Paul Kiczek's Story
Paul is a walking advocate and co-creator of the 50-Mile Kennedy Walk. He resides in Morristown, NJ and is the founder of FreeWalkers.org.
A Long Distance Dream
For Paul, his interest in the odd endurance feat of walking extremely long distances began 50 years ago. In 1963, John F. Kennedy asked his military to prove they were in fine physical condition by marching 50 miles. That military order quickly turned into a public fad. Many ordinary individuals took the challenge upon themselves to prove that they too were fit and could walk 50 miles in one day. Paul remembers, "I was 15 years old at the time, and with three other friends we decided to walk that year from Roselle to Netcong. We made 38 miles before giving up 12 hours later." Still, pretty impressive for a teenager with no real walking experience. It begged the question, “Can we do more than we think we can?” What exactly is our limits?
Forty-six years later in 2009, He researched the fad and wrote about it in an online blog The 50-mile Hike Phenomenon. The amazing story turned out to be far more interesting and convinced him to have another go at 50 miles. This time he would trace a route that Robert F. Kennedy walked along the C&O Canal Towpath in early February of 1963. It was a spontaneous call to a crazy challenge. You can read about Paul's experience in trying to reprise Bobby's walk in the blog article Log for 38-mile Walk - Maryland - 2/7/09. Once again, he fell short. Many people asked what it was like and if he would try it again. Time passed and the feeling of exhaustion and blisters soon faded.
FreeWalkers Become a Reality
In 2010, he set his sights at another try at the 50 mile challenge, this time enlisting others that might be interested. Doing more research on long distance walking, which has a long, interesting history. Soon, he began to seek the interest of pro-pedestrian organizations on an idea of a long public walk involving a large group. The East Coast Greenway Alliance, enthusiastically supported an idea of walking the 50 miles in one day on the greenway trail, mapped out a strategy, and helped get the word out. Since then, the organization he created, called FreeWalkers, provide a program of free long distance walks each year including the Cross-Jersey Walking Challenge, a series of three walks that cross the entire state and The Big Walk which is a 50-mile walk from New Jersey to Midtown Manahattan in the spirit of the original 50-mile Hike craze of JFK's days.
After accomplishing 50-mile walks, Paul walked 62 miles in probably the most well-known long distance, large scale walk in the country - the One Day Hike - this past April 28, 2012. One of the draws, beside the challenge, was that it takes place along the same C&O trail and combined all the past history and experience he was already familiar with. The One Day Hike draws typically draws over 300 participants and has been become a yearly pilgrimage for many for the past 17 years it has been active.
2013 is a special year for walking enthusiasts. On Saturday, February 9, 2013, it will be 50 years - to the day - since Robert F. Kennedy wildly picked up a challenge thrown down by his brother, the President, to get the military to walk 50-miles to prove they were fit. It was through Bobby's wild idea of walking 50 miles along the C&O Canal towpath just three days after Kennedy made the order to test his Marines that created the public stir. It was a time where JFK, an active guy despite physical handicaps, was spending a lot of his capital on convincing the public on the importance of fitness and health for our nation.
So, with the opportunity before us to reprise RFK's walk in same manner can we create a fad of sorts or at least elevate the possibilities and potential of a really long walk? Join with us February 9, 2013 and find out.