Pavilion Parade by M V Muhsin
November 18th, 2012 by Admin

"Walk through this world with me"

He walked, yes Walked, some 5,700 kilometres (3540 miles) on foot and went through six countries. The journey, the trip, the trek, the voyage or odyssey or pilgrimage — call it what you may — took him 314 days. Every journey it is said should have a destination. For Senad Hadzic, the 47 year old Bosnian, it was his ‘Pilgrimage to Mecca’ which ended last month as Muslims world over celebrated , in the Abrahamic tradition, the obligation, if one can afford it, of performing Haj.

Hadzic did not have the funds to make this pilgrimage. But he was determined not allow affordability – he had only 200 euros — to stand in the way. So with a 20 kilo backpack, he set out on this journey.

Weathering the extremes of temperature — a winter of minus 35 degrees Celsius ( 95 Fahrenheit) in Bulgaria to the intense summer of 44 degrees Celsius (minus 31 Fahrenheit) in the Middle East, he made his way, fuelled by determination that would have put the best of athletes to shame.

Walking, which from time immemorial has been regarded a recreation and a relaxation, has a healthy and rich blend of benefits: sport, exercise, relaxation, meditation and even as a crusade.

Mahatma Gandhi captured world’s attention

Take Mahatma Gandhi’s Salt March, the civil disobedience grass root movement – or Satyagraha — of a 241 mile walk in 23 days that captured the world’s attention because of its non-violent nature and one that triggered colonial British Raj to reconsider their style of governance and oppression. Hundreds of thousands walked and marched when the Mahatma was arrested.

Three decades later it was Martin Luther King Jr. who conducted a similar march to protest repression of the blacks in America and ultimately paid with his life, but paved the way for liberation, and one might add, the entry to the White House by a President of colour.

Then there was Arthur Blessitt, of Guinness World Records fame when in 1996 was recognized for the longest documented Lifetime Mileage Walk. He is known as the man who carried the cross of Jesus around the world, preaching at the same time from a Bible. As of July 2012, he has borne the cross walking no less than 40,000 miles.

(64,373 kilometres) across 321 nations, islands and territories! Also on record is his wife Denise has travelled with him through 293 nations, driving in front of him with supplies and water. Appropriately and ironically, Arthur and Denise carry the surname Blessitt!

Leaving the aspects of evangelical zeal aside, lets dwell a bit on Race Walking which dates back to 1880. It first entered the Olympics in 1904. It now figures in modern day Olympics as a 20 kilometre (12 mile) race walk for men and women; and a 50 km (31 mi) walk for men only.

Then there is the aspect of walking ‘Around the World.’ Writer Matt Scott records that it takes about 20 million steps to walk around the world. He states that strict rules govern the entry into the elite club of those who have ‘officially’ walked round the world: distance covered, verification of continents crossed. The story goes that Dave Kunst — also known as Earth Walker — from Minnesota, US was the first verified person to have completed an entire circuit of the earth on foot (not including the oceans, of course).

Accompanied by his brother John, he left on a journey across Europe, North America, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. He walked 14,450 miles (23,255 km) in just over 4 years. Sadly his brother John was shot and killed during this journey by bandits in Afghanistan, but Dave completed the odyssey with his other brother Pete.

There is also Swiss born Rosi Swale-Pope who at the age of 57 was ‘not content with just walking around the world’ – so she ran! She raised quarter million sterling pounds as charity towards raising awareness on cancer — but not before exhausting 50 pairs of running shoes!

For mere mortals like us, walking is the next best thing for one’s health. There are important health benefits, some of which are astonishing, although ‘couch potatoes’ may continue to live, and put on weight, in denial.

First, given the issues that many have with heart diseases: walking lowers bad cholesterol (LDL); and raises the good cholesterol (HDL). It also lowers one’s blood pressure, helps to manage weight and tempers one’s mood.

Get comfortable footwear

So, go get some comfortable footwear, choose shoes with proper arch support, a firm heel and flexible soles to cushion one’s feet and to absorb shock.

It’s important though that before embarking on such a simple exercise, to walk slowly to warm up one’s muscles and then increase one’s pace when one gets into rhythm. And then work one’s way up to 30 to 60 minutes of walking most days of the week.

Walking also helps to address type 2 diabetes. Research links brisk walking to a significant risk reduction for developing type 2 diabetes. To those who may shrug this away by saying they have a family history of diabetes and plead:

“What to do, this is fate !” a recent British study found that people who walked briskly, or performed some other type of moderate to vigorous activity, on a routine basis were able to deflect the diabetes to an appreciable extent.

Besides physical benefits, there are also key mental benefits that regular walking confers on the disciples of the discipline of walking. Yes, discipline to adhere to a regular routine is key. Walking slows mental decline. A study of 6,000 women of ages of 65 and older found that walking 2.5 miles per day had a 17-percent decline in memory, as opposed to a 25 percent decline in women who walked less than half-mile per week.

Walking lowers Alzheimer’s risk too. Again, a study of men between the ages of 71 and 93 who walked more than a quarter of a mile per day had half the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, compared to those who walked less.Walking with rosary and prayer beads in hand can also serve as a form of meditation.

Walk and song go together

But life, as with walking, is not complete without song, as we see walkers and joggers with their iPods connected to their ears. And so we echo the perennial and heart rendering classic ‘Walk Though This World With Me’ sung by George Jones with lyrics from Kay Savage and Sandra Seamons:

“Walk through this world with me; go where I go.
Share all my dreams with me, I need you so.

In life we search and some of us find.
I’ve looked for you a long, long time.

And now that I’ve found you, new horizons I see,
Come take my hand and walk through this world with me.”