Beginnings & Now

In the Beginning

Five years ago, FreeWalkers was born from my personal interest in walking 50-miles and realizing that others shared my interest.

This odd endurance feat of walking extremely long distances began over 50 years ago. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy asked his military to prove they were in fine physical condition by marching 50 miles. These were the cold war years and JFK saw a need to demonstrate our capabilities. That military order quickly turned into a public fad. Many ordinary individuals took the challenge upon themselves to prove that they too were fit and could walk 50 miles in one day. This was all either a mistake or a fortunate event that helped boost the public’s attention to physical fitness.

I was 15 years old at the time, and with three other friends we decided on a whim to walk that year from Roselle to Netcong, New Jersey. We made 38 miles before giving up 12 hours later. Still, pretty impressive for teenagers with no real walking experience. More than just an endurance feat, it was an adventure of seeing and experiencing things in a different way. It was a unique and different experience that I think slightly changed the way I thought about life at the time. It begged the question, “Can we do more than we think we can?” What exactly is our limits? 

Forty-six years later in 2009, I researched the fad and wrote about it in an online blog The 50-mile Hike Phenomenon. That convinced me to have another go at 50 miles, tracing a route that Robert F. Kennedy walked along the C&O Canal towpath in early February of that year. You can read about my experience at my blog article Log for 38-mile Walk - Maryland - 2/7/09. Once again, I fell short, but many people asked what it was like and if I would try it again. Time passed and the feeling of exhaustion and blisters soon faded.

FreeWalkers are Born

3000 Mile Map of East Coast GreenwayIn 2010, I set my sights at another try at the 50 mile challenge. Doing more research on long distance walking, which has a long, interesting history. Soon, I began to seek the interest of  pro-pedestrian organizations on an idea of a long public walk involving a large group. The East Coast Greenway Alliance, enthusiastically supported an idea of walking the 50 miles in one day on the greenway trail, mapped out a strategy, and helped get the word out.

NJ2Ny50 logoThe event The NJ2NY50 - The Big Walk  of 2010 was a big success with over 70 participants and a general interest in the event by the public and even the media. Best of all, everyone who participated, including myself, absolutely loved it! It seemed to be the right blend of a tough yet accessible physical and mental challenge.

LENAPE34 logoOn October 11, 2010, we took on a new walking challenge with the LENAPE34, a one-day 34-mile walking event covering the well-established Lenape Trail crossing most of the major reservations, parks, towns and cities in Essex County, NJ. In this venture we were able to help focus attention on the Lenape Trail, which is segment of the Liberty Water Gap Trail a multi-purpose trail across the entire State from Jersey City to the Delaware Water Gap. With two successful events, fast growing membership as well as creating goodwill for trails the FreeWalkers seemed like a concept that could continue and grow.

Building FreeWalkers

In, 2011 our second year, we repeated our previous two walks AND added several others. Boldly, we set a new goal of walking across the entire state (in one year's time) through a new joint program with the East Coast Greenway called the Cross-Jersey Walking Challenge. With that in mind, we added the Great Canal Walk - Trenton to New Brunswick, and the Tween Walk - New Brunswick to Metropark (in addition to the Big Walk from Metropark to NYC). a total of 100 miles and clear across New Jersey.

But there was more to come as we added a 30-mile walk along the famed New Jersey Shore called The Endless Summer Walk which proved to be one of the most enjoyable and popular walks yet. And, due to popular demand, we repeated the LENAPE34 in October 2011.

Adding More Great Events

The next year we repeated our five major events plus we added another called the Hudson River Loop Walk - a 30-mile walk up and down the Hudson River.  Starting in Jersey City, we went coastal and north to the George Washington Bridge then down the New York City Greenway to downtown and back to our starting point. It was a hugh success with almost 100 people participating and raving about the walk and its scenery - always near the water.

Continuing A Tradition and More

50 mile kennedyIn February, 2013 Ray Smith a fellow FreeWalker from Washington DC area and I put together a special event in honor of both John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, both connected to the original 50-mile hike fad in 1963.

RFK had set out with his staff on the C&O Canal and was one of the original participants drawing national attention to his stamina and the possiblity of others walking this 50-mile fitness feat. The reports of the day pinpointed where he started and approximately where he ended his journey. So, a we created a new walk (now called the Kennedy50 on the C&O Canal in Maryland on February 9, 2013, exactly 50 years to the day of the original RFK accomplishment. It was so popular that the event recieved some attention in a national NPR piece and was picked up by a local TV station.

JFK MarchWe have set up a regional FreeWalkers DC group hosting local events throughout the year. We finished 2013 with a new 22-mile JFK Memorial Walk ending in Arlington National Cemetery on November 22nd, the 50th Anniversary of his death.

In our brief four year history we now have over 1000 FreeWalker members, with over 500 having participated in our events. As a group we have walked over 23,000 miles since 2009. That's the equivalent of walking around the world!

I'd like to invite you to participate by walking, contributing your ideas, and creating new exciting walking events. We've got even more planned for 2014 and beyond, including Connecticut, Boston, Philadelphia, and international walks. Join us in an active role to help grow FreeWalkers and make long distance walking a great experience for everyone.

Paul Kiczek,
Founder & Director
March 2014

Recent Events

Roebling Ramble 

June 17, 2017 - This event combined the history of the Roebling family (built the Brooklyn Bridge and many others) and their rise and fall and the town they created that represented an immigrant's dream 100-years ago.

Our 34 FreeWalkers continued another 13 miles to Trenton to experience a unique festival called Art All Night which offered a huge stage to experience live visual and audio art along with caravan of food trucks for 24-hours straight. The entire day was a unique and interesting experience in history and art.

Hudson River Loop 

June 10, 2017 - It turned out to be a great day for a great event. Our largest event yet with 125 participants. Many making it all the way to the end of 30-miles. If there was any particular challenge it was the heat building up but with some breeze to help as it reached the mid-80s.

This year to accommodate more challengers we expanded the support providing improved signage and a support stop near the GWB. Our thanks to the Hudson River Walkway Conservancy, East Coast Greenway, Shorewalkers and Metrotrails for helping make this a huge success for FreeWalkers and our United Walking effort.

Website Update here

Survey resultsTake Survey. 

Photos here

The Big Walk 2017

May 20, 2017 - Rain at the crack of dawn did nothing to stop 40+ FreeWalkers' at this 8th annual premier long distance event. Fortunately, the weather cooperated, mostly, and we had 11 finish the maximum 50-miles.

The walk from Metropark station to Penn Station NYC is a diverse challenge with many obstacles which draw the best of our long distance walkers.

Website Update here

Survey resultsTake Survey. 

Photos here

Between Walk 2017

April 15, 2017 - With a good temps but overcast skies 23. FreeWalkers walked the 12 miles from New Brunswick to Metropark station. This year's events included a new free bagel stop at Ruthie's in Highland Park and a great personal tour of the newly renovated Thomas Edison Center in Menlo Park.

Jack Shi's Excellent Adventure

Website Update here

Survey resultsTake Survey

Photos here

Great Canal Walk 2017

April 8, 2017 - It was a beautiful day for a walk with a taste of spring. FourWalkers walked the 40 miles from Trenton and 29 walkers favored the shorter, yet challenging 28 miles from Princeton to New Brunswick.

Website Update here

Survey results. Take Survey

Photos here

Spring Ahead 2017

March 19, 2017 - Eight FreeWalkers walked the 12-miles from Trenton to Princeton on a day when winter would not let go. Snow covered trail and cold temps slowed down the trek but sun and good spirits were plentiful. 

See photos here

Roosevelt Island/Astoria 2017

March 4, 2017 - About 40 braved the mid-teens and walked across town to the tram. We explored the island and the FDR 4 Freedoms Monument and park. Eventually crossing the bridge to Queens for some middle-eastern sights, smells and tastes. Ending it all at the famous Czech Beer Hall. 

See photos here

See survey results here

Kennedy 50-Mile Walk 2017

February 4, 2017 - An event for history buffs and hardcore walkers. Our 4th walk along the C&O Canal in Maryland and West Virginia - just like Bobby Kennedy did in 1963. Chilly weather did not dampen the can-do spirit of 50 fellow walkers at our grand annual event.

Learn more>>
See photos here
See survey results here

TRAINing Walk 2017

January 28, 2017 - It's mid-winter and 75 hearty walkers show up at the Morristown train station. This year we went West to East and ended in a cozy bar called Coda. Special kudos to Madison Honda for their hospitatlity.

See photos here
See the survey results here.

Midnight March on Princeton

January 7, 2017 - The Midnight March was our first all-night walking event and first event for the new year. Six brave FreeWalkers played wannabe soldiers and stayed with the troops into daybreak.
Read the entire story here
See photos here

See the video!

Holiday Lights in Dyker Heights

December 16, 2016 - About a dozen FreeWalkers braved extreme cold and outmaneuvered rabid fans of the famous Brooklyn neighborhood. Thanks to Nakis Pericleous for leading us to the holiday kingdom.
See photos here

South Orange - Maplewood Walk & Year-end Party

December 4, 2016 - There were 35 FreeWalkers walking the grand and historic neighborhoods of South Orange and Maplewood followed by our year-end party and awards. Thanks to Risa Olinsky and David Ascher for a great day for a walk, celebration party and a start of the holiday season..
See photos here

Gobble-Gobble for MEND

November 25, 2016 - A crowd of about 40 walked off some turkey and at the same time helped the unfortunate in our communities by supporting MEND of Essex County - a food-bank charity that we support. Gobble-Gobble Walkers were asked to bring food and/or donate to help the hungry.
See photos here

Stroll & Roll - Union County

November 6, 2016 - Familes and FreeWalkers enjoyed a great fall day in Echo Lake Park, Mountainside, NJ as we got about 200 participants strolling and rolling. Kids had as much fun as adults enjoying the games, mild temps and colorful leaves on our first-ever family walking event. Thank you sponsors and Risa Olinsky and Yohana Osorio for organizing!
See photos here

Philadelphia Marathon Walk

October 30, 2016 - Charles Upkike led about 20 FreeWalkers along the route of the Philadelphia Marathon, know for its scenery - especially this time of year.

Legend of Sleepy Hollow Walk

October 30, 2016 - Rick Mohovich led about a dozen FreeWalkers around the Tarrytown area in a walk that passed through the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery of Wahington Irving fame.

Tour of Brooklyn - Coney Island

October 29, 2016 - 25 FreeWalkers walked from the New City waterfront to Coney Island on our annual tour of a different section of Brooklyn each year. Always popular and interesting, we enjoyed great weather and scenery as we walked the greenway trail, including under the Verrazano Bridge. Thanks leader Nancy Jonap!
See photos here

Autumn on the Delaware Series

October 20-23, 2016 - Four consecutive days, 120 miles. Walking from York PA to Frenchtown. FreeWalkers walked in support of Jim Gregoire, a FreeWalker and man on a mission to walk the entire US East Coast. Charles Updike, FreeWalkers PA Regional director organized this series of walk to keep him company and provide a great reason to visit the Delaware River area.
See photos here

Sailung Nepal Trek

October 3-16, 2016 - Two weeks trekking te foothills of the Himalayas. Sydney Frymire of Trek of Your Life (TOYL), a FreeWalker and experienced hiker and traveler organizes trips to Nepal which include a bit of volunteerism and plenty of incredible sights.
See photos here

Lenape 34

October 10, 2016 - On Columbus Day each year we brave the wilds of Essex County and travel through five reservations, 8 parks a dozen or so towns as we walk from Millburn to Cedar Grove, Montclair and Newark as we follow the Lenape Trail for 34 miles in our most diverse walk.
See photos here

Endless Summer Walk

September 24, 2016 - Once again we tried our best to hold on to summer and made a 30-mile trek along the bayshore and oceanside from Matawan to Sandy Hook to Asbury Park. Great conditions again this year for a beautiful walk and one of our most popular.
See photos here

Tour of Boston

September 17, 2016 - Fran Price, our FreeWalker leader in Boston, put together a great tour of the highlights of Boston. We walked from South Boston to Copley Square, mostly following the water and the historic trail.
See photos here

Providence - Boston Expedition

Providence to Boston July 23 to July 29 - Loredana, Ken and Nancy have finished thier 110 mile week-long expedition on the ECGA.

Read Loredana's story on why she walks the expedition each year.

See Loredana's 7-day Photo Journal

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