With his long daily walks, Calgary senior has logged more than 100,000 kilometres in 17 years

·2 min read

The sidewalk is slippery under the soles of his modest leather boots.

He doesn't wear any state-of-the-art running gear — just a simple winter jacket and slacks.

On a daily basis, Mike James sets out to walk around the Glenmore Reservoir in Calgary's southwest.

"I go from my home in Haysboro as far as the bridge across the dam, and there and back is a good eight kilometres, being five miles," James said. "I usually try to put in at least another five in the afternoon."

At 88, James keeps a fast pace — no laboured breathing. Maybe it's because he has done this walk every day for the past 17 years.

He started taking long walks in 2003, when his doctor sent him to hospital for emergency heart surgery.

"What it amounts to is the iron in your blood reaches a point where it saturates your liver. It moves from there to your pancreas, and from there once the pancreas is 100 per cent loaded, it literally goes to your heart and kills you," James said.

James received a pacemaker and made the decision to not let his health get to that point again.

Seventeen years later, James is on his third pacemaker, but hasn't slowed down in the least.

Terri Trembath/CBC
Terri Trembath/CBC

He said it's a habit he formed growing up in England.

"In the old country, you're expected to run errands. One of mom's common sayings to me was, 'And be quick about it,'" James said. "Which you knew darn well if you weren't quick about it, you would be getting your backside tanned."

James keeps track of his distance in miles by writing the numbers down on a calendar. As of the end of November, he'd gone 64,370 miles — 103,593 in kilometres.

But they haven't all been easy.

'I think about her all the time'

Margaret, James' wife of 66 years, was living in a long-term care facility and died from COVID-19 in May.

He said nothing helped comfort him, not even his daily walks.

"I was a blubbering idiot, I just couldn't stop crying," James said. "I still walked. I didn't cry as much out on my walk as I did when I was in the house, alone."

Seven months later, he said the long walk helps.

"I think about her all the time," James said.

James doesn't call himself a spiritual man. He thinks about the geological history of the land as he takes in the views of the Rocky Mountains in the distance.

James donates 10 cents per mile to charity each year. He said he'll keep walking until his body won't let him do it anymore.

"I don't just love it — I treasure it."