Fred Gowan celebrated his 75th birthday on the move Wednesday.
Rather than blow out candles and eat cake, he endeavored to walk 37½ miles around Capitol Lake. For the past 11 years, he has walked half his age in miles on his birthday.
It’s his assessment day.
“I want to know where I’m at, health-wise,” said Gowan, who lives in Tumwater. “It’s so true: Use it or lose it.”He fell just short of his goal because of cramps in his legs. He walked 31 miles and finished at about 4 o’clock.
“I’m happy with it,” he said. “On another day, I could have gone farther.”
Gowan, who says he walks five to seven miles nearly every day, has learned to “use it.” He says walking helped him get his life back.
In 1995, Gowan’s skull was crushed in a crash involving the tractor-trailer he was driving. The near-fatal crash left him without his memory. He couldn’t even recognize family members.
Walking helped bring his memory back.
“It started with just walking to the mailbox and back,” said Patty Thorsen, the youngest of Gowan’s seven children. “Then he started walking around the neighborhood. The exercise was a big part of him getting better.”
Gowan, dressed in black pants, a maroon top and a blue cap, began his annual birthday walk alone at 3:50 a.m. With the temperature in the 20s, Gowan took a brief timeout about an hour into in his walk and went home to warm up.
“I was so cotton-pickin’ cold I couldn’t take it any longer,” he said. “I went home and got under the blankets for a half hour and turned up the heat.”
Then he headed back to Capitol Lake and started walking again. Throughout his day, family members and friends walked with him.
“It’s a way to honor him on his birthday,” said Thorsen, who walked with her dad after she got off work at 4 p.m. “He loves to have people join him and walk with him.”
Gowan is hoping he’s setting a good example.
“I’m not walking to set any records,” he said. “I want to be an example for my children and friends.”
Gail Wood: firstname.lastname@example.org