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Elizabeth and Amy Dawson.

Two columns back, I highlighted the impressive mother/daughter effort put forth by Michaela and Vicki Brew, the Ithaca duo that rode their bicycles around all eleven Finger Lakes. This week, I will share another such collective effort, and again, the mother/daughter adventure theme will be front and center. 

When the world (sort of) ground to a halt in March, many people shared their isolation stories, lamenting the weight they were gaining and the activities they missed. Amy and Elizabeth Dawson had a different idea. They started doing daily hikes on March 16, and Amy – who is a middle school math teacher in Trumansburg – said, “We decided to do it until life got back to normal.” 

Twenty eight and a half weeks later, life had returned to “normal” in the sense that Elizabeth had to return to Ithaca College (where she is a music education major) and they were running out of daylight. The pair tossed their hiking shoes aside after walking 593.8 miles; their journey included 86,823 feet of elevation, and they were on their feet for a total of 196 hours. “I taught virtually at the beginning of the school year,” Amy said. “It gave us three extra weeks, so we hiked until Oct. 1, and that made 200 consecutive days. It was a nice, even number.” I asked about the temperature range during that 200-day stretch, and Elizabeth said, “It went down to around 28 degrees, and it got as warm as 90 degrees.” 

I also inquired about the longest and shortest hikes during the six-and-a-half-month period, and Amy said, “We often hiked the gorge trail at Taughannock Falls State Park, which is about 3.8 miles, and our shortest hike was 1.5 miles.” Lest anyone be tempted to label Amy a slacker for only putting in a mile and a half, it might change that person’s mind when they hear her next statement: “I ran a marathon on that day.” So… it was actually a 27.7 mile day… Okay, Amy, you are forgiven for hiking but 1.5 miles on that particular day. 

During the time Amy was training for the marathon, she was running 35-40 miles per week. “After the marathon,” she offered, “I dialed it back to 25-30 per week.”

That was not the only time that a running event was incorporated into “the streak,” as on the day of the annual Skunk Cabbage Half-Marathon (which was cancelled), Amy, her husband Scott and their son Zander ran the course together. Elizabeth served as the support crew, making the virtual race a true family affair. 

Amy thought back to April, and shared this story: “We had some snow at our house in the morning, but it had melted. We got out on the trail and there was a half-foot of snow! It was kind of crazy.” That recollection prompted Elizabeth to talk about a full-circle sort of experience, saying “I remember the first day of fall, in mid-September, when I needed to put on a winter coat and a hat and gloves. I said to my mom, ‘This is how we started.’” 

Amy recalled the time the two found themselves outside when it was dark, and they turned on their phone flashlights to illuminate their path. She said, “I told Elizabeth that we probably shouldn’t be out here.” I asked why, and she said, “When it’s dark it’s still animal time!” I asked another question… “Were you fearful of bears?” Amy replied, “No! Snakes!” 

That drew a laugh from Elizabeth. “One time,” she shared, “she was startled and she screamed and held onto me, as if I could do anything about it!” 

I love it when people make the most of negative or unforeseen circumstances, and I have done enough fitness-related activities to know that putting forth any demanding effort 200 days in a row is a serious accomplishment. Some people have enough internal motivation to put such a streak together; some need help. I asked Elizabeth how that dynamic played out in the experience she shared with her mom and she replied, “I’d say we were equally motivated. It was really nice to connect that way.” 

 

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