Caymanian Compass journalist Alan Markoff reached his goal for the year 2004 of walking 1,500 miles, approximately the same distance between Grand Cayman and his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.
Markoff, 45, set the goal as his 2004 New Year’s resolution. ‘I really wanted to lose some weight,’ he says, ‘but instead of saying I wanted to lose 15 pounds, I quantified a walking distance instead, and let the weight part take care of itself as a result.’
In order to reach his goal, Markoff had to average a little more than four miles per day.
‘It’s not very hard to walk four miles in a day, but it can be difficult to do that day in, day out during the entire course of the year,’ he says. ‘I would go away for a long weekend and then have to try to make up 15 or 20 lost miles the following week.’
A good start was a key to his success in reaching the goal, he says. ‘Early on, I walked the half-marathon at the Cancer Society’s event, and I realized I could walk much longer distances than I thought.
‘After that, I started walking at least eight miles on most Sundays, which helped me make up miles from the days I didn’t walk.’
During the first three months of the year, Markoff says he walked 437 miles, putting him well above the pace needed to reach his goal.
Hurricane Ivan presented a substantial obstacle, however. ‘I didn’t walk for 18 out of 19 days starting on September 12th,’ he says. ‘It was mainly because of the scarcity of fresh water as much as anything. I drink a lot of water when I walk, and I usually need to take a shower afterwards. We just didn’t have the luxury of that amount of water in the first few weeks after the storm.’
For a while after the storm, during which he lost his apartment, his car and most of his belongings, Markoff thought he would not reach his goal. ‘I had more pressing issues on my mind, like how I was going to put my life back together,’ he said.
However on October 1st, Markoff started walking again after doing some calculations and determining it was still possible to reach the goal.
‘Luckily, I was at a point when the storm hit where I was about two weeks ahead of schedule, so even though I fell behind a little from not walking, it wasn’t too hard to make up,’ he says.
To keep track of his miles walked, Markoff kept a log on his computer, which he saved by taking it to a friend’s house before the hurricane.
During most weeks, Markoff says he walks between 30 and 35 miles. In November, he walked 44 miles in one week, the most for any week during the year.
Markoff says he travels at a fast pace when he walks. ‘I usually walk about 14-minute miles, but sometimes they’re as fast as 12-1/2 minute miles or a slow as 15-minute miles. It all depends on how I feel and how much time I have.’
More than 90 percent of the 1,500 miles were walked in the morning, says Markoff, who is often out as early as 5:30. ‘I saw more sunrises this year than I have in my whole life put together. It’s really a lovely time of day,’ he says.
For the first half of the year, Markoff says he walked mostly at Grand Harbour, but after moving to new accommodations in July, he walked exclusively in the South Sound area.
He says he went through four pairs of walking shoes during the year. ‘After three months of walking the way I do, the padding goes flat and I start seeing serious wear on the soles. Then it’s time for a new pair of shoes.’
Markoff says he was never really a walker before, but finds walking easier on his knees and ankles than running.
‘I wish I would have discovered walking in the mornings a lot earlier in life,’ he says. ‘It just sets up my days so well. I’m able to wake up, think about what I have to do that day, and get my blood pumping, so that when I arrive at work, my brain is already going full tilt. It used to take me an hour at my desk and three cups of coffee before the haze of sleeping finally lifted.’
Having reached his goal this year, Markoff says he had no intentions of stopping now.
‘I walked to Cleveland this year, so I guess I should walk back next year,’ he says.
Markoff says that he is fortunate that his girlfriend Lori is also an avid walker. The two of them often walk together.
‘We motivate each other to walk,’ he says, ‘Even though I walk pretty fast, she keeps up with me. In fact, sometimes she has to slow down for me.’