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One step at a time

Brandi Barhite • Dec 4, 2013 at 3:00 PM

Ken Fultz, 83, just finished walking around the world. It took him 17 years.

His new goal is to walk to his grandchildren’s homes throughout the country. First on the list is New York City, a task he expects will take a few months. “I’m going to be there in March,” Fultz said. “(They’ll) get all excited” But it’s not what most people think. “I won’t really be there. I will be there on paper” he said, laughing. Fultz keeps track of all his miles, as well his personal thoughts, in a beat-up journal.

He started his quest for world dominance in a notebook on Jan. 1, 1996. Some research showed him that walking around the world would take 24,874 miles.

“I thought, ‘I might as well do this,’” he said.

He started walking by himself every day, seven days a week, leaving his 48th Street home in Sandusky at 6:30 a.m. and gradually making his way downtown.    “I never really thought about if I would make it,” he said. “I average about 4 miles per day, but sometimes you’re sick and you don’t want to go as far.”

Walking is cathartic for the retiree, as it takes his mind off things. He also walks for socialization.

“You get to think to yourself, and then it becomes something you want to do” he said.

He walked solo for the first few years, then picked up some walking buddies along the way.

Ron Albert, who lives nearby on 42nd Street, was first to join him, with Bernie Seiler coming later. They’re the originals, although others have come and gone through the years, including Tim Fleck, who leaves his porch lights on when he wants to join them.

But the constant is always Fultz.

“I live right across the street from him on the other side of 250” Seiler said. “Ken would always walk, and I would see him when I was going to school.

“Ken is a great guy and he is our leader,” he said. “I would go on the weekends when I was teaching and now I go daily after retiring. It has helped me remain semi-healthy, and it has certainly helped me stay in reasonable shape”

Fultz celebrated with his walking buddies after he finished walking around the world Oct. 25. They had a shirt made for him.

“I can only have one discipline at a time. I can’t do two disciplines. My discipline is walking,” Fultz said. “My other discipline I should have is eating, and I have no discipline there. It compensates. I keep in pretty good shape walking”

Mary Bauer, director of community outreach services at Firelands Regional Medical Center, said regular walking is an easy way to improve fitness, manage weight and prevent disease.

“It’s amazing that simply putting one foot in front of the other — and doing it over and over again — can have so many health benefits,” she wrote in this week’s FIT column. “But by all accounts, walking is one of the best things you can do for your health”

Fultz’s wife, Lee, used to walk with him, but health problems — and Fultz’s quick stride — keeps her at home these days.

“When he started, it was just for a few weeks and I didn’t think much about it, but then it became more regular” she said.

Fultz laughed when he recalled walks with his wife.

“She walked to the post office with me one time and she said, ‘You are walking too fast’” he said. “I said, ‘If I walk any slower, I am going to fall over backward’”

Seiler said he and Fultz enjoy walking together because of their common interest in sports. Albert likes when they pick up litter; he’d like more walkers to consider doing that when they’re out and about.

“A lot of the times in the winter, we like to walk outside,” Seiler said. “We do that 95 percent of the time. If it’s really bad, we make a decision to go in the mall, and that decision is made by the three originals”

They always walk in the morning, per Fultz.

“I don’t sleep well,” he said. “I never have. I am always worried about what time it is, even though it doesn’t matter”

On Oct. 25, Fultz’s daughter, Nancy Kinsel, helped carry a banner that her sister, Linda Kerst, made to celebrate their dad’s walk around the world. They’re glad he’s staying in the United States for this next adventure, and they already got him a U.S. map.

“He is very determined and he won’t skip a day,” Kinsel said. “My dad doesn’t care if it is dark and icy”

While they mostly encourage their dad to walk on the sidewalk, sometimes he goes in the street because it’s smoother.

That said, they’re glad he has people walking with him. Albert is especially diligent about keeping an eye on him.

“It’s so wonderful for us that he has picked up some neat people along the way,” Kinsel said.

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