How Many Steps to Melbourne and Back?

October, 2004

If you head due east from Plymouth and return the same route from Melbourne, Australia, it’s about 54,800,000 steps. That’s figuring 2,000 steps per mile. Two competing teams—one from Plymouth State University, the other from Plymouth Congregational Church (PCC)—began a “virtual race” down under and back on September 28. They plan to finish by March 21, 2004, allowing for a two-week layover for the holidays.

Joy Butler, associate professor in the HPER department, and Rebecca Herr from PCC conceived the idea to promote health awareness and improve fitness levels. Dubbed the Walkabout Project after the Australian aborigines’ spiritual quest through the outback, the idea was promoted by the church’s health ministry committee. Ninety people ages 14 to 80 turned out to join the teams. The half-way points coincided with attendance by four Plymouth State students at an international conference in Melbourne in December.

“We decided on a two-to-one PCC to campus ratio for the teams,” Butler says. “We have more participants who are younger and more conditioned for the endurance this entails.” The PCC team has 60 members, the PSU team 30. The teams are currently neck-and-neck, with two PSU students in the lead. “Just one soccer game amounts to seven or eight miles for the player,” notes Butler. Participants keep track of their steps on a pedometer.

Each week, the teams will pause to plot where they are and write about that country. The “route” takes them to London and across Europe, then through countries of the Far East, including Iraq. The first team to complete the 27,400-mile round trip wins. While there is no official prize for the winning team, Butler and Herr hope that the health benefits and the satisfaction of such an accomplishment will be a lifelong reward.—KH

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