Digital illustration of a girl walking in the park in the style of Lizzie Maguire cartoons.
Design by Haylee Bohm.

This fall, three relay teams of four Daily Arts staffers will train for and run the Probility Ann Arbor Marathon. But as writers, we can’t just run the race — we have to write about our past experiences with running, how we are preparing for the marathon, what we look forward to and what we are afraid of.

This article is supposed to be about running: about the marathon I will run on Oct. 1, about my morning runs and the elusive, adrenaline-fueled “runner’s high.” But even as I approach my two-year anniversary of consistently running, I’ve never really identified with the “runner” title. What I do identify as is a walker. 

I love walking. That might sound mundane — you may think to yourself, “I like walking too; this girl isn’t special.” But I truly, madly, deeply love walking. I cherish my 25-minute vertical trek up Hill St. to the Central Campus Classroom Building with my roommates each morning. Despite our burning calves and inevitable sweat stains, the girlish laughs and inside jokes — the commute makes the trip more than worth it. In a schedule filled with back-to-back classes, my only escapes from head-spinning lectures and draining discussions are my hasty, cross-campus walks. I fill each hurried 10 minutes with as much fresh air as I can get while brainlessly floating my way to the next class to the sounds of a carefully curated and seasonally appropriate playlist. 

When I’m stressed, sad, angry or nervous I retreat to the third floor of the Intramural Sports Building. Surrounded by fancy stair steppers, ergs and stationary bikes, I step onto an empty treadmill, jam the speed-up button until I’m just under a jogging pace and walk. I’ll walk until my knees are weak and my legs are stiff; but, more importantly, I’ll walk until my mind is at ease — until my stationary distance has made my problems seem small. 

Walking can serve as an escape, but I paradoxically find myself also walking to ground myself and reenter reality. Between hours staring at my laptop or phone screen and persistent anxieties of pending due dates, coffee chats and social commitments, I find it all too easy to lose sight of the world around me. Yet, when I feel the humidity leave the Michigan air and a cool breeze blows the first leaves off of changing trees, I find myself compelled to walk. In the winter, when snow blankets the busy world and my breath crystalizes in the air, I double-layer my pants, pull on my insulated boots and walk anyway. The biting below-zero wind on my exposed face is a welcome blessing. In the summer, when a blazing sun reddens my skin or clouds darker than night threaten a storm, I walk anyway.

A friend once said to me, “When I picture you, I sort of just envision you wandering somewhere alongside the road.” I laughed, but statistically, it’s somewhat true — my trusty Apple Watch claims I average anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 steps a day. Walking is a key part of who I am. It’s something I read about — one of my favorite books is “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed, a memoir about walking a few thousand miles up the Pacific Coast. It is something I dream about — the top of my bucket list is to walk all 2,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail. It is something I write about. Secretly, when I run, my favorite part is when I take a well-deserved break to catch my breath, feel my music, admire my surroundings, truly center myself and walk. 

Daily Arts Writer Kathryn Hemmila can be reached at