Linda McMullan is going to be walking virtually to the southern end of Mexico — and she’s hoping for a few amigos to join her as she sets out on the virtual walk

Take a virtual hike, all the way to Mexico

Hope Recreation Centre offering three different travel challenges.

In this age of digital gaming, people have gotten used to the idea that “virtual” means that something is quite removed from reality.

Gamers can rob a bank, steal a car and blow up the police station — then turn off the game console and have no fear of getting arrested.

Meanwhile, the Hope and District Recreation Centre has three virtual challenges that each have a good dose of reality.

You may not truly be walking to Mexico, swimming to Honolulu or cycling across Canada, but the work really has to be done. The participants have to put in the effort — as if they actually were heading to those distant locations.

The good news: as people scramble across the border into Tijuana, there is no fear of getting shot at or arrested!

More good news: the challenges are low cost or free.

“After our very successful walk to Point Hope Alaska, which had 30-plus involved, we’re now heading for Tapachula, Mexico,” said program director Kim Richardson on Friday.

“It’s the furthest southern place in Mexico, near the Guatemalan border.”

According to a quick calculation on the Mapmyrun.com site, it’s a 5,700 km journey, one way.

“We have about five signed up so far — but I expect a lift after this story comes out,”  added Richardson.

“I’ve got 50 free pedometers that will be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis.”

Richardson said the challenge is dependent on sufficient participants to get the kilometres rolling but she figured the team could be in Tapachula by mid-winter.

“And we have to come back, though some will want to stay,” she added, grinning.

One participant who has already racked up 44,550 steps as of Monday is School District #78 trustee, Linda McMullan.

In fact, she figured she may have lost a few thousand steps before she got  her pedometer clipped in the prime location: on the front belt line, right over the hip joint. Now her counter is clicking accurately with each step.

McMullan said, “Part of my reason for signing up to walk to Mexico is to leave behind at least 10 pounds, in order to make upcoming foot surgery easier to bear.

“I occasionally go walking with a friend but mostly it’s just running around doing my usual things.  Some days are busier than others, 7660 was my highest step count, which was on last Thursday — a crazy-busy day.”

McMullan also is a regular at the pool’s aquafit classes — but sadly, the pedometer is not waterproof.

People can take part in the challenge with a friend or family member, or do it totally on their own. Though you are part of a virtual team, you could conceivably do your part in the cumulative walk and never even meet your team members.

Part of the fun, though, is checking the weekly totals that are tracked by Richardson. Progress is charted on a map and weekly inputs by team members are recorded.

“We’re also swimming to Honolulu,” added Richardson. “It’s 4,357 kilometres, one way. That’s 174,280 lengths of the pool.

“As of week three, we’ve done 3,949 lengths, or 296 kilometres, with 22 people involved. Forty lengths equal one kilometre and a lot of people do more in one session.”

The third challenge is the cross-country cycling tour. Retired teacher Truls Asdal completed his actual Canada-wide ride this summer — but the virtual ride has its roots in the rec centre’s spin cycle classes. You can rack up your miles there, or do it on the streets and trails of Hope — especially while the great fall weather continues.

“We’re heading to Hopedale, Newfoundland,” said Richardson. “And we’re coming back. We’re calculating it as 20 kilometres per person per spin session and so far, we’ve made it as far as Moose Jaw.”

To join any or all of the above challenges, speak with a staff member at the rec centre’s reception desk, or phone 604-869-2304.