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What I Really Know About Long Walks: Just 'two or three miles'

What I Really Know" comes from our readers. Each month we solicit short personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online. Below, reader   Bob Sandlin Jr. of Manitowish Waters, Wisc., shares what he really knows about "long walks."

It doesn’t have to be a very long walk to be a “long” walk, not if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool couch potato like me! My wife … now there’s a person who likes loooong walks (or hikes, or jogs, or flat-out runs). Our children often refer to them as “forced death marches” and to my wife as “the camp commander.”

It began after I had open-heart surgery. My doctor made the terrible mistake of mentioning in front of my wife how beneficial walking would be for me. When she glanced at me, I saw the look in her eyes, and, truthfully, my blood ran cold.

“Ahhh … how far would we be talking here, doctor?” I asked.

“Oh, two or three miles,” the doctor replied.

From that moment on, everything became “two or three miles” to my wife. A walk downtown was “two or three miles.” A walk to another town was “two or three miles.” A walk across India was … “two or three miles.” As I trudged block after block around the neighborhood, pouting, my wife would jog circles around me, shouting out encouragement: “Come on, tubby hubby, you can do it” and “That’s the way, my big-bunned hon.”

Although I never saw them, I somehow knew that in those houses we passed perfectly healthy men relaxed in loungers with remote control in hand. But could I do that? Of course not! I had just suffered a triple bypass, so I had to march to Pretoria behind my wife, the singing drill sergeant.

It’s been 20-plus years since my surgery, and the camp commander finally eased up on me a bit. Yet every now and then she gets that gleam in her eyes and I drag myself off the couch and grudgingly fall in step beside her to walk “two or three miles.”

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