.
Other nights, members like Cal Wells might get made fun of for wearing a certain type of running attire. Others, for the fact they got to Randy’s house late, and had to be dropped off mid-route by their wives.
Politics, bad jokes, Southeastern Conference sports and wives (not other women) are regularly topics of discussion.
On Thursdays during the summer, trips usually end with a stop at Mark’s house, where members have a drink and take a dip in the pool.
Members have even gone on trips together to catch college baseball games.
Harrison Matheny, 26, better known as the group’s “Youth Movement,” is one of the few members that’s not married and not a father.
While Mark considers himself the best athlete, Matheny argues that he should be in line for the title.
“On nights Paul Moak isn’t walking, I’m consistently the foremost,” he said, adding that he’ll sometimes slow his pace to let Mark keep up. “I’d hate for him to walk alone so far behind the rest of the pack.”