Suffolk vs. Suffolk: The walk-off

Published 7:48 pm Friday, August 1, 2014

Suffolk County, England, has thrown down the gauntlet for the city of Suffolk, Va.

The challenge has been accepted, and it’s now up to citizens here to put their best foot forward. Literally.

Healthy Ambitions, a nonprofit in Suffolk County similar to our Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community, has invited folks here to join its One Million Steps Challenge, an initiative to promote regular exercise.

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“They have an annual challenge where they get people to sign up as teams, five to a team,” explained Maryanne Persons, president of Suffolk Sister Cities International.

Using pedometers, participants will record their steps between Sept. 8 and Oct. 5, propelling their team toward the million-steps mark.

“We thought it was a great way to partner with a local organization and connect with our sister city without the expense of travel,” Persons said.

The Healthy People Healthy Suffolk initiative is coordinating the challenge with help from Sister Cities and the partnership.

Organizers are working to pin down the finer details, but given the tight timeframe, they’re planning to register individuals rather than teams, Persons said.

“We will record steps and see if we can challenge Suffolk, Va., to outpace Suffolk, England,” she said.

“We are still in our early planning stages, but the thought is to have some sort of kick-off on the weekend of Sept. 6-7, so people can walk that first mile together.”

Anyone without a pedometer — or unable to get a pedometer app on a smartphone — can get one from the partnership, Persons said, and steps will be tallied online.

Those without Internet access will be able to complete a form, and someone else will upload the information for them, she said.

Though the partnership already has regular walks, more of those will be organized for the weekends, Persons said. She suggested that the challenge might also inspire friendly competition between workers at local businesses.

It’s yet to be confirmed, but the Peanut Fest 5K Walk/Run could be the final walk of the challenge, according to Persons.

“The hope is that by having an initial four weeks of walking, it will develop healthy habits of walking,” Persons said.

The challenge will also bring people together around a common goal and show citizens here that folks in another part of the world share “the same lifestyle interests and concerns,” she said.

“You don’t have to go on a plane to travel,” Persons said. “While you may not get to know an individual, it starts to build awareness that there are people out there and they are doing the same things.”

Robbie Laughton, partnership executive director, said registration details will be announced in the near future.

Anyone needing a pedometer for the challenge can email

“Our main emphasis is to encourage as many people as possible to get involved,” Laughton said.

“This should be a really fun challenge, not a competitive challenge per se. We are not really looking at this as a highly competitive thing, other than the challenge to get people out walking.”

Via email, Anne Gartley, operations manager for Healthy Amibtions, explained that the cumulative total of one million steps is achieved when each member of a five-person team walks 10,000 steps – about four miles for five days each week over the four weeks.

“Last year we had over 125 teams sign up for our walking challenge, and this year we would like to invite residents and employees in Suffolk, Virginia, to join us,” she wrote.