Walktober mixes a remote event with real exercise

Annual event goes virtual and kicks off once again

Lace up your sneakers and put on your weatherproof layers—it’s Walktober!


Run by the Portland State Campus Recreation Center, Walktober is a month-long challenge encouraging the PSU community to get active. Participants register by creating an account and then track their daily steps to compete for prizes.


This year the event is virtual, but that hasn’t slowed down its pace.


“We have lots of participants this year, definitely more than last year,” said Angela McComber, Walktober intern. “We weren’t sure if numbers were going to be really low because of the pandemic. I had high hopes we’d have lots of participants, but seeing the numbers increasing so quickly has been really exciting. It means people are getting out there and walking.”


Walking, which doesn’t require expensive gear or specific equipment, is an easy way to get active.


“The major thing is to motivate people to get moving, to not be sedentary,” McComber said. “Walking is the first step to getting yourself healthier. It’s the first thing that will get you on that path. Walking gets you outside, gets you fresh air and boosts your mood.”


According to the Mayo Clinic, daily brisk walks help to improve balance and coordination and to prevent heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.


In addition to promoting healthy lifestyle practices, Walktober tries to promote a sense of community at a university with a large off-campus population. 


“Walktober started in 2009 as a way to provide opportunities for commuter and online students to engage with Campus Rec and our programs and services, even if they never set foot in the building,” said Erin Bransford, Rec Center Fitness and Wellbeing Coordinator. 


With most classes this term being remote or online, building a sense of community isn’t easy.


“Turning this event completely virtual has been a big challenge for us,” explained Health Promotion Graduate Student Coordinator Ashley Harrison. “It’s hard to feel like you’re a part of a community when everything is virtual, but it’s cool to see people find a way to do it that’s safe.”


Weekly emails and social media are two ways Harrison and McComber are building a sense of community. They recommend engaging with the Instagram account @walktober2020 and using #walktober2020 to share your own promenade and to see places recommended by others.


A favorite event of past years, according to McComber and Harrison, is the coffee walk, in which the joy of walking is combined with the pleasure of a good cup of joe. This year, the Walktober organizers will provide a list of recommended coffee spots, mostly near campus, and walkers can participate in whatever way feels safe to them. 

Each week of Walktober features a theme to help inspire routes and build engagement through social media posts. There are numerous resources out there providing suggestions for walks and hikes around Portland. 


In Portland City Walks: Twenty Explorations in and Around Town, Laura O. Foster guides readers around various Portland neighborhoods, providing cultural and architectural history. “I avoid places other people tell me I must see, and usually am rewarded with the dead end that leads to a magical path through the woods,” Foster stated. 


October 11–17 is Oh the Places You Will Go week, and Foster’s Goose Hollow to King’s Hill Loop walk is a perfect way to explore two neighborhoods near campus. The walk begins on the corner of SW 18th Avenue and Jefferson Street, then climbs up into the west hills and through parts of Washington Park. Bring along Foster’s book to learn about the history of the Victorian mansions and 1920s-era apartment buildings of southwest Portland.


The Portland Bureau of Transportation website provides 10 walking tours of the city, including maps and ADA accessibility suggestions. For Gratitude Week, October 18–24, try the Sunken Rose Garden walk. Beginning at the North Portland Library, the walk is accessible from the Yellow Line and explores Northeast Portland between the Humboldt and Piedmont neighborhoods. While traipsing through Peninsula Park, take some time to stop and smell Portland’s most celebrated flower, the tea rose.  


OregonHikers.org, a searchable database of hikes throughout the state, is a great resource for those looking for a more adventurous walk. The last week of October’s theme is spooky walks, so why not get your steps in on a hike featuring an old pioneer cemetery? The Canemah Bluff Loop hike begins with a view of Willamette Falls. Near the beginning of the hike, you’ll run into the Canemah Pioneer Cemetery, with tombstones dating back to the 1850s. The hike then takes you into a Legend-of-Spooky-Hollow-esque forest of Douglas firs, maples and alders.  


Walktober registration for individuals is open until Oct. 16. The event is a great reminder that, even when so much of life in 2020 has had to stop, there’s always a reason to keep moving.