Athlete leads 130-mile walk to Maine
NEWBURYPORT – A group of 110 walkers – including international long-distance swimmer and “Dancing With The Stars” veteran Diana Nyad – strutted into Market Landing Park on Tuesday for a lunch break on the way from Boston to Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
The travelers were part of a movement known as Everwalk, which was organized by Nyad.
The 130-mile trek to Maine is not a fundraiser but it was created to raise awareness of movement and exercise. It will take close to a week.
“This is about walking and empowerment,” said Nyad, who made national news in her numerous attempts to swim from Cuba to Florida. “After we had left Boston and looked back from an open area, walkers were amazed at how far we had come on our own legs.
“Those in our group are feeling very good about themselves.”
The walkers who came to town Tuesday came from all over the country, paying $395 to participate. They stay in motels at night and have a support team to help them with essentials such as lunch along the Merrimack River.
A walker from Los Angeles said she thought Newburyport was one of the prettiest villages she had ever seen.
“Some walkers will do five miles, 10 miles and others will finish in Cape Elizabeth,” said Gabrielle Fisch, an organizer who helped orchestrate lunch. “The idea is to get people walking and moving.”
Nyad said she and her team are creating Everwalk Nation, a loosely organized group, to encourage walking.
Their marketing literature includes the following statement: “They say ‘sitting is the new smoking.’ It’s time to get active, America! Over the decades, we have become one of the most sedentary societies on earth, ill with heart disease and diabetes. EverWalk is a movement designed to spark an epic revolution and get Americans outdoors and walking.
“You may not have time to walk many hours each week. You may not be ready to go out for long miles. As a proud member of EW Nation, any minute, any fraction of a mile, is an honorable achievement. To stand up, to take as many steps as you can, perhaps down the block to get the newspaper, your effort earns our respect.”
Nyad, a writer and journalist, should know something about movement as she has been one of the most renowned distance swimmers of her generation.
Nyad gained national attention in 1975 when she swam around Manhattan (28 miles) and in 1979 when she swam from the Bahamas, to Juno Beach, Florida (102 miles).
In 2013, on her fifth attempt and at age 64, she became the first person confirmed to swim from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark cage, going from Havana to Key West (110 miles), according to sports historians.
Nyad was also once ranked 13th among U.S. women squash players but now her avocation of choice is walking.
“We would like Everwalk to become the hub of walking,” she said during an interview on her brief lunch break. “Everybody should be moving.”
One walker on the Everwalk trek was Adrianne Haslet of Boston, who lost her left leg in the Boston Marathon bombing.
“I met Diana at a speaking engagement where we were both invited, and I admire her,” Haslet said. “For me, it’s important to keep moving despite what happened to me.
“I am planning to walk all the way to Maine, in part to show people who have had injuries like mine that it’s possible to stay active.”
Dyke Hendrickson covers Newburyport. He can be contacted at 978-961-3149 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Everwalk moves north
The Everwalk contingent will travel about 20 miles per day on the way to Maine.
This is the second trip since its recent formation, and organizers say they hope to traverse all 50 states by 2022.
The first journey was from Los Angeles to San Diego.
For more information: www.everwalk.com