“I still have four more years to reach 40,080 kilometres,” says Rawicz, an engineering science professor at SFU. He doesn’t say this with any hint of exhaustion — in fact, he seems more energetic than ever.
For the past 12 years, Rawicz has made the trek up Burnaby Mountain every single day, hiking to work from his home in Burnaby. Officially, he has clocked roughly 30,000 kilometres to date, and according to him, he’s only four years away from having walked the entire circumference of the earth.
Rawicz is committed to living a green lifestyle, and considers this his “ultimate commute.”
“It’s nothing revolutionary,” Rawicz tells The Peak. He has always been an active individual — having been a weightlifter and a wrestler before teaching at SFU.
Rawicz told The Peak that his commtiment to running to work began back in 2002, and that the final decision was the culmination of a number of different factors. He mentioned developing a bit of friction with the parking administrations, and alluded to the need to lower our use of pollutants, especially those from cars and buses. Eventually all the pieces came together, and one day, he decided to act.
Rawicz is committed to living a green lifestyle, and considers this his “ultimate commute.” He finds hiking so enjoyable that he would “never go back to driving to work.” And why would he? Over the years, his commitment to walking to work has improved his health, reduced his carbon footprint, and saved him a ton of money that might otherwise have been spent on gas, insurance, bus fares, and — yes — parking fees.
Along the way he’s met other active folks and bonded with the local animals. “I met a [black] bear once, a mother bear with [her] two cubs,” Rawicz said.
Rawicz admits he had a difficult time during the first two weeks of his trek; it took him about 55 minutes to walk up the hill and left him sweating for over an hour. Eventually, he was able to reduce his time — and after so many years, he says he barely sweats at all anymore!
Before he began hiking, Rawicz mentions getting infrequent headaches, but has since been the picture of health. “I haven’t been sick in [over] 40 years,” he boasts.
All in all, the trek from his front door to his office is about five kilometres. Rawicz has calculated that on average, walking five days a week with only two weeks off, he travels about 2,500 kilometres each year.
For Rawicz, inhabitants of the Lower Mainland are extremely lucky to have such a beautiful climate for outdoor activity. He stresses that, for those who wish to hike, it’s important to dress appropriately and to be well prepared. He recommends doing supplementary weight training for the upper body, and doing push–ups or chin–ups to avoid back pain. But the key, he says, is in having proper hiking boots — particularly ones that are comfortable and have treads to prevent slippage.
Rawicz notes that exercising and doing physical activities are excellent ways to accelerate the body’s metabolic rate. The brain becomes better supplied with blood, which helps facilitate faster functions and responses. With memory improved and increased efficiency in thinking, the body is capable of doing much more in a shorter period.
“That is why,” Rawicz concludes, “for students, it’s a very good thing.”
In the future, Rawicz hopes to motivate SFU students into taking the initiative to get in shape and increase their physical activity. “There is no better thing than exercise, and particularly cardiovascular exercises [such as] these kinds of hikes,” he says.
As for himself, Rawicz has no plans to quit. Once he has reached his final goal of walking across the earth, he plans to double his distance by sailing across the ocean!
But whether he’s sailing across the world or getting there one step at a time, Rawicz says it’s ultimately about getting into a routine — once that’s set, the body starts adapting. “I think everybody,” he says, “especially when you start young, can adapt to anything.”