It was cold. It was drizzling. It was 7 o’clock in the morning and there were 12 hours to go and 34 miles to walk.

It was more or less at this moment that I recalled the question a number of people I knew had been asking recently: Why?

After all, my daughter Nora and I had nothing more to accomplish, nothing more to prove. We had already proven our stupidity last year.

We had already ruined our feet, our calves, hips, backs and brains by showing that we could do this, that we could walk the longest urban hike in the nation. We already had framed certificates attesting that we were dumb enough to walk around the entire island of Manhattan, in one day, on two feet.

And yet here we were, back at the starting point of The Great Saunter, a year later, a year older, another year’s worth of mileage on the treads, fluid leaking from the manifold, tail lights starting to dim.

Why? We thought it would be fun and we were determined not to make the same mistakes we had made last year. We were, apparently, determined to make new mistakes.

And this time, there would be no commitment that we would do the whole thing. We would just put one foot in front of another, which is, generally, the best way to walk. We’d see how it went.

After three miles, we were chilled and wet.

After seven miles, we were freezing and wet.

When we hit 10 miles, we looked fondly back on the time when we were just freezing and wet.

But because we are stubborn and because it was still too early for our favorite pizza place to open, we plodded on. Near the halfway point, the lunch break of the saunter, we took a left when everyone else took a right.

While all the other saunterers were resting and bandaging their blisters, we had wandered into Urban Wildlife Day at a park at the northernmost tip of Manhattan. Instead of finding the meeting place, we had a good conversation with a barred owl. It asked Why?, in addition to Who?

After wandering in the wilderness, we finally found the saunter route again. Still, we were making no commitments that we would go all the way.

At mile 20, we said again: no commitments.

At mile 27, we repeated: no commitments.

At mile 31, we reiterated: no commitments.

When we reached mile 33.4, we said, OK, we might as well commit to doing this.

And so we did. For the second time in two years, we walked 34 miles around the circumference of Manhattan, in a little bit more than 12 hours. We were achy and stiff and very tired — not, in truth, a major surprise — when we reached the finish line.

So of course, we’re planning on doing it again next year. But, listen: no commitments.

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