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‘It just makes me feel good’

Man, 69, has walked 30+ miles a day for many years

Stanley Syverson steps off his deck for a long walk through the woods. His walks often take up much of the day. Photo by Bev Ahlquist

Stanley Syverson steps off his deck for a long walk through the woods. His walks often take up much of the day. Photo by Bev Ahlquist

His claim to fame is that since 1973 he’s walked 324,000 miles, and if he had recorded his walking back to 1950 it would be a lot more.

He likes to walk; it’s what he does.

Stanley Syverson Jr. lives in a scenic, rural country area, and as far as he’s concerned, there’s nothing better than getting out there and walking through the woods and seeing the wildlife he encounters on those walks.

His rural home is in the Sunburg/Brooten area, and he loves walking so much that he’s walked in all 50 states and in the countries of Mexico, Hawaii and Canada while on vacation.

Syverson said his walking really started when he was in country school. “I’d always walk to school or I’d come home and think, and I’d walk around. Then in the ‘60s I kind of continued, then I got up one morning in January of 1973 and thought ‘I’ve been doing this all these years, I’m just gonna record everything just to see,’ and ever since then, I’ve recorded every day I’ve walked.”

He walks on the roads in his area. He has a lot of woodlots, so he walks around in the woods and sometimes out west of his property, depending on the time of the year. “In the winter you can’t get in the woods…I’ve got my routes.”

He used to walk over 40 miles a day, but now walks over 30 miles a day. “It depends on the weather, how I’m feeling and what I’m doing.”

Syverson said he used to walk to Sunburg and back, and if he went to town to shop, he’d walk while in town as well. “It’s kind of fun. I enjoy it, and in Glenwood, I’d walk by the lake.” He said he would have walked to Glenwood from home, but there’s too much traffic on the highway to do that.

“Walking is almost like a job now. I should let up at my age, but it just makes me feel good.” He is 69 years old, and it’s getting a little hard on his feet now, he said, because he kind of overdid it when he retired from Daktronics of Redwood Falls where they made the scoreboard for the new Twins Stadium.

Before that he worked around his home. “Me and my buddy bought this land out here over 40 years ago now, and I decided to set up a little spot here on an acre and have lived here ever since.” He said when he’s out walking he can see just about anything – deer, coyotes, and more. “When I was working I did a lot of night walking and when the moon is out you really see a lot, you see stars and all kinds of different stuff flying up there.” Now that he’s retired he starts walking earlier, like 7:30 a.m. so he gets back at a decent hour.

He’s not afraid of running into any dangerous wildlife while out walking. “A neighbor said there was a bear down here last year, and then you get a little afraid. You hear stories of cougars and wolves around. I never think about it, but once in a while I see an odd, big track.” Syverson said he’s never had any problems, and he hopes it stays that way. “I can’t run as fast as I used to.”

He prefers to walk in the woods in the spring, summer and fall. “I get out there and walk around. It’s too much traffic on the road, but you have no choice in the winter; you just do different routes. And if it really gets bad and the plows don’t come, then I walk around on Highway 104 on the tar and go to my brother’s and come back. That’s about an 8-mile stretch.”

You’ve got to stick with it every day, he said. “I just come off this streak with 148 straight days with 39 or more miles a day. When you get up in the morning you say ‘I got to keep this streak going’ but by the end of the day you’re ready to go home.” That streak is over, and now he has a streak of over nine months of 20 or more miles a day. “It’s nothing to do that. You get used to the walking. It’s like anything else.”

In his younger years, he walked 107 days in a year with over 40 miles a day. “It gets to be a routine, you don’t even think about it, especially when you’re in good shape. You’re younger and as you get older and have a little more pain, it’s a little more difficult.”

He said it’s nice living where he does. He sees deer on the lawn, including a little family with twins. “There’s a couple of them you see walk across the lawn.”

In looking back, Syverson said while in Hawaii he walked 50 miles. “I didn’t think about it until years later, that’s the 50th state and I walked 50 miles there. When I was doing it I didn’t think anything of it.” He said it must have been 20 years ago he thought about that.

His favorite place to walk is Montana and Yellowstone. “It’s nice in Montana. It’s beautiful there, and it’s beautiful here too. The only bad thing is the insects in the summer, and you get so much humidity here. You go in the mountains it’s nice and easy.”

Usually on his walks, if someone has a birthday or anniversary he tries to get numbers to match so what he’s doing is significant. “This past July I walked 1,042 miles. It was the United States’ 240th birthday so you go backwards on it 240, stuff like that. My uncle would have had his 102nd birthday this week so I walked 41 miles that day. He was born in 1914 so I turn that backwards and its 41.”

That’s what he tries to do, he said, and admittedly it was easier when he was younger. “Everybody was younger, and I could walk the age of all my family members, except my parents. That’s what I like to try to do.”

Syverson said he also had a ‘goofy’ story to tell, that of a crush he had on a girl 59 some years ago in high school. “Last year was her birthday. She was 67 and was born on the 11th of that month so I walked 1,167 miles and then I walked a 48-mile day because she was born in 1948. I still remember 55 years later.” He said that’s the kind of thing he tries to do to make it interesting and make the walks meaningful. “Then I try to write it on the calendar so I know what I was doing.”

When Syverson isn’t walking, he’s watch TV, doing different things, and doing his calisthenics every day. “I’ve done that for 38 years now without a miss.” But walking is the best, he said. “I haven’t missed a day since July of 1980. I had a streak of 21 plus years of 100 or more miles a week and that ended when I got injured. Now I’ve got another little streak going – I’ll have to go until my late 80s to beat that one. I don’t know if I’ll make that or not.”

Syverson was injured when he was hit by a car on icy roads. “I’m lucky they weren’t going fast.” That delayed his walking a little, he said, but he could still “hop around” and get minimum miles. He doesn’t let anything stop him.

Syverson said he plans to keep walking as long as he can. It’s what he does.

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