The winner of a walking challenge in Petersburg this spring recorded over a million steps in six weeks, the equivalent of over 500 miles. The competition ended last week and winners Tuesday picked out prizes ranging from plane tickets to gift certicates.

For the record, I was entered in the step challenge this spring along with over 100 others, and I totaled just over 414-thousand steps in the six weeks. The winner, Mary Meucci, more than doubled that, recording one million 90 thousand steps, or the equivalent of 545 miles. Some weeks she walked over 200-thousand steps or over 100 miles in a week. That meant some days of more than 20 miles.

Meucci’s partner, Rich Lowell said he started out trying to keep up with her. “She quickly left me in the dust and I had to let her go on her own, so. It was kinda nice I had the house to myself because she was always out walking. You know, she took the dog, the dog was always tired. Yeah it was good,” he laughed.

Second place wasn’t far behind Meucci as Gail Herlick-Aho totaled one million 58 thousand steps, a little over 30 thousand steps off the pace.

Meucci said that competition inspired her. “Yeah it was a good program, lost a little weight. Gail Aho was an inspiration,” she said.

Meucci and other winners got to pick from prizes at an awards ceremony this week

Some of the participants in the pedometer challenge gathered for an awards ceremony at the public library Tuesday.

Some of the participants in the pedometer challenge gathered for an awards ceremony at the public library Tuesday.

The competition this year was sponsored by Petersburg Mental Health Services, the volunteer fire department and the school district. It was designed to get people out, walking and to promote healthy living. 135 people signed up for the program initially. Like last year, that participation trailed off by the final week with 77 competitors recording their steps.

Kris Erickson totaled over 703-thousand steps and came in first in her age group. She was also motivated by the front runners. “Seeing Gail and Mary’s name up in front of mine every week,” Erickson said was her motivation. She also said a Close Up trip to Washington D.C. with high school students helped her log some miles. “Yeah one day I put in 12-thousand, 12-thousand, 12 miles walking, walking in D.C.,” Erickson said.

Another participant Father Thomas Weise finished second in that age group, totaling 664-thousand steps. He says he logged over 20-thousand on his best days “I started getting up getting up first thing in the morning and going out for at least a 90 minute walk. And that would get you to 10-thousand. So I knew I had 10-thousand a day if I did that. Then just walking around the place would get you another three, four or five thousand. But to really get to 22-thousand then I had to go out for about a two hour walk, or maybe two shorter walks. But I found I could pray the rosary while walking and it was perfect. So one rosary takes about three miles. If you pray all 20 decades of the rosary you could go for a really long walk. You had your own little pilgrimage going here. Exactly.”
Weise says he was inspired by a Nigerian bishop’s vision to pray to defeat the militant group Boko Haram in Africa.

The competition also had team categories. The winning team was the Alaska Department of Fish and Game crab team, of which individual winner Meucci was a part. That team averaged over 500-thousand steps for its seven members.

It’s the third year for this pedometer challenge in Petersburg and local school students and staff also participated this year. The district’s top staffer for steps was Vicki McIntosh with 716-thousand steps. Tiffany Christensen was second with 662-thousand. Student winners in the high school were LeAnn Lapeyri and Josh Andrews and in the middle school Melanie Chase and Brekkin Davis.

The district was still compiling numbers for elementary students. The district’s Healthy living grant coordinator Ginger Evans writes that almost half of all school staff reported steps and about 15 percent of high school students stuck with the competition past the first week.

For those that didn’t get their fill of walking in the first competition, there’s also another shorter walking challenge underway for a couple of days this week put on by the Petersburg Indian Association.