Meet the 80-year-old Albertan who has walked the entire city of Medicine Hat 13 times

·3 min read
Teresa Vanderhorst, 80, has now walked the entire city of Medicine Hat 13 times, at a pace of 120 steps per minute and about four kilometres a day. (Submitted by Angie Cramer - image credit)
Teresa Vanderhorst, 80, has now walked the entire city of Medicine Hat 13 times, at a pace of 120 steps per minute and about four kilometres a day. (Submitted by Angie Cramer - image credit)

It's been over two decades since Teresa Vanderhorst started walking around Medicine Hat, Alta., with an enlarged map and checking off the streets as she went — and the 80-year-old has now walked the entire city 13 times.

Vanderhorst is in the midst of a 14th attempt she started in May. At a pace of 120 steps per minute and about four kilometres a day, she should be finished within a year.

The ongoing goal of lapping the city again and again, Vanderhorst said, provides incentive to walk — and it's an activity she loves.

"I've always walked, but not always [been] motivated to walk. So 25 years ago, I thought, 'Why don't I get a map and cross off all the streets and walk this entire city?'" Vanderhorst told the Calgary Eyeopener on Monday.

"It's kind of like an addiction — a good one, I guess, because I really can't wait to go out."

'It's just a joy'

The walks criss-cross throughout the southern Alberta city during all four seasons. Sometimes, Vanderhorst has to walk certain places three times to hit every street.

She makes her way without listening to podcasts or music.

"It's just clear," she said.

Instead, Vanderhorst enjoys the sounds of the birds, the cars, the trees.

Vanderhorst said it has allowed her to get to know the sprawling city inside and out — all 112 square kilometres of it.

The outskirts are where she appreciates the beauty of the Saskatchewan River and the coulees. She touches the "Welcome to Medicine Hat" sign whenever she walks near.

Google Maps
Google Maps

Meanwhile, even suburbs are notable as she makes her way across them.

"You really appreciate … the beauty of this city as you walk past each and every house, every dead-end street. It's just a joy," Vanderhorst said.

Her least-favourite place to walk is downtown, but she said it's part of the game.

"The hills [downtown] are really, really steep. I've never been good at walking hills, and as I'm getting a little older, I find it more challenging," Vanderhorst said.

"So I walk backwards up some of those hills … [and] I try to get it done rather quickly, especially before the winter comes."

'I make my own rules'

As for winter, frigid temperatures are hardly enough to deter Vanderhorst, who bundles up to stay toasty warm even when it's –40 C.

Ice, however, is another story.

Submitted by Angie Cramer
Submitted by Angie Cramer

"What stops me from walking is ice on the sidewalks," Vanderhorst said. "Especially now. These old bones don't want to fall."

The criteria for the walks have also evolved over the years. The first time Vanderhorst made her way around Medicine Hat on foot, she walked every ramp and parking lot. But safety led her to scrap the Trans-Canada and ramps.

"Because I make my own rules, I can also change my rules," Vanderhorst said.

With a rainbow of sharpies to colour-code her mapped itinerary, the latest walk will eventually be logged and recorded in a book Vanderhorst keeps with all the others.

And once it's finished, she plans to keep on going.

"As long as the Lord gives me legs and health … I hope to continue to do this for as long as I'm here."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

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