Walk to Madrid

At work we just wrapped up a 12 week walking program called “Walk to Madrid“. The goal of the program was to encourage employees to take a more active role in their physical health. Departments and individuals formed teams of 5 to 10 people and kept track of how many steps they took each week using the provided pedometers.

Teams would select a captain to keep track of their steps and submit them to HQ every week. The program had both a competitive and collaborative set of goals. The first was each team competing to see who could walk the farthest toward our Madrid Campus and the second was to see how far we as a university could walk toward Madrid.

We also setup bi-weekly awards and milestones along the way to encourage teams to go just a little further.

We set out with the idea of maybe getting 200 people involved with about 20 teams total. We purchased water bottles and pedometers and prepared for people to sign up.

After a few weeks (with only really one simple article in our university-wide newsletter) we had over 900 people say they were interested. It total we had around 95 teams – 75 of which actually completed the entire 3 month program.

Entire departments signed up – causing us to split 30-40 member teams in to more manageable chunks. We even had 3 teams from our Madrid campus sign up!*

My role was helping to manage the data from each team and to update the website weekly with the most current results. I created a Google form for each team that was shared with the team captain. Since teams could be between 5 and 10 members we averaged the progress for each team to even things out.**

Each week I calculated the average into miles and updated a chart that used a Google Spreadsheet as a database. It was quite the undertaking and while I could have automated the entire process I felt that it was necessary to at least glance over the incoming steps.

Let me share some stats with you.

  • 95 teams and over 900 people
  • ~75 of which finished
  • Average weekly miles per team – 28.9 miles
  • Total Miles walked to (and past) Madrid –  28,287.13 miles
  • Total in Steps –  56,574,275.3
  • As an entire organization we traveled between St. Louis and Madrid 6 times.
  • The total distance traveled is greater than the circumference of the Earth at the equator.

During the weekly updates I would also check to see which teams were the first to past a given milestone. Each week I would unveil a new milestone ‘badge’ I created. We had planned out over more than 20 milestones between St. Louis and Madrid, but only had the chance to use about half.

The 1st place team got as far as the Atlantic Ocean (off the tip of Delaware). I made more graphics that never got used for milestones out past the coast.  Here’s a few of them:

At the end of this crazy experiment we hosted a simple celebration in the recreation center. Around 75 people stopped by and the Vice President of Human Resources spoke a few words.*** We gave out medals to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th place teams. First place got snazzy little runner-topped trophies and took the “Stanley Cup” trophy back to their office to proudly display – until we crown a new 1st place team!

I made a little slide show that ran in the background of the festivities highlighting some of the awards and milestones reached. You can view a Quicktime version here.

It was quite the success and I got to take part in something that helped people become more aware of their physical health and the reflective nature of walking. I’m looking forward to doing it again next year – bigger and better.

Addendum: As I was writing this I discovered that our student newspaper covered the program. Sweet.

*Three of which made it into the top 5 teams. Those Europeans walk A LOT!
**Which means, potentially, that we walked further than the publicized distance.
***And publicly committed us to doing this again next summer!