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Annual Hike-A-Thon calls people to unplug and enjoy nature

<p>Miami&#x27;s trail systems have lots of different hikes for any skill level.</p>

Miami's trail systems have lots of different hikes for any skill level.

On a crisp October weekend in years past, the Oxford community gathered together to hike. Families and students perused the booths that lined the entrance to the trails near the stables. Some people socialized while picking up pamphlets; others would grab a map and hit the trails. 

Instead of gathering for one day of hiking, this year's Hike-A-Thon experience has been expanded to the whole month of October. The community wanted to pay tribute to the annual event they’ve had for 12 years to promote Miami’s Natural Areas. 

To participate, you can register anytime throughout the month. After registering, you can start logging your outdoor minutes at any local trails or parks. 

Assistant Director of Miami’s Employee Wellness Cassie Wilson has been working on recreating this experience. When the event was founded, Jim Reid, the now retired director of the Natural Areas, wanted to connect more people with the area’s extensive trails.

“We thought, ‘How do we let people know there’s awesome trails, right around campus?’” Wilson said. 

Wilson and Reid worked together to create an event that could connect Miami’s employees with nature, promoting wellness and the outdoors. 

“It started with one tent by the trails on route 73. We would hand out trail maps and say ‘have a good hike,’” Wilson said. “Over the past 10 years, it grew to an event with close to a thousand people with the community, students, faculty and staff.”

The Hike-A-Thon would typically feature partner booths. This year, partners are sending emails each week to registered participants to promote outdoor activities and award prizes. Hosts of the event include Miami University Employee Benefits and Wellness, Miami Recreation, City of Oxford, Enjoy Oxford and the Coalition for a Healthy Community in Oxford. 

Wilson said the event is important to continue, especially now. 

“We’ve all been in quarantine and going through the pandemic for most of 2020,” Wilson said. “Nature is a wonderful resource for health and well-being. We’re just encouraging people to get some relief from all the stress this year by taking in some nature and keep moving.”

Beth Keith, associate director of customer and facilities services at Miami’s Rec Center, is on the planning committee for the virtual event. Keith said the event is also about awareness for the community. 

“A community benefit is not only the deep core of hopefully improving the health and wellness of the community members,” Keith said, “But (also) increasing the awareness on what surrounds us and the areas we can take advantage of even during quarantine times.”

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Keith said the unique experience of this year of tracking virtual minutes for a whole month can allow participants to disconnect in other ways. 

“Enjoy those trails,” Keith said. “Unplug from some of the social media and Zoom calls that we’re on right now.”

Robbyn Abbitt, a long time participant in the Hike-A-Thon, works for Miami’s geography department. In the past, she hosted a booth for geocaching on the day of the event. 

“It was really great to see all the community members come through … and get to spend the day outside,” Abbitt said. 

Abbitt has already registered her family for the virtual event, and they’ve started tracking their minutes. 

“My youngest is super excited about it,” Abbitt said. “She’s carrying around a pedometer, and she’s determined to have more steps than anybody else.”

Though the event is not as social as years past, Abbitt still sees a big benefit. 

“It’s just nice to have something outside of our house,” Abbitt said. “It breaks up the monotony.”

She is excited to see what the future holds for the Hike-A-Thon and how it adapts to the current reality. 

“I look forward to seeing what they do with the event in the future,” Abbitt said. “Things don’t always have to stay the same to be really effective events.”