Thursday, September 14, 2006

Remembering a walking man

I met Jim Sankey six years ago this month. A tall, lanky man, he was finishing a goal that he had set for himself -- to "walk around the world." OK, Sankey didn't walk the entire globe, but between 1973 and 2000, he walked 24,902 miles, which is the circumference of the earth. He walked because he loved the outdoors, and was especially drawn to Colorado's mountains. Sankey died this week. I'll be thinking of him when I hike this weekend.
Here's the story that ran in the Gazette (Sept. 5, 2000) after Sankey completed his walk:

He can't stand still/ Springs man walks equivalent of around the world
Deb Acord; The Gazette
Now that Jim Sankey has finished his "walk around the world," you'd think he'd take a break. But what has he been doing on this long weekend? Walking, of course. Sankey, a retired Marine, World War II veteran and Bible college instructor, didn't literally walk around the world. But he did really walk 24,902 miles, the earth's circumference. He started keeping track in 1973, and figures he made the final stride one day last week. How did he do it? One mile at a time, he says. Born in Pennsylvania 76 years ago, Sankey has always walked a lot. When he was a boy, walking was his only mode of transportation. In the military, it was part of his training. When he began working at Nazarene Bible College, it offered him a time and place for contemplation. "I think I'm addicted to walking," he says. "When I began keeping track of my mileage, I needed some goals. I decided to see if I could walk across the United States. I did that one or two times. Then I began logging miles in Colorado and hit the 5,000-mile mark." As he strolled, mile after mile, Sankey realized he needed a more ambitious walking goal. He looked up the circumference of the earth in an encyclopedia, learned it was 24,902 miles and decided that was it. Sankey has divided his walks among the sidewalks of his neighborhood in Cimarron Hills and trails on the mountains and foothills throughout Colorado. He has climbed Pikes Peak along the Barr Trail 15 times and has climbed 12 of the state's fourteeners. He has hiked every trail in Mueller State Park three or four times. He wedges in little walks where other people wouldn't - while he waits for his car to be repaired, when he's early for appointments. He keeps track of his mileage with maps, trail guides and trail markers. And if he ever doubts his mileage, he goes a little farther, just so he doesn't overstate his accomplishments. His favorite 14,000-foot peak, he says, is Mount Massive near Leadville. His favorite place to hike in the Pikes Peak Region is Mueller. But Sankey says the location is secondary to the actual experience of walking. With walking stick in hand - maybe the one he brought back from Germany's Black Forest - and wearing his sturdy Timberland shoes and his favorite camouflage hat, he walks. His pace is brisk, his attitude purposeful. "I like all the parts of walking," he says. "The physical part of it; the places it takes you; the way you can think while you're out there." Sankey and his wife, Carra, have kept a meticulous log of his mileage for nearly 20 years. It shows a steady increase in mileage as Sankey retired and found himself with more free time. By the early '90s, he was walking more than 1,100 miles a year, and in 1997, he hit his personal best with 1,422.5. Then, in 1999, he had triple bypass surgery. It slowed him down a bit - he walked only 1,091 miles. But now, he's back to his old routine, one his wife knows well. "He just loves to walk," she says. "He walks morning, noon and night. "It's OK with me. It makes him happy."

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