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A 7,000 mile friendship: Spring Valley women share lifes experiences one step at a time

Thu, Aug 22nd, 2002
Posted in Features

Sue Kolling or Kathy Beevers

Look up dedication in the dictionary. You won't find the names of Sue Kolling or Kathy Beevers listed, but you should. Through pouring rain, summer's sweltering humidity and Minnesota's sub-zero winter temperatures, the two have committed themselves to a walking regimen that has seen them through the best and worst of times.

Kolling and Beevers began their exercise stint more than 12 years ago along with a few other friends. In 1990, Beevers was single and new to the area.

"I always loved to walk and I was anxious to meet new people," she said.

The group began a scheduled walking date. Over time, as friends began dropping out for various reasons, Kolling and Beevers were the only two walkers left and started to get to know each other, one-on-one.

"I always felt the most comfortable walking with Sue," said Beevers. "We are similar in height and have the same speed and stride.

After all these years, we're the sole survivors of the original group," Kolling added.

What keeps the two motivated to walk four days a week, rain or shine, after all these years? "We like to eat," said Kolling. "We know what would happen if we didn't exercise."

Kolling, a Senior Vice President and Branch Manager for Home Federal Savings Bank's newest office in Rochester and Beevers, the Business Manager for the Kingsland School District, say they have built a strong, lasting friendship and shared more than a decade of life's up and downs while logging what they estimate is more than 7,000 miles.

When Kolling's two sons, Aaron, now 27 and Matt, now 23, were young, the group would walk around her schedule so that she could attend school and sports functions with them. One of Kolling's highlights was sharing her pride during the 1995 State Football Championships. The two women shared stories of their hopes for a Kingsland victory. Kolling's son, Matt, was the team's star running back and Beever's husband, Wally, had a vested interest as a coach for the Kingsland district. The state championship was the topic of many early morning walks that year.

Walking is scrapped only for lightening storms or icy conditions, however the two hearty souls have returned from a wintry walk, bundled up like snowmen, only to find that conditions warranted the closing of school. "Walking so early in the day gives us a good gauge of how to dress for the day," Beevers said.

The duo also has supported each other through more trying times. When Kolling's late husband, Jeff, was ill with cancer, the two continued their scheduled walks and talks.

"Walking was one routine I really needed during Jeff's sickness," Kolling said.

"We only stopped walking for brief periods when I had my two children and at the time of Sue's husband's death," added Beevers.

It was the friendship and support the two women shared that helped Kolling during the traumatic loss of her husband. "Walking with Kathy has been the best therapy I could have ever received," Kolling said.

Kolling and Beevers even walked up until the day Beever's first child was born. When the Beever's second child was born, Kolling visited the new addition in the hospital. Walking with the baby's mom for nine months appeared to have created an unusual bond.

"When Cole heard my voice, he turned his head and seemed to recognize it," she said.

Today the women's schedule accommodates a new generation with Beever's four-year-old son, Cole, and seven-year-old daughter, Kaylee.

"I like walking early in the morning because my kids are asleep and dont know Im gone," Beevers said. "I work full time, so I like to be with them every second that I'm not at work."

Kolling and Beevers start their four-day-a-week, 3-mile jaunt at 5:15 a.m.

"We basically jump out of bed brush our teeth and go," said Kolling.

Seeing each other routinely with disheveled bed hair and in glasses, the two are often surprised to see each other later in the day.

"I remember seeing Sue one afternoon and saying'boy you really look nice,'" said Beevers with a chuckle. The walking partners meet regulars each morning along the route they've kept for the past five years.

"We get a lot of the same people waving at us as they pass by in their cars," Kolling said. One resident said the two are so consistent that she could set her clock to the time they pass by her window during those early morning hours.

Besides developing a lifelong friendship, walking has also benefited the two women physically. Both women work with the public every day and believe that vigorous walks and lots of fresh air has contributed to building healthy immune systems.

"We rarely are sick and rarely miss work," Beevers said." Kolling, who turned 50 this year, attributes regular physical activity to maintaining 95% bone density, something that reduces substantially in women as they age. Despite proclaiming that they love to eat, both women have maintained a healthy weight and blood pressure due to their regular physical activity. Always safety conscious, the women invested in reflective blaze orange vests, which they sport when the days become shorter and darker.

Kolling's chocolate lab, Ginger, also accompanies the women during their 45-minute walk and has provided fodder for some interesting memories.

"The time Ginger got sprayed by a skunk ranks right up there for stories," said Kolling.

On that fateful morning, Beevers walked briskly back to town to borrow her husband's truck to go fetch her stinky walking partners. Since that time, Kolling is careful to keep Ginger on a leash during their countryside strolls.

So what's made the relationship and walking routine last as long as it has?

Both women understand the benefits of regular physical activity and are committed not only to their exercise routine but to each other.

"The greatest benefit of walking with Sue is her friendship," said Beevers. "She is just like the older sister I've always wanted."

As the miles racked up over time, so did tips shared on child rearing, cooking and finances. "Our relationship is like that with a spouse," Kolling said. "We know each other's secrets!" "Over all the miles we have covered together, Sue has given me lots of good advice, and most important, lots of laughs," Beevers said.

Neither woman plans to change their routine anytime soon. "As long as you have a good pair of shoes and a partner you like who is committed, anyone can do this," Kolling said. "It doesn't cost a thing."

The early morning walking regiment has become such an ingrained part of the women's lives that they sometimes feel sluggish during the one-day a week they allow themselves to sleep in.

"Our walk really gets our blood pumping and gets us energized for the day ahead," Kolling said.

"We have no intention of ever stopping," added Beevers. "As long as our health and schedules allow, we will continue to walk together as we have for so many years in the past."

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