Ilene Silver was interviewed by Risa Olinsky, FreeWalkers Vice President, on what makes her walk and what it means to be a FreeWalker.
Risa: Ilene, How did you first learn about FreeWalkers?
It was by word of mouth! My friend and former neighbor, Nancy Jonap, raved about the group when I lived in Jersey City. Thank you, Nancy!
Risa: What is it you love most about walking long distances?
Ilene: At a typical FreeWalker event the day is dedicated to a physical activity and being with friends. But these walks are much more. There are always surprises along the way. For example, the “1941 Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” plaque on the Route 1 bridge over the Passaic River that’s normally impossible to see – unless you walk past it. On our Camino Tour in Spain, a beautiful lost Boxer followed us 16 miles before we were able to find a rescue group to help get him back home. One other feeling I love is to be unplugged for the day! It’s not that you can’t be reached it’s that there’s more interesting things happening around you. For that day, the online world can wait.
Risa: You are both, a regular member and participant in FreeWalkers events, but also participate in other walking groups as well. What is it that makes FreeWalkers different from other groups?
Ilene: Organization, constant fun, even networking with other walkers – meeting new people! FreeWalkers partners with some really great sponsors such as James Gallagher, from Eastern Mountain Sports . He provides a complementary pop-up support tent for a couple of our walks. EMS also donates wonderful raffle prizes which I happened to have won a couple times. I’m a true fan of EMS. Then, there’s Mike Kruimer from the East Coast Greenway who provides rolling support for many walks with his truck loaded with bagels, water, bars, and fruit. When you are in a pinch and just can’t go that next mile, Mike and his wife Anne are there to help.
Risa: I know you love to stay fit and active. In addition to your walking what other activities do you love to do to stay healthy and fit?
Ilene: For 15 years I did long distance bike riding with the Five Borough Bike Club. I’m a certified Master Scuba Diver since 1994, my most memorable trip being Chuuk Micronesia, diving the Japanese wrecks of WW2. I’m a history fan and that was my trip of a lifetime. I love walking J.R., my little Australian Terrier, 3-4 times a day. Finally, in 1980 I made a New Year’s resolution to work out and I have stayed with it all these years. Most people ache if they do work out; I ache if I don’t workout. I love that.
Risa: What would you say to folks who might be new to FreeWalkers to help them feel comfortable with the group?
Ilene: Keep in mind that at every FreeWalkers event there are options to walk less than the maximum distance. Walk within your comfort level. I started with 7 miles and gradually built up the distance. Walk as much as you can on a regular basis and as you get stronger and be able to do more. And, don’t worry about any social pressure. You can choose to walk with anyone or to walk alone. I have met some wonderful people over the years who are now close friends. I think the natural act of walking has something to do with it.