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Continued: Golden Valley woman walks neighborhood every day for 20 years

  • Article by: JEFF STRICKLER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: August 5, 2014 - 2:58 PM

As she walks, she picks up litter — somehow managing to scoop it up without breaking stride — and stops for money she sees on the ground. So far, she’s found $660 in loose change.

“Yesterday was a good day: I found two quarters and two dimes,” she said. “Whenever I get up to $20, I give it to charity. Sometimes I give it to our church, but I give to other places, too.”

She’s perpetually enthused. Everything she encounters — from a gaggle of geese in a pond to a man mowing his lawn — produces a story.

“His wife grew up with my daughter,” she explained of the mowing man. “He used to ask me what I was doing [frequently walking past his house], but I think he’s gotten used to me.”

The walking streak started on July 1, 1994. And Monson has the records to prove it.

As soon as she finishes her daily walk, she marks it off on a grid she keeps taped to a cabinet in the laundry room. The same grid also tracks her bike rides; although she doesn’t ride every day — and skips the winters — she makes sure that she logs at least 90 miles of biking a month.

“I like to keep records,” she admitted. “I think it’s because teachers have to keep a lot of records.”

Her record-keeping goes far beyond just keeping track of how often she has walked and how much spare change she’s found. She can tell you who baby-sat for her kids in 1971 and how much it cost.

“Baby sitters didn’t get paid much in those days,” she said, pointing to a ledger in which the payments were between $1 and $1.50. Then she spotted an entry for $2.75. “Whoa. We must have been out a long time that night.”

Allowing for the five leap years since she started her streak, as of Monday, she has logged 22,020 miles. That’s the equivalent of walking from New York to Los Angeles — nine times.

She seemed unimpressed by that comparison, saying, “I should think that I would have made it to the moon by now.”

Monson started walking as a self-prescribed therapy. She was battling chronic pain in her hip and shoulder and thought that exercise would help.

And it did — or, at least, she thinks it did.

“The same day I started walking, I also gave up coffee, so I don’t really know which one it was,” she said. “But a lot of people drink coffee and don’t have a problem [with hip pain], so I think it’s the walking.”

Keeping perspective

Monson insists that while the 20-year-plus streak is important, she’s “not obsessed with it. If I were, that would be all I talked about, and I rarely talk about it. If that was all I talked about, my friends would get sick of it. I’d get sick of it.”

Daughter Tammy Monson isn’t surprised by the depth of her mother’s passion.

“That’s how my mom does everything,” she said.

  • related content

  • Joan Monson gestured while out on her daily walk in Golden Valley.

  • Monson began walking in July 1994 and has kept it up every day since. Below, some of her “retired” walking shoes.

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