At 7:45 a.m. on a dark, rainy Thursday, Julie Leighton and Bev Corwin sat inside a coffee shop in South Lake Union waiting for a Sound Striders guided walk to begin. Despite the stormy weather, the women were certain their empty table would soon be full of people clad in rain jackets and hats. By 8 a.m., nearly 40 people crowded the café.
Sound Striders is one of Seattle Parks and Recreation’s most popular Lifelong Recreation programs. A few years ago, community member Nancy Olsen and a few of her friends started training to walk a half marathon. After they completed the race, they didn’t want to stop walking together, so they continued the sport. Olsen owned a bookstore on Bainbridge Island and was a natural-born researcher. She began planning walks for the group that incorporated historical landmarks and points of interest. Soon the group struck a partnership with Seattle Parks, and the Sound Striders group was born.
“We didn’t want our half marathon training to go to waste, so we started walking Thursday mornings,” Karin Queen said, one of the group’s original members. “Now it’s kind of exploded. We walk rain or shine. We’ve only canceled twice for snow.”
Sound Striders get together multiple times each month for five- to six-mile fitness walks in different Seattle neighborhoods. There are two groups, the North Sound Striders who walk on Tuesdays, and the South Sound Striders who walk on Thursdays. The groups meet at 8 a.m. for coffee and then head out. The events have drawn numerous people, with the most popular walk topping out at 58.
“We get to explore different neighborhoods and see things we wouldn’t notice when driving through,” Leighton said. “The walks are just long enough to get some exercise, but they’re not too strenuous.”
Corwin said that she feels like she has more energy after joining the group.
“I feel overall healthier,” she said. “It’s gotten easier for me to walk the amount of mileage.”
Besides the fitness benefits, many members of the group joined to socialize. Member Nancy Shumate moved to Seattle from New York and said she enjoyed meeting new people through Sound Striders.
“Staying social is important as you retire and get older and begin to switch lives,” Shumate said. “It made it moving here less of an adjustment. The other members gave me recommendations for activities and taught me how to navigate the city like a local.”
The group’s walk on Thursday, Oct. 23, led them through South Lake Union. The guide, Craig Shumate, pointed out places like the old Troy Laundry building, Tilikum Place, Denny and Bell Street Parks and the St. Spiridon Orthodox Cathedral.
The Sound Striders will continue their walks throughout December. The North Sound Striders have their next event on Tuesday, Nov. 4 in Montlake, and the South Sound Striders will be heading to Georgetown on Thursday, Oct. 30.
To see the full schedules and meeting locations, visit http://seattlesoundsteps.wordpress.com/sound-striders/.