By David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
NASHVILLE — For many people, “going for a walk” is a leisurely activity.
For the members of the Striders Club, it’s serious business.
Each lap around the track at the Tusculum Hills Baptist Church family life center is purposeful for the roughly 100 individuals who make up the club. The members of the group keep detailed logs of their “mileage” and those who reach certain totals — milestones, you could say — are rewarded with various prizes, such as hats, T-shirts, jackets, and gift cards.
Granted, the club members have plenty of fun and fellowship while participating in the program. But the ultimate objective is exercise and fitness.
Created 10 years ago by Tusculum Hills Baptist Church minister of senior adults and recreation Bill Highsmith, the club is open to anyone above the age of the 16, but is predominantly comprised of senior adults.
“We have quite a few who come every day and some who come several times each week,” said Highsmith. “The largest group, which is usually anywhere from 10 to 15 people, comes each morning at 7:30. They each walk a different number of miles, and they’ll each walk until they get through (with their goal for that day).”
Highsmith said two of the walkers logged roughly 1,200 miles last year. Other members of the club do not reach those lofty numbers, but essentially all of the regulars amass 200 miles or more each year. An updated “mileage chart” is posted each month so the participants can track their progress.
“We have a card that they sign in on each time they come to walk, and they record their laps and their miles each day,” said Highsmith. “My secretary will then take those cards and enter them in the computer and keep the running tally.”
In the early years of the club, the members would pick different destinations on the map, and then attempt to “walk” to those locations — based on their accumulated miles —- while tracking their progress on a map.
Highsmith tweaked the format about three years ago, switching to the rewards system instead of the destination charts. The club holds a banquet in February each year and recognizes all those who participated.
The cost to join the club is $20 for a one-year membership. The club had about 120 members last year, Highsmith estimated, after having as many as 300 several years ago, when the church was a little bigger. “We had walkers coming to the building all day long,” said Highsmith.
Through the years, the club has seen some of its members pass away. Those members are honored with a plaque on the wall, and their families are invited as special guests to the year-end banquet.
Outside the track, there is a small “snack” room, located beside Highsmith’s office, with a big roundtable and a couple of sofas. It has become a traditional gathering place for many of the walkers, who have formed a group that they lovingly call “The Liars Club.”
“They’ll come and sit in there, and talk to each other and carry on and so forth,” Highsmith said.
The Liars Club meets for about 45 minutes, swapping stories and drinking coffee, after their morning go-around on the track.
“The name of their club is not very spiritual,” Highsmith said with a laugh. “But they always have a big time. If one of them has a birthday or an anniversary, someone will bring a cake. Or if one of the club members is sick, they will make cards for them, and usually one or two of them will go visit them in the hospital.”
Highsmith said the tight-knit group loves to cut up. But only after the laps have been completed.
“It’s a ministry, and it’s a lot of fun,” Highsmith said. “They’ve been in operation for several years now, and they love to fellowship together. But they make sure that they get their miles in.”