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A Step in the Right Direction

A journey of a thousand miles may begin with a single step, but it will take you 2,105,000 steps to walk across North Carolina.

Although that sounds like a long way, it goes faster if you team up with friends. Just ask 165 Facilities employees who took on the distance together in an 11-week challenge last fall.

Going the Distance

Team members invested in $4 pedometers to track their daily steps, both at work and home, and they could take one hour per week at work to walk.

The goal was to complete the equivalent of a circuit from Raleigh over to Asheville, down to Wilmington, up to Elizabeth City and back to the starting point. A wall map in Administration Building III showed the teams’ progress.

The competition to finish first was healthy.

“You could hear people asking each other in the hall, ‘How many steps did you walk today?'” says Nikki Price with Facilities Human Resources, which organized the event with support from Associate Vice Chancellor Kevin MacNaughton and University Recreation. “It really turned out to be a success in building unity as well as helping people feel better, both mentally and physically.”

Some people walked together. Others pulled out their calculators to figure step equivalents for using a manual wheelchair and biking to work.

Team Kudzu (front row, from left): Etetai Farrington, Analis Fulghum, Laura Browning, Sarah Ketchem, Nessa Stone; (back row, from left): Diane Peterson, Rene Higginbotham, Nathaniel Kinsey, Erik Juarez, Billy Sanders, Terry Price.

Working in Exercise

The first group to go the distance, Team Kudzu, found ways to squeeze in more steps. Team leader Rene Higginbotham kept moving when she talked on the phone and even walked around while brushing her teeth. She asked co-workers to walk, not drive, across campus to deliver paperwork.

“Every email I sent out said, ‘Walk, walk, walk,'” she says.

Team member Analis Fulghum with Waste Reduction and Recycling found herself anticipating how many steps she could add through weekend work with the WE Recycle program. “At home I was getting outdoors to play ball with my son.”

Though she set new records for her personal best, Fulghum was in awe of teammate Billy Sanders, who regularly racked up more than 100,000 steps in a week’s time. For comparison’s sake, 2,000 steps is the equivalent of a mile and 10,000 steps is often a daily goal.

Sanders, a field supervisor with grounds management, walks not only on the job but seemingly everywhere.

The walking runners-up, the Centennial Wolves, didn’t reach the distance first, but they had staying power, covering more total miles last fall. The Road Warriors stepped up to take third.

A New Challenge

Though top teams won recognition at the Winter Facilities Luncheon, no one was satisfied with a one-time win.

“Right after the holiday break, I was bombarded with questions about when we’re starting this spring,” Price says, laughing.

She’s interested in finding a new challenge, since some of the teams lapped the state multiple times. How many steps would it take to walk the Appalachian Trail? To traverse the East Coast?

“I’m looking for ideas, but there will be a spring 2012 challenge starting in February,” Price says, adding that she’s willing to share tips with anyone interested in starting a similar program in their unit.