Pleasanton resident Patricia Vicary has accomplished a true feat of endurance: she has not only completed at least one half-marathon in every state and Washington, D.C., but she has written a book about her experience.
In "Power Walk!: My Step by Step Journey to Competitions Across America," which is part guide and part travel log, Vicary, 64, approaches the subject of long distance power walking with humor and insight into what it takes to plan and complete a visit to and race in every state.
Whether it's following a race caravan to finish four races in four days or traveling across the United States by train, Vicary details her experiences walking throughout the country, and at one point, briefly into Canada, in her book.
"It's a light read," she said. "There's so much crazy stuff that happens -- things with porta potties at the races and airplanes you end up on that have you thinking you're not going to make it. So, hopefully, it's told with some humor and relatability, but also it's motivational at the same time."
As a child, Vicary said she was not athletic and went to great lengths, even at the expense of failing PE, to avoid participating in organized activity.
It wasn't until college, while sidestepping a science course requirement, Vicary enrolled in a foundations of physical education class. In that class, she was forced into the movement she had avoided for so long, as the course included a lab requiring students to run three times a week. Vicary's outlook on movement began to shift and she went from shying away from physical activity to willingly participating in it.
Vicary found flexibility in running and enjoyed being outdoors, but as she entered her 40s she realized running was no longer serving her body properly. She, again, had to shift her outlook.
"Over time I found that my body wasn't happy with the results of running," she said. "You end up with physical problems. When I was in my 40s, I started to power walk instead and the great thing about power walking is it gave me all the benefits of running, and I got to be outside and have the flexibility of if I was doing it solo or with a group of people. But it didn't have all of the pounding on my hips and knees and back."
Vicary soon joined a couple online power walking groups and started racing more, focusing mostly on half-marathons. She finished her first out-of-state race, the Nike Women's Half Marathon in Washington, D.C., as a power walker in 2013. Vicary continued signing up for races occurring while she was traveling, but didn't initially set out to complete a race in each of the 50 states.
"The (year after D.C.), I did a race in Utah, Oregon and Washington in collaboration with trips," Vicary said. "So, I was slowly doing it, but it wasn't until I hit state 15 that I became serious about it. I enjoyed traveling and thankfully my family was indulgent with me. It eventually flip-flopped and I went from doing a race where I was on vacation to building my vacation around the race."
Throughout 2019, she crossed 20 states off her list. However, with just three states left, Vicary found herself stuck when the COVID-19 pandemic caused races and travel to temporarily cease. It was during that time she decided to take the power walking blog she was keeping and transform it into what would become her book.
"It grew out of a blog just talking about my adventures power walking all over the place," she said, adding, "I hope people will find it motivating to switch up the exercise program they're currently doing and they'll find some entertainment value in following my adventure."
Vicary said she keeps herself motivated by limiting her walks to three times a week, supplementing her walking with barre workouts and giving herself one rest day.
Her next goal, she said, is finishing 100 half-marathons, which she expects to complete this October in Portland. And, while her current race pace is about 12:30 -- faster than some people run -- Vicary said she simply wants people to enjoy moving.
"I'm 64 years old and I'm still doing it," she said "I'm not some amazing miracle specimen and I think that's one of the things people will get out of this. It's such an accessible form of exercise and something people can do throughout their lives.
"Whether you're doing a 15, 16, 17 or more minute pace, it's all good," she continued. "Just get out there and enjoy it and have fun."
"Power Walk!: My Step by Step Journey to Competitions Across America" is available on Amazon in paperback and ebook form. Signed copies can also be purchased locally at Towne Center Books on Main Street in Pleasanton.