Day 103

You may remember Jessica, MyBigWalker  who stepped in the muck, trekked across a mini-golf course, and spied a raccoon stuck in a hole high in the tree on our “relaxing” walk throughWest Essex Park back in November. But did Jessica shun MyBigWalk? No! In fact she’s back with today’s guest post….about her real regular, long-term walking buddy.


My walking partner and I aren’t “exclusive,” but we’ve been together for nearly 15 years.  I’m pretty sure that qualifies as a common-law marriage for walkers.

It’s not always easy to find a longtime walking partner.  Obviously, you both need to commit.  Nancy and I walk every Sunday, almost without exception, from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m.  That means: through the winter, with head colds and backaches, during snow and rain (although not pouring rain anymore because, jeez, we are at that point in our relationship where we can stay in if it rains), during nervous breakdowns and life crises.

It also helps if you share walking goals.  By walking goals, I really mean relationship goals.  And by relationship goals, I really mean, what’s fair game for walking conversation?  With Nancy, the answer is: Everything.  We use our walks to figure out how to resuscitate our work, raise our children, or plan a luncheon menu. We analyze our dreams, our husbands, and the plights of others.  We can spend an easy hour on the type of minutiae that most people couldn’t tolerate.

And of course you need to know how to talk to one another.  Nancy is an exercise fiend, so she often completes an entire workout video before she even comes out with me.  “Do you even consider this exercise?” I ask her cardiovascularly superior self.  “Walking with you is so good for me,” she says.  See?  That’s the exact right thing to say to your longtime walking partner.

Fifteen years is a long time.  She’s tried to bring other walkers into our relationship, and while I’m initially intrigued by the novelty, it usually doesn’t work.  Nancy has a particular “side” she likes to walk on and with three abreast it usually keeps her out of the middle where, in that sort of threesome, is where she belongs.  Also, there are so many conversation threads and private jokes that we refer back to, it usually makes the guest walker feel like exactly what she is: an intruder.

Well, I guess that’s how I feel anyway.  I feel like it’s ok for me to have other walking partners besides Nancy, but I’m a little stung if she wants to have other walking partners besides me.  What?  Am I not fast enough?  Am I not providing you a good enough workout?  Talk to me.  I can change.

I know it’s a double standard, but my days are often solitary and I don’t have a lot of social outlets.  Walking is far and away my preferred method of getting to know someone. I feel like one 3-mile walk with a woman is equal to 15 meet-for-coffees.  I get nervous on first-time walks with women, almost like it’s a first date.  (If we have some preordained topic to discuss I can rationalize that it’s just a “meeting.”  And if a dog is along there’s a whole different vibe still. )  But, like a first date, you can usually tell instantly whether you’re compatible enough to meet again.

I believe there’s a walking chemistry that involves some mysterious algorithm of pace, availability, conversational style and intent.  All those things have to be simpatico, or, for me, it’s just a one-time dalliance.

I hope I don’t come off like a Walking Floozy, or worse, a Walking Cad.  But walking is the best way for me to be with someone.  It brings out my best self.  I find it so much easier to talk when my feet are moving.  I listen better, I think better, I respond better.  I feel a certain relational freedom that just doesn’t exist when I’m face to face with someone.  I feel more present, less self-conscious. And still, after all these years with Nancy, look forward to our walks with an excitement as if it were our very first time.

To read more from Jessica, visit her excellently witty & occasionally gimlet-eyed blog, Jessica’s Take.