This weekend, Susan Spence was taking her last steps toward a longtime goal of walking 30 marathons by the age of 60.
She did it to stay fit, manage her weight and spend time outdoors.
But her true motivation?
“I want the bling,” she said. “I'm in it for the hardware.”
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She already has loads of it. A section of a bookshelf in her home is crammed with medals and framed photographs of her at various marathons around the country.
The Walt Disney World Marathon, eight years ago, was her first. All the finishers got a gold medal shaped like Mickey Mouse's head. She was so excited about the medal that when she got home, she wore it to Harris Teeter, thinking that a few of the cashiers she has gotten to know would ask her about it.
“And nobody asked a thing,” Spence said with a laugh. “Maybe they thought I had poor taste in jewelry.”
Of course, her love of medals doesn't really drive her devotion to walking, a daily activity she took up 30 years ago to help her take off some pounds.
“It just makes you feel good. It helps your disposition. You have more energy. I do it for the feel-good factor,” said Spence, who mentioned as an aside that her middle name is Walker.
It's a feeling she wants other people to experience.
Spence has organized the largest team in the annual Step Up Forsyth! walking program sponsored by the Forsyth County Department of Public Health. The eight-week program, which will end Nov. 7, encourages county residents to walk and log their minutes.
Most of her recruits come from the various Weight Watchers' meetings that she leads. Spence started working for Weight Watchers 30 years ago, shortly after joining the organization to lose weight. She travels around the county talking to groups about nutrition, changing behaviors and exercise. Her role, she said, is part facilitator, part cheerleader.
Spence, who grew up in Winston-Salem, lost about 30 pounds with Weight Watchers.
“I liked their positive approach and got hooked on it,” she said.
She started walking as part of her weight-loss program. Eventually, it became a daily, sometimes twice-daily ritual. Some days, she would get up at 4:30 a.m. and walk four miles, take her son to school, and walk four more miles.
Time constraints keep her from walking so much these days, but she does walk at least one mile every day during the week, and between six to 11 miles each Saturday around Salem Lake with her friends Teri Lewis and Annette Joyce.
While walking around Salem Lake one Saturday with Joyce, Spence got the idea that she wanted to walk 30 marathons by the time she was 60. Reaching the goal required walking almost four marathons a year.