Why I walked for 12 hours. Marathon Training? A dare? No, Empathy.

My friend and I tried walking really far to develop empathy for people who need to walk far distances for life necessities, healthcare or safety.

Isabella Grandic

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I’m working on emm.health, so the issue of maternal health care has been top-of-mind.

The other day my friend and I wanted to walk really far. It was to try to develop empathy for women in rural Sub-Saharan Africa who walk hours roundtrip to receive care for their pregnancies. It was a 12h (!) walk. 50km / 31 miles. — The longest break was ~15 min. Some thoughts:

Note: We did not perfectly replicate the experience. But it was still a painful experience — and I learned a lot. Here are some of my raw thoughts on the “adventure.”

Ps. If you do decide to go on a 12h walk, I’d probably stretch a bit before :)

💥 First 10 km:

We started bright and early & walked nearby Lake Ontario. It was really beautiful and enjoyable. We had so many great, intellectual and philosophical conversations. “How hard could this be?”

We decided at the end of this walk that we’d grab some ice-cream from Tom’s Dairy Freeze — best ice cream in Toronto. (This becomes important later)

💥10km-15km:

This was around 3hs in. My right foot started hurting and blistering, but we still didn’t take any breaks (yes, we’re crazy). Excitement/naivety was our fuel to KEEP GOING.

We didn’t think about the fact that we had 9h left, but we spent time celebrating all the progress we made so far.

It’s a lot easier to keep going when you celebrate the progress vs realize how far you still have to go.

💥15–16 km:

This is when time slows down. I remember walking for what felt like 2 hours (km 15→16), then we checked the time and it had only been 20 minutes. We still had 10km till our halfway point. The whole time we just kept this in mind.

Relentless focus fuels momentum.

💥16–25km:

I wasn’t tired. I just felt so much pressure on my ankles. I was walking all funny because of my blisters. It was getting very, very uncomfortable.

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Isabella Grandic

Aspiring healthcare infrastructure designer, technologist and scientist.