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ODD THOUGHTS: Walk for community character

The 57th annual Langley Walk is easier than than the first one was, but it’s just as important

By Bob Groeneveld

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If you’ve lived in Langley for more than a year and haven’t done the Langley Walk, you’ve missed something you didn’t want to miss.

Come out to Aldergrove on Sunday, where this year’s Walk celebrations get started noonish, and you’ll see what I mean.

If you’ve lived in Langley more than two years and haven’t walked the Walk, you’ve missed it twice.

And that’s a shame. You don’t want to miss it again.

Langley Walk is what Martha Stewart would call “a good thing.”

It’s good for the body. It’s good for the mind.

And it’s good for the soul.

It was actually started as a one-off thing nearly six decades ago by a fellow, name of Pete Swensson.

Pete was a bit of a physical education nut. He was Langley’s recreation commission director, and if you follow local news at all, you’ll recognize him from the prestigious award that bears his name, presented every year to someone who embodies both his healthy bent and his community spirit.

By the by, Pete is also the guy who coached Debbie Brille – she of “Brille Bend” fame – to a slew of local, regional, national, and international high-jumping records.

In other words, Pete was anything but a lightweight in athletic circles.

Just sayin’.

Pete’s passion was to not only encourage everyone to be as healthy as they could be, but to do the best they could, to get out and do better than they thought they could – in Melania’s shorthand: “Be Best!”

And you had to be pretty good to take Pete’s walk, at least by today’s standards.

The first Langley Walk was more than 30 km long, following a route from Aldergrove to Langley City, up along River Road and through Fort Langley.

The several thousand who walked the distance then had to board buses or beg rides to get back to the starting point to their own cars, because, unlike today’s 5 km and 10 km loops, the Langley Walk was originally designed as a one-way trip.

Several hundreds gave up or were forced to quit along the way by first aid attendants who made assessments from stations set up at respectful distances along the route

Yet, it was so popular that the powers that be asked Pete to do it again.

And so it went for years: the length of the Walk hovered just above 25 km, and more and more thousands came out to test their mettle on the first Sunday of May.

The Langley Walk is a lot easier now than it was five or six decades ago. It’s no longer so much a test of physical prowess, as it is an exercise of community character. People do it to have fun, and more importantly, to have fun with each other – with friends, family, neighbours, and strangers.

And if it rains on Sunday (as I’m writing this, the forecast is a bit dark), so much the better.

Rain on the Langley Walk seems to bring people even closer.