EUGENE, Ore. — Erik Bendl, his dog Nice and his globe are walking from Washington to California to raise awareness about diabetes and what each of us can do to prevent it, maybe even reverse it.
“I started this walk from Seattle, saying I was walking south, but by the end of the week, I ended up saying San Francisco because it was too much ‘splanin’ to do,” Bendl said.
That’s because for Bendl, it’s not about where he’s going, or how long it takes him, but how he gets there with just a little bit of exercise.
“Keeps me from thinkin’ oh I hate walking, so instead I’m rolling the world, walking a dog, carrying a backpack,” Bendl said.
All to remind himself and everyone he encounters along the way, how important it is to stay active.
“My uncle was diabetic since his 40s, like my mother who died at the age of 54. I’m the same age as when my grandmother, and they were all diabetic. I’m not diabetic, yet, and I think it’s because I walk a lot,” Bendl said.
‘A lot’ is an understatement.
This is Bendl’s fifth walk since he began in 2007, covering more than 5,000 miles and 36 different states.
He only averages about ten miles a day, but speed is not the motive, awareness is.
And Bendl knows how to grab some attention.
“That’s how big the Earth is in the solar system,” said kids passing by.
And every turned head or interested bystander is a chance to educate.
“You can get diabetes when you’re really young like you or you can get it when you’re old and fat like me,” Bendl said.
Sometimes he stops to chat. Sometimes he just waves. But Bendl says he hopes it all makes a difference.
“I’ve talked to people who have lost weight, who have walked and after a few days could feel their feet again because it causes neuropathy. I’ve talked to other people whose vision has cleared up, just makes such a difference,” Bendl said.
Whether you take 50 steps or take 50,000, the point is to take responsibility of your health.
“Love yourself. Go for a walk. It’s a movement, movement, there ya go,” Bendl said.
You can keep up with Bendl’s travels on his blog and if you’d like to help out, he asks you donate to the American Diabetes Association.