Travel the Globe Without Leaving Your Hometown


Duncan Galbraith in sunny Greenock

Duncan Galbraith in sunny Greenock

Have you ever had a hard time motivating yourself to work out? You definitely aren’t alone.

Back in 2008, Duncan Galbraith of Greenock Scotland, creator of the World Walking application and website, found himself facing the same problem. As the leader of a Phase IV cardiac rehabilitation exercise class for older adults at the Inverclyde Leisure’s Waterfront Complex in Greenock, he needed a way not only to motivate his members to keep attending class, but to continue exercising between classes.

His solution: pose a challenge, introduce a long-term goal, and make exercise fun. Duncan asked his members if they’d enjoy walking around the world. At first they thought he was joking, but once the laughter died down, his members agreed to give it a shot. Thus the Inverclyde Globetrotters were born. Together, Duncan’s class logged miles walking, running, biking, and rowing, and combined their individual distances traveled until they reached 30,600 miles, the equivalent of walking around the globe. And they’re still going today! In 2012 the Inverclyde Globetrotters completed their Lunar Trek, a walk from the Earth to the moon and back. Their next destination: Mars.

As the word got out and the Inverclyde Globetrotters movement grew Duncan did what any 21st century man would do: he created an “app.” The World Walking Application allows anyone with a registered username and password to log in and chart their miles walked against a variety of virtual trails. As you progress along your virtual trail, you are rewarded with facts about the area in which you’re traveling. One of the newest additions to this selection of trails is the Race Across the USA course.

As a supporter of Race Across USA, Duncan agreed to an interview on his adventures as the founder of the Inverclyde Globetrotters and World Walking:

Duncan, when did the Inverclyde Globetrotters become more than just a class of adults looking to stay active? How did it go from a class to an organization?

It just gradually evolved. We coined the name ‘Inverclyde Globetrotters’ when we set off to tackle the 30,600-mile virtual walk around the world. It wasn’t until we completed that challenge that we started to encourage other groups and organizations to walk more by offering to create virtual walks for them to tackle. It just grew from there.

Do members of the original rehabilitation class log their miles indoors or outdoors? Were they all walking together?

Our members log their miles indoors and outdoors.

We issue free pedometers to all members of our class who want one and they use them to record the steps they walk between our weekly classes. Some use them more than others but it’s purely voluntary and not a competition.

Each week the pedometers are handed over and the distances recorded. In the beginning, we used a simple record sheet to capture the distances walked, cycled and rowed during the class. I entered all the information on a simple Excel spreadsheet after the class and plotted our progress on a map.

Since we began ‘virtually’ walking around the world back in 2008 we have walked over 114,000 miles to over 100 countries worldwide. Our “travels” have taken us across every continent in the world, yet we have never been on a walk together and have never left our hometown of Greenock!

Have the Inverclyde Globetrotters expanded past Greenock? Are there similar classes around the world doing the same thing? Is that where the name World Walking comes into play?

We choose the name of ‘World Walking’ because we did not want people to think that we were only concerned with Inverclyde, where we are based.

Charles F Bolden Jr., Administrator of NASA

Charles F Bolden Jr., Administrator of NASA

When we “walked” to the Moon and back (478,000 miles) between 2010 and 2012 we had about 100 groups from all over Scotland helping us. Our Lunar Trek was organized with Scotland’s Health Charity, Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland to which we are affiliated. We received a great message of support from Charles F Bolden Jr., Administrator of NASA.

Having been to the Moon, our next destination is Mars! It’s only 50 million miles away but we hope that, with World Walking, we can create a community of virtual walkers from all around the world to help us get there and join NASA on the surface of the Red Planet; hence the name, ‘World Walking’.

As you are realizing, we are a bit “whacky”.

Do you design all the World Walking routes? Are they based on existing routes and popular trails?

Yes. Some are, like the Great Ocean Road in Australia or the Garden Route in South Africa, but mostly I just make them up. I try to offer something for everyone from short city tours (e.g. New York and Washington DC) for solo walkers, to trekking across a continent for groups to tackle.

Can you tell me more about some of the newest routes you’ve designed, particularly the route for Race Across USA?

The three newest routes on World Walking are varied and offer something for everyone. We created the Baton Relay route around our home country to celebrate the Commonwealth Games coming to Scotland for the third time. The second last route we created was a short walk around Sydney in Australia, one of the most iconic cities in the world.

The newest route on World Walking is for Race Across USA. We were delighted to be asked if we could replicate the 3,000-mile route. The obesity problems caused by childhood inactivity are not confined to the USA and we hope that our contribution helps raise awareness and encourages more people to get involved.

According to a case study on the PAHA website, the Inverclyde Globetrotters’ target audience is adults 19-64 and 65+. How do you feel about the idea of kids participating in these virtual walks and using the website you’ve designed to log their miles?

To have kids using World Walking would make us so happy. We dream of seeing 100 Mile Club schools across the USA tackling the route on World Walking and you being able to keep track of their progress, individually and collectively, each step of the way and being able to quantify exactly how many steps these schools walked through taking part in this challenge.

With children getting involved, do you think there will be any of the routes on the website targeted specifically for a younger audience?

Most of our shorter walks would be suitable for younger users. However, I think we can offer something better by developing a version of World Walking specifically for primary schools. We are currently seeking funding for this and if we are successful it will be our most ambitious and challenging project to date.

We aim to bring our idea to life by inviting schoolchildren to help us design, test and pilot the system to give them a real sense of ownership and achievement. We would also like their help to “research” the facts about all the countries worldwide that would be included in the website. We would like to include all 50 USA states too. We hope our Junior World Walking idea will help ingrain the attitudes, skills and behaviors for lifelong physical activity and health.

Finally, what has health and fitness meant to you in your life?

I spent my career sitting behind a desk working in the UK’s National Health Service. For our 25th wedding anniversary, my wife and I went on holiday to a hotel, which had a spa and a gym. The instructors were great and I came back feeling fitter than I had in years. That holiday planted an idea in my head that if I ever got the chance I would leave my desk job and try to become a fitness instructor in my fifties. The chance came along and I took it.

You could say that health and fitness changed my life. Without it I would still be behind a desk. Inverclyde Globetrotters and World Walking would never have been born. I would never have met the group of people who have given so much inspiration to others and would have missed out on all the fun of our “journey” has given us.

Download the World Walking App and you too can travel all around the world without leaving your hometown. You can also join the runners of Race Across the USA by logging your miles and virtually crossing the US by yourself or with a team. Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. Duncan Galbraith got it right: By setting a goal and measuring your progress, getting physically active becomes more than just exercise; the journey becomes a reward in itself.

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