by Gene Marrano
They were hoping for a few hundred but almost 850 signed up. The goal was 100 miles but many went far beyond that. Roanoke City Parks and Recreation threw out the 100-miler challenge this winter, urging people to get off their couch and walk, run or bike 100 miles between January 7 and April 15. Call it a success said Joe Hanning, hired last year as an outdoor events specialist by the city.
Hanning, lured to Roanoke with his young family in large part because of the Valley’s natural assets, was on hand last Saturday at Smith Park for a “wrap party,” to celebrate the end of the 100-miler challenge. It was designed to encourage people to keep active during the cold winter months. This year’s mild winter lent itself to people being outside more noted Hanning, who helped give away bikes and other goodies to those that attended the Smith Park celebration.
Attendees talked of weight loss they tied to the 100-miler challenge and how much the greenway system in Roanoke has made staying active easier. “It’s great to see that people here in Roanoke are so committed to being outside,” said Hanning, “that’s what we love to see.”
With the average participant logging more than 200 miles, according to online surveys and a mileage counter, Hanning said the challenge next year would include higher rungs for those that blow past the 100-mile goal. Several said they had gone beyond the 1000-mile mark in three months. It will still be known as the Roanoke 100-miler, “but you can sign up for whatever [level] will push you a little bit farther next year,” noted Hanning.
Roanoke’s greenway system is a big help said Hanning, who is often surprised at how busy the urban trail network is, even during the week. “It provides an avenue for people to get places [and] to walk, run and bike,” added Hanning, an avid mountain biker at Carvins Cove himself. “We’re very lucky to be in Roanoke where we have such a nice greenway system – and it’s getting better.”
Hanning read several e-mail testimonies at the wrap party, including one from a woman who ordered her 100-miler t-shirt two sizes too small on purpose – then worked to lose the weight she needed to fit into it. “We helped motivate her.” The t-shirts were adorned with a drawing of “Active Andy,” a mascot Hanning created. Active Andy sent out regular e-mails during the three month challenge, suggesting places where participants could wrack up their mileage on the weekend.
Jim Fisher, a 75-year-old participant from Vinton, was an active walker anyway but added another mile per day in an effort to keep his diabetes under control. He logged more than 450 miles via walking, biking and time on the treadmill.
“I was here when it started,” said Fisher, part of the opening day crowd back in January that marched from Wasena Park to Vic Thomas Park and back to kick off the 100-miler challenge. He was also happy to see people of all ages take part – some older than he is: “I think it’s tremendous.”
Dorothy Luci of Roanoke County found the 100-miler challenge to be a source of motivation. “There’s a lot of hills where I live.” With a number of friends suffering from cancer, Luci said it became personal: “why should I give my [good] health away?” The Roanoke 100-miler challenge became a way for Luci to honor her friends and lose weight at the same time. That’s music to Joe Hanning’s ears as he plans for next winter’s 100-miler event.