'Walk Across Maryland' a healthy, comfortable stroll in Hancock

April 25, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HANCOCK -- Patient: Doctor, I'm feeling healthy. What should I do?

Dr. Matthew Hahn: That's great. Walk two miles and call me in the morning.

That's the brand of preventive medicine Hahn is hoping for in Hancock and Berkeley Springs, W.Va., where close to 200 people will try to lose weight and exercise for two months.

Dozens took a practice step on Friday -- many steps, actually -- with a "Walk Across Maryland."

That might be an enormous feat for people in Baltimore, but it's merely a comfortable stroll in Hancock, which Hahn calls "the skinny waistline of Maryland."

The first finisher completed the 1.7-mile trip in about 24 minutes, which Hahn joked is "a land-speed record" for a cross-Maryland walk.


Hahn estimated that 50 to 60 people started at the Pennsylvania state line and walked south toward West Virginia. They stopped a little short due to a geographical obstacle.

"If you really want to finish," Hahn joked with walkers, "you have to swim halfway across the river."

He needled Councilman Sinclair Hamilton, who was pedaling a bicycle alongside Hahn.

"I find walking too pedestrian," Hamilton quipped.

This is the fifth year of the Health Olympics, which starts next week.

During May and June, participants will try to live healthily.

They will try to lose up to 10 pounds, exercise at least 30 minutes a day and cut 200 calories from their daily diet.

Hahn, a physician at Tri-State Community Health Center in Hancock, said many illnesses are caused by smoking and poor eating habits.

"I decided, years ago, I can't just hand out more medicine all day long," he said.

Rankin Physical Therapy & Fitness Center in Berkeley Springs is helping recruit participants. It will offer deep discounts for people who get memberships this month. For example, a one-year fee will drop from $444 to $300.

Rankin also is offering free nutrition consultations, one-on-one training sessions and group sessions, said Rick Solomon, a facility manager.

"It's increasing membership," Solomon said at a health fair after the walk. "It's getting more people into the gym."

Any participant who loses any amount of weight by the end of the Health Olympics will be eligible for free lunches and dinners, gift certificates and other prize drawings, Hahn said.

Whoever loses the largest percentage of weight will win a one-year Rankin membership. The runner-up will get a six-month membership.

Five months after having quadruple-bypass surgery, Robert Hatch of Hagerstown finished this year's Walk Across Maryland in about 35 or 40 minutes. He said the same trip took about 90 minutes last year, and he needed breaks.

Also walking Friday were Don and Jeanie Corbett -- but that was nothing new.

Hahn said the couple has walked 635 days in a row.

"These are the Lou Gehrigs of Hancock walking," he said.

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