To read more from Grail member, Marian Ronan, visit

Let me begin by saying that I am a serious walker. One of the (many) reasons I love New York City is because it’s such a fabulous place to walk. Not that I am an Olympic, long-distance walker. But I do regularly walk from Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, where I live, to the Q stop on Atlantic Avenue, on the other side of Park Slope, a walk that takes about an hour. Or I walk from our apartment up to and all the way around Prospect Park and back, an outing of an hour and a quarter. And when  it’s not too hot or too cold (not recently, then!) I walk from the library up at Columbia University, one of my favorite places on earth, down to Union Square, a trek of about five miles. I take a long walk most days, except if it’s raining, and then I sweat on my Tunturi exercise bike instead. It’s all quite wonderful.

I started out running. I was a fat young person (I’ll spare you the details) but in my twenties I began running, and by age 32, I had lost thirty pounds. But at some point I read somewhere that running could damage your knees, so I took up walking instead. (Now they seem to think that running doesn’t damage your knees any more than a bunch of other things do.)

I do have a little osteoarthritis in one knee, but it’s not bad, and lemme tell ya, doctors rave about what good health I’m in. An inept GP once sent me to a cardiologist because of “my age” (I’m 64) and when I told the cardiologist that I walk regularly from Columbia to Union Square without any discomfort, he laughed out loud at the idea of my wanting a stress test.

Lately, though, it has come to me that some people walk for reasons other than to keep their weight down. I’m thinking here about the people of drought-stricken Somalia. On PBS last night a commentator spoke of a woman who spent  thirty-two days walking to Kenya to try to find food for herself and her kids. And according to an article I read–not sure where–it’s not unusual for a Somali woman to arrive at the end of such a trek with a (starved) dead baby tied to her back.

But it seems that the famine in Somalia is pretty much off the screen for most of us US-ies. Too worried about the stock market, I guess. I’m thinking maybe the next time I get ready for a weight-controlling march across NYC, I’ll send a donation to the UNICEF’s program for Somalia. Won’t you make a donation too?