DEAR READER: Walking one million steps reaps surprising rewards

Saturday, September 14, 2013 | 7:34 p.m. CDT; updated 12:44 p.m. CST, Friday, November 15, 2013

Sometimes you know when you win.

Sometimes you don't realize it until later.

I took my millionth step last Wednesday.

I don't know exactly when it happened, but I was walking on the Quad, past the engineering building, on the way back to the Missourian newsroom in Lee Hills Hall.

It was a familiar route, one I had been walking on and off since the middle of June. That’s when I signed up for the University of Missouri’s Million Step Pedometer Program.

The deal was simple. Pay $40. Get a pedometer that linked, via Bluetooth, with a webpage. Walk a million steps and you get your $40 back, a T-shirt and a certificate.

It seemed like a good, healthy summer hobby. A handful of other editors at the Missourian joined, and we could watch each other in a weekly "standings."

So I walked.

Maybe you saw me, stopping every so often to check the pedometer clipped to my jeans pocket. Most times I took my iPod: the Dave Clark Five, Jack White, the Specials, the Beach Boys, the Roots, Elvis Costello and a weeks-long fascination with Chuck Berry.

I took it with me back to Pennsylvania when I was visiting my mom. Her poodle hit the walking jackpot that week.

I quickly figured out that I walked about 5,000 steps in an average day. The goal, 10,000 daily steps, required some extra effort – which I suppose was the point.

So you walk places where you wouldn't have walked.

And you notice things that you wouldn't have noticed.

Stephens Lake Park has a short trail around the lake and a longer trail that hugs the boundaries of the park and even cuts through a grasslands area where deer hide within sight of the Hy-Vee and Sam’s Club.

Bear Creek Trail, in the north part of Columbia near my house, is shady for the most part. It goes by a dog park, under a couple of highways and then through a serious disc golf course.

The Katy Trail, next to the river where a bicyclist stopped me to tell me to look for an eagle in a dead buttonwood tree.

And then the Quad. Once or twice a day, I would leave the Missourian’s newsroom, walk up along the J-School and to Jesse Hall. I'd do a circle around Jesse Hall (for a figure eight), then head back down the opposite side of the quad near the engineering building. Some days, the Buck's Ice Cream three-wheeled mini-car was parked out behind Jesse.

I walked.

Sometimes you know when you win. But sometimes you don't realize it until later.

With the million done, I could turn in for my prizes:

My $40 returned.

A T-shirt.

A certificate.

But there are also prizes that I already had:

Seeing a deer's ears move across the tops of the tall grass at Stephens Lake Park.

A couple of quiet moments watching a bald eagle watch the river.

Greg Bowers is sports editor of the Columbia Missourian and an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism.

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