Walk for Mankind

When I was in elementary school, my best friend and I got the crazy idea to take part in the Walk for Mankind: a 30 kilometer walk that was a fundraiser for … like I would know.

Walk for Mankind

In the months leading up to the walk, every recess we dutifully walked around the playground on the third of a mile track, keeping a record of mileage. We were so proud of ourselves in the week leading up to the event when we passed the 18 mile mark.  We knew we were ready. Only in an 11-year-old’s mind is walking 18 miles over two months preparation for walking 18 miles in one day, but there is a definite benefit to being young and stupid: we didn’t know enough not to try!

Once we started walking that day, there was no way we weren’t going to finish. Fortunately for us, our young bodies were resilient. We walked and talked and joked.  We had our badges punched at each stop. We ate up all the attention we got from the volunteers on the course.

When we finally finished, I called Ma, and she came to pick us up. Before the walk, Ma made sure I knew how to tell her where I was when I called home: “Don’t call me and say I’m on the corner of ‘Walk’ and ‘Don’t Walk’!”

She was great about emphasizing to call her when we were done with the walk, as opposed to finishing it. It subtly gave us permission to stop if it was too hard, and it was a huge source of pride when we did the whole thing.

In our current time of helicopter parents, I’m grateful that I was given so much freedom to explore the world on my own. Thanks, Ma, for giving me my wings to fly … and the occasional nudge out of the nest.

Growing up, how much freedom were you given? or What feat are you proud of from your youth?


11 thoughts on “Walk for Mankind”

  1. I love that point, too young and stupid: we didn’t know enough not to try. It’s so true of youth. That’s what I loved about that time.

    I was given quite a bit of freedom while growing up. My parents were trusting and they knew I wouldn’t do anything too stupid so I was given a lot of leeway on what they allowed. This story actually reminds me of a walk my friends and I would do. We’d walk from our neighborhood several miles away to a convenience store that had video games in it. Then we’d spend a bunch of money there and walk back home. It’s nowhere near as long as your 18 mile walk, but we enjoyed the freedom of being able to get away somewhere for awhile.


    1. If your experience was like mine, it never dawned on us growing up that our freedom was special. It simply was. Looking at it now, my heart is filled with gratitude at having parents that trusted my judgement … and the lessons they had taught me. I didn’t accept rides from strangers, and I stayed clear of windowless vans, and I was generally a good kid.


  2. SO much more freedom than kids have today. We could leave in the morning to play in the neighborhood, breeze in for lunch, back out the porch screen door, and not show up again until dinner. We had friends up and down the block. Boulder, Colorado was a sleepy little college town in the 60’s – not like it is now. And I’m sure I was more laid back with my kids when they were underfoot than they will be with their kids. So many more restrictions…I’m not sure it’s good. We get too paranoid and yes, like helicopters. I also don’t like the pushing, pushing, pushing kids to start quicker and younger and compete for college admissions by preschool. They should be allowed to be kids – it’s the one golden time they’re free!

    And I have to admit, Tammy, I’M impressed that you finished that walk – you have always had a fierce determination??!!


    1. Like you, when I was little, I would often leave in the morning and come back just for meals, unless my friends’ moms fed me. My mom would simply assume I’d come back when expected. There were a few places she knew to look or homes to call if she really needed me. I’m sure though, it was much easier keeping the house clean … and her sanity … when I was off exploring new worlds.


  3. I found this blog while searching for a “Walk” that I had paricipated in when I was a teen. I finally remembered that it was the Walk for Mankind. I, too, don’t know for what charity the donations were intended. What I remember is being determined to finish, being hot and thirsty. Also, getting sunburned and having leg cramps the next day. I did this Walk three different years. One year, my friend and I got separated but I met another girl and continued walking wirh her. I had $5 with me and we stopped at a chicken restaurant and bought one box meal to share. I was such a shy girl and didn’t make friends easily. That girl was so nice and I often wished we had continued our friendship past that day. I I never found my friend, who started the walk with me, so at the finish line I walked to the bus stop and caught a bus home. She did call me later to tell me that she was tired and took a shuttle to the finish line. Great memories.


    1. Thank you so much for sharing your Walk for Mankind story! I’m glad the girl you walkedthe rest of the route with was so friendly. I look back fondly to the two years I did the event. It made my day to know that someone else also has pleasant stories.


  4. I too at 11 years old completed a Walk for Man Kind in Virginia. 1978. I don’t think I was aware what 30 kilometers even was. I went with my girlfriend and she left 2 miles in. I remember thinking I should stop too when she did but something inside kept me going. I was shy and walked alone the rest of the way. I felt part if something bigger than myself. I was not really alone at all because the community was walking too. I even took my shoes off because my feet hurt so bad and continued barefoot. I did not go to school the next day because my feet were covered in blisters. I remember asking my mom when she came to pick me up if she thought I would finish? She looked me in the eye and said I knew you would. That gave me something I will always cherish. Mom knew what I was made of even though I didn’t! I at 49 am now trying to awaken that girl in me to loose 60 lbs. Thank you all for sharing your experiences and reminding me that we only limit ourselves on our mind and until we try we don’t know what we are capable of!


    1. Thank you so much for sharing your memory, Amie. I think it is wonderful that so many of us did the Walk for Mankind and that it was meaningful.

      Your mom knew you and what you were capable of. Isn’t it amazing how others can know our potential better than we can?


  5. I know this is an old thread but thought I’d pass this along anyway. I took part in several of the Marches in the mid-to-late ’70s. The beneficiary of the march was originally an organization called Project Concern, started by James Wesley Turnpin, a San Diego doctor and activist working on behalf of impoverished populations around the world without access to quality medical care. He started Project Concern in 1973.

    I believe when I was doing the WfM in the late 70s it was a joint effort between Project Concern and the March of Dimes.


  6. I walked and crawled in that walk for mankind. I think it was 21 miles. I wouldn’t quit. I sprained both ankles and got a blistering sunburn. My mama made me go to school the next day.


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