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River trekkers
Nahanni Butte team in walking challenge

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, February 9, 2012

One step at a time 17 women and two men from Nahanni Butte are walking a distance equivalent to trekking from Fort Providence to Tuktoyaktuk.

The 19 people are members of the Nahanni Snow Walkers, one of 45 teams participating in the Mackenzie River Nordic Walking Challenge. The event, organized by the NWT Recreation and Parks Association, challenges teams to walk the equivalent of the 1,658 kilometres along the Mackenzie River.

Each team has between Jan. 1 and Feb. 29 to walk the distance. Each hour a team member walks is equated to five km. The Nahanni Snow Walkers are the only team in the Deh Cho participating in the challenge. Despite getting a late start, the team has already logged 525 km, putting them past Wrigley.

Anna Tsetso, who organized the team, said the Walker's goal is to make it as far as Tulita, 735 km, and then take it from there.

"We're just going to take it one step at a time," she said.

They learned about the challenge through two facilitators who were leading a women's workshop in Nahanni Butte. Although the challenge had already started approximately 10 days earlier, a decision was made to enter a team, Tsetso said.

Members of the team get together every night around 8 p.m. to walk. Not everyone comes out at the same time, said Tsetso.

When it was cold, the team walked in the community's gym. When it's nice enough, the Walkers' choose a path around the community's streets and nearby trails.

Team members move at their own pace. Tsetso's mother, elder Elsie Marcellais, is one of the team's members. She comes out to walk about twice a week and some of the other team members match her pace and walk with her, Tsetso said.

In addition to the exercise the challenge provides, Tsetso said that seeing all the team members get together is one of the benefits.

"Being in a team is pretty good," she said.

Tsetso said she does hope the team makes it as far as Tuktoyaktuk.

This is the second year the NWT Recreation and Parks Association has organized the challenge. The idea was developed by a few of the association's staff who were brainstorming ways to motivate people to get outside and get active and to also promote the association's programs, including Nordic walking, said Sheena Tremblay, the organization's active community co-ordinator.

In its first year, 550 participants on 37 teams participated in the challenge. Twenty-eight of the teams made it to Tuktoyaktuk.

There are 649 participants on 46 teams in 18 communities this year. Many of the teams have already made it as far as Norman Wells.

'More realistic'

Getting to the Delta will be slightly more difficult for teams this year. After many of the larger teams, you can have up to 20 members, easily completed the challenge in 2011 the association reduced the formula for each hour of walking to five kilometres from seven.

"We wanted to make it more realistic," Tremblay said.

The members of the teams that make it to Tuktoyaktuk will each receive a commemorative T-shirt and be entered into a draw for prizes.

Participating also comes with other benefits. Compared to walking without poles, Nordic walking burns more calories and requires the use of more upper body strength, said Tremblay. It's great for heart and lung capacity, endurance and circulation, she said.

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