What I learned from the Ada Dawson School of Walking 34



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I walk fast. I always have. Even when overweight, I could propel my poundage forward at amazing speed. I was often surprised that more pounds did not shake loose from my frame and lie there distraught with issues of abandonment in the gutter. Those lucky enough to walk beside me often comment about how fast I walk (between puffs and gasps and little spurts which resemble a slow jog to keep up). I tell them that I learned it all from the Ada Dawson School of Walking.

Who is this Ada Dawson, they ask (when they have got their breath back). She was my mother, I tell them. She was even in a hurry to die. I spent a lot of my later middle life realising that I am very much like her. I often have to take stock and tell myself that I don’t have to speed through everything. I can relax and smell the roses. Even this morning, when out for a brisk walk with a stop at a coffee shop for a skinny latte and a perusal of the morning paper, I realised that I accomplished the coffee drinking and paper reading in 10 minutes flat. And then I felt like I was dawdling.

Why do I rush? And where am I rushing too? What is the hurry, and will getting there fast make any difference to my life in general? I envy those folk who can drape themselves on couches for long periods of time or doze in armchairs in the afternoon. Instead, I am racked with guilt that I am wasting time. I remember my mother when she used to rush to places. She often wore cheap plastic soled shoes which would slide out from under her and leave her sitting on her backside in the middle of the footpath. I, a surly teenager would not acknowledge her as she was just ‘so’ embarrassing. I would not help her up. My father would often tell her to slow down. But she just couldn’t. And so she didn’t. The irony is that now I have had several falls because of rushing, and I can almost hear her saying, “See how hard it is to slow down, my dear?”

When she grew old, she hated the enforced curtailment of her walking freedom. The Ada Dawson School of Walking left its indelible genetic residue in her daughters. My sister and I both walk very quickly indeed. In fact, when on a city street and within sniffing distance of a good coffee shop, we almost build up a head of steam as we forge our way forward. My father used to say that Mum was like Boadicea in her chariot. I have a mental picture of mum in a crimplene frock, white hat, handbag and shoes with metal spears emanating from her shins and the pram as she pushed her way through crowded city streets – surprised and tardy shoppers examining their bloodied legs in amazement as this paragon of pace moved at the speed of greased lightning.

I am sad now when I think of Mum. She died over ten years ago, and yes, she was even in a hurry to die. It took too long, she thought, this lying around in a hospital bed looking at a sea of concerned faces gazing back at her. “How long is this going to take?” she would question me crossly. I would think to myself that it wasn’t quite as easy as booking a trip on a plane. It was only as she slipped into that late afternoon dusk of nearly dying that she finally relaxed. As she slowly relinquished her hold on life the strain and tension left her body. And so, the founding member of the Ada Dawson School of Walking left this world.

I remembered her this morning as I sped along the pavement in my bouncy Asics gel shoes. Her technique and her tenacious stride. The poetry of economical movement as her elbows sawed through the air. I met my daughter for a coffee (well it was for my birthday) and I realised that her stride reminded me of my mother. I smiled as I thought of mum on a cloud in heaven having done her early morning circuit. I think she would have smiled too.


Are you a fast walker? What family traits did you pick up? Do you ever remind yourself of your parent? Tell us below.

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Karen Jones

Born in New Zealand, Karen now happily lives in the mid-north coast of New South Wales. She retired early due to ill health and now focuses on her love of walking, writing, reading and spending time with her grandchildren. With a degree in writing, Karen became a blogger and book reviewer for Starts at 60, which has enabled her passions to become enjoyable pastimes. Her recipe for bliss is a well made flat white, a friendly cat and a sea view.

  1. Was a fast walker til illness taught me to slow down.

    2 REPLY
    • Flat out Kerry me to.but 40 yrs in came health issues oh dear.the show offs I’ve seen 70 and standing on their heads!!!!! BUT one day they all get health issue.Age always come in so the 96 yr olds show off to,Honestly makes me sick.some of us so lucky& some body’s are aged at 60yrs and live like 80 bugger.Take good care of you

    • My mum show off ha ha. Was so relatively well till 85 or so then dementia set it but was still physically ok. Terrible for her. She died at 90. Drank and smoked to excess lucky genes not passed to me. Ha ha.

  2. Strong personality ,Very hard working when I start a job I never want to stop until it done.Flare for decorating from Mum.

  3. Karen, I loved your story. It brought back memories of my beautiful mum. She always insisting on walking to the shops for her groceries or to the library to change her books etc. She was offered rides by neighbors and she could have easily caught the town bus. I would offer to take her shopping when I came into town to do my shopping but no, she still insisted on walking then walk home with her groceries in the little wheeled shopping jeep or have the groceries delivered.She once went on holidays with her sister in law and walked right around the base of Ayers Rock……………this at the ripe old age of 80, and rode a camel !She was also an avid gardener and spent many hours digging, weeding, planting and watering, but never mowed a lawn, her sons and sons in law did that for her thankfully.

  4. My dad , he walked me back to school a lunchtime at an amazing pace , underneath his overcoat when it rained , no idea how I kept up but I did . Still walk with a brisk step myself , hate slow walkers

  5. When I started nursing my tutor sister told us she could pick who would be a good nurse from the way they walked – turned out to be true. I have also found through life this works much the same, although now, after a couple of falls, I realise I do have to slow down (a bit!).

    2 REPLY
    • An uncle of mine made a comment about my walking when I had taken up nursing as well. We were told never to run, but to walk like we were……difficult habit to change.

  6. Yep fast walking and anxiety in general from my parents. Real pain in the butt

    2 REPLY
    • Jill I curse my dad for being a born worrier& this is a terrible trait.ruins ones life I’m sorry for you.& me

    • A bummer. I do meditation, have had counselling…blah blah.. straight back to the worrying. Oh well.

  7. Lovely to read, brought back lots of memories of my mum & my walking, my children tell me to slow down, they can’t keep up…..

  8. Yes I am, I can remember my Father, when we we’re children, and we would be in the city ( town we called it then ) of SYDNEY, striding along in front of my Mother and us four children, so I inherited it from him.

    1 REPLY

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