By Neto Baptiste
Leisure walkers across Antigua and Barbuda will soon have a platform on which they could not only test their ability to walk for long periods, but also to walk at a fast pace.
This is according to one member of Team 5AM and one of the country’s first Olympians, Patrick Spencer, who said his hiking group will be hosting its first National Speed Walking Competition set for August 8.
Spencer, a former national cyclist who represented Antigua and Barbuda at the 1976 Olympics held in Montreal, Canada, spoke with Observer media regarding the initiative he hopes will lead to the twin-island state being represented at the international level.
“I became part of this exercise group back in June last year an there are these herbal life products that some of us were using to lose the weight and we had a physiotherapist who sold the product. The group got a little bigger over a few months and I saw a lot of improvements in some of the persons walking where a lot of them were casual walkers and then in the matter of about two or three months they were fast walkers,” he said.
“When one particular girl, who was one of the youngest and I saw how she had improved over a three-week period, the idea struck me that we could have a fast walking competition with the overall goal of trying to head to the next Olympics,” he added.
The local businessman, who said he found renewed passion for fitness and exercise since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, is hoping the public responds favourably to the initiative.
“Walking happens to be the cheapest form of exercise and the fact that we are going to be giving prizes to just about the first six finishers — and everyone will get some form of recognition in terms of a small prize — but we are looking forward to a pretty good response because there are in fact, a lot of exercise groups walking in the mornings and in the evenings,” he said.
Spencer also revealed that the group has already sought and received the blessings of the proper authorities, to include the Antigua and Barbuda Athletics Association (ABAA).
“I spoke to Mr [Everton] Cornelius on two occasions and he was very receptive, so they are on board. We have written to the police to get permission and we have since been given that permission and we have also checked with the health department, the CBH officials and they are very much on board with that. In fact, we had one of their staff who attended one of our early morning sessions a few Sundays ago,” the former athlete said.
The competition is slated to start from the entrance of the road leading into Parham and end at Caribbean Cinemas on Friars Hill Road.
Teams and or individuals interested in taking part in the speed walking competition are invited to attend a meeting on July 22 in the parking lot of Caribbean Cinemas starting at 4:15 pm.