Article: 25 Years of Power Walking; Never Missed a Day
About Janet Pfeiffer
By Matt Manochio
January 22, 2007
JEFFERSON -- Most people who've just had a kidney stone removed likely would opt for a comfy bed or couch and choose to stay as inactive as possible. Not Janet Pfeiffer.
The 57-year-old Oak Ridge resident took her usual 5-mile morning power walk in April and immediately went to her doctor's office at 10 a.m. in excruciating pain.
"I couldn't drive home," she said during a Sunday interview.
The doctor rushed her to the emergency room and she had the stone removed at 9 p.m. But that didn't stop her from walking "as soon as I got back" the following morning.
"That was a very slow walk,"she said.
Pfeiffer not only walked that day, but she hasn't missed one day since she started power walking on Jan. 20, 1982 -- 25 years ago on Saturday.
"It's the first thing I do when I get up," Pfeiffer said. "Nothing else matters until I've had my walk."
Pfeiffer actually started running instead of walking back in the early 1980s when she lived in Wayne.
A Michael Douglas movie titled "Running"-- about a man hoping to run in the Olympics while solving his personal problems -- happened to air on Jan. 19, 1982. Pfeiffer watched and was so inspired by it that she took up running the next day. She ran every day for the next three years, and eventually eased into a walking habit.
Pfeiffer -- who keeps a 5 mph pace -- used to start her day at 3:30 a.m. with her 12-mile walk. She's walked between five and seven miles a day for the past six years, and usually starts off at around 5:15 a.m.
"She walks every day," her husband, Mac MacDougall, said on Sunday. "She doesn't care what the weather conditions are."
True enough. If there's a blizzard, Pfeiffer has her pair of hiking boots. If she's stranded overnight in an airport, which once happened to her in Indiana, she'll walk in the parking lot. She'll even circumnavigate the deck of a cruise ship 120 times, if need be.
She's very slender and, not surprisingly, fit. She said she rarely gets sick, if ever, and credits it to her exercise regimen.
Pfeiffer, who runs an instructional seminar business, notes that there's a difference between power walking -- essentially accelerated walking -- and speed walking, an Olympic event with strict rules about the body being kept straight with one foot always touching the ground.
She's not alone when she takes her walks. Her three dogs, Reba, Halle and Sage, all shepherd mixes, accompany her.
"I always take all three of them," she said. "I'm out walking them. I allow them to come with me. That's my philosophy."
Her husband of 10 years always finds it amusing.
"It's interesting to see her getting dragged down the street by three dogs," MacDougall said.
Pfeiffer admittedly doesn't want any human companionship when she walks.
"My favorite thing about walking is it's time alone for me to talk to God," she said. "It's unlimited time."
Pfeiffer started her walking habit after having her four children. And when they were too young to be left home alone while she walked, Pfeiffer came up with a solution. She had them hop on their bikes and ride with her as she walked.
"They weren't happy about it," she said.
Pfeiffer sticks to the local streets near her School House Road home. She wears reflective clothing and carries a flashlight so drivers can see her, and she always walks against traffic.
She sometimes takes her camera to photograph nature -- which sometimes includes bears -- around her.
"I'm not afraid of the bears at all," she said. "I'm more afraid of the cars. ... The drivers are the worst."
MacDougall said he worries about his wife when he leaves for work in the morning, knowing she's out there along with sometimes sleepy-eyed or inattentive drivers. But Pfeiffer said she has things under control.
"I haven't been hit in 25 years, so I guess I'm doing OK," she said.
Matt Manochio can be reached at (973) 989-0652 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Return to Articles