FreeWalkers was born in 2010 from Paul Kiczek's personal interest in walking 50-miles and realizing that others shared his 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.
Paul was a teenager at that time and decided on a whim to walk that year from Roselle to Netcong, New Jersey with a few friends. They 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 begged the question, “Can we do more than we think we can?” What exactly is our limits?
FreeWalkers is Born
In 2010, he set his sights at another try at the 50 mile challenge. Researching long distance walking, he learned it has a long, interesting history. From there he sought 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.
The first event - The Big Walk 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 absolutely loved it! It seemed to be the right blend of a tough yet accessible physical and mental challenge.
In October 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, part of a multi-purpose trail across the 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.
In the years that followed, we repeated our previous two walks AND added many others. Within our 10-year history we have now grown to a community of over 2,000 members hosting nearly 50 events each year including a new "Long Haul Walk" at 100 Kilometers (62 miles) and a family walking event of 3-miles - fun for children, parents and grandparents of all ages. If you are interested in walking you can be sure we have some event that suits your interests and ambitions.
There's more to come as we expand our reach into the Philadelphia, Delaware, Washington DC and Boston areas. If you are interested in creating your own FreeWalkers community in your area please let us know.
Our original policy of barrier free events continues for nearly every event we hold. Now chartered as a 501(c)3 non-profit, your donations help us continue to offer the best, most interesting events available to all.
Meanwhile, happy trails and walking wherever you are. And, please join us for one of our many events. You will see why we say we "Walk the Walk."