Finding good health, and friends, on the trail

girltrek walkers
A few Sole Sisters walk the Markell Trail on a brisk morning in Wilmington, Delaware.

Gloria Johnson is quick to tell you that her Delaware Sole Sisters is not just a walking group. Far from it. There are birthday parties, baby showers, an annual Christmas gathering, and community service projects.

“We try to take care of each other,” Johnson says. “We want to be healthy for ourselves, our daughters, our granddaughters. We’re healing ourselves and our community.”

The walking is healing, certainly: A core group of 40 to 50 women commit to walking a minimum of five days a week for at least 30 minutes. Many walk far more — including 10- to 12-mile jaunts on Sundays. And there is always conversation, sometimes 10 different conversations at the same time, Johnson admits. The Sole Sisters are part of GirlTrek, a national organization working to build a health movement for African-American women and girls grounded in civil rights history and principles.

Her own health concerns prompted Johnson to start walking a few years ago with a friend. Then she found GirlTrek and started growing the Sole Sisters. On all but the worst winter days the women walk outside on a few stretches of East Coast Greenway and other parks near them. The trailhead of the 7-mile Markell Trail, a brand-new stretch of Greenway connecting Wilmington and New Castle, Delaware, is just a 15-minute drive for Johnson. It’s perfect — although she does hope for bathroom facilities one day. 

“We are so excited about the Markell Trail,” Johnson gushes, passing along her gratitude to greenway advocates for all the new options for short and longer walks.

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