By Paula Ann Solis
An 800-mile journey will begin this evening at the Cameron Park Redwood Shelter as part of the Walk Across Texas program.
The program is an annual initiative by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension that encourages the community to become more physically active by walking daily.
The participants must log their miles to collectively accomplish as many miles as possible, said Sandra Bigham, the office manager of the Texas AgriLife Extension center in McLennan County.
Bigham said she has been involved with the program since its inception in Waco almost 10 years ago.
Bigham said today’s event is only the kickoff for the program; the Monday.
Bigham said the event tonight should last no longer than an hour and is a fun way for groups and individual participants to log their first official mile together.
The distance of 800 miles represents the distance across Texas from east to west, according to the AgriLife Extension’s website, walkacrosstexas.tamu.edu.
Participants are given eight weeks to tackle the challenge of covering 800 miles each or as a team. However, 800 miles is only a motivational goal for the participants.
Registration for the program can be completed in advance at the Walk Across Texas website, or at the event from 5:30 to 5:45 p.m. before the walk begins. T-shirts will be given to the first 75 participants who arrive and complete the first mile, Bigham said.
There is no fee to register, and all participants can choose to join either as individuals or as part of a team of up to eight members.
At the conclusion of the eight-week program on May 19, groups and individual participants who have logged the most miles or who have shown the greatest improvement in physical activity from week one to week eight will receive prizes. Past prizes have included $25-$50 gift cards for places like Academy or H-E-B.
Also, for the first time in the program’s history, there will be an optional weight-loss competition included in the program, with prizes for the individual and group with the greatest amount of weight lost. The first weigh-in will be this evening at the shelter, and the final weigh-in will be May 22.
The participants of Walk Across Texas will log their miles on an online account over the eight-week period, but walking isn’t the only way to get involved.
The Walk Across Texas website has an option that allows participants to enter a variety of physical activities that can be converted into the equivalence of miles walked.
In the past, Bigham said participation from Baylor students has been high, but as of late, campus interest has died down.
“Participation varies from year to year. One year we had 26 teams participate and another year we had 128 teams. For our first year, only 30 people participated, but it’s been building up ever since then,” Bigham said.
Van Davis, assistant director for fitness and nutrition education at Baylor, has been a member of the Walk Across Texas committee for five years and said she is working to increase student and faculty involvement.
“This is an easy thing for everyone to get involved with because we walk every day,” Davis said.
Davis said she has signed up with a team almost every year and that every year she’s been involved, her team has won for most miles walked.
Davis will host an interest meeting Friday at 12:15 p.m. in 308 McLane Student Life Center for any teams or individuals interested in registering.
She encourages people to sign up, even if they are a week late.
“In January, we never have problems getting people involved to stay active because everyone is thinking about spring break, but now that spring break is over, this would be a great challenge to keep people active until the end of the school year,” Davis said.