Vanika Mock Named Madison GirlTrek
The Joy of Walking
Vanika Mock at one of her favorite walking routes through
the UW Arboretum.
cried. It was so horrible. I looked like I was 12 months pregnant. I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without breathing like I was losing my
breath. I could not run with my son. I could not be an active parent because I was so out of condition.”

The next day, Mock walked 12 miles. And she had to make a decision. She decided to eat healthier — no longer would she eat all of that
fattening food late at night — and she would walk every day.

“I walk every single day, seven days per week,” Mock emphasized. “Usually on the weekdays, Monday-Friday, I start walking at 4 p.m.
and I walk in the gym on a treadmill and on elliptical. I walk no matter what season it is. I don’t care what the weather is. I’m always
walking. When the weather is nicer, I tend to walk outside a lot more and I tend to increase the number of miles that I go.”

Mock looks sleek and trim, especially in comparison to those birthday photos. And she enthusiastically joins every walking opportunity
that she can. Last March, Marilyn Ruffin organized a group of Madison African American women to walk as a part of GirlTrek’s observance
of the 100th anniversary of the death of Harriet Tubman.

“What they wanted women to do was walk 100 minutes in honor of Harriet Tubman,” Mock said. “They said, ‘If she could walk for freedom,
we can walk for health.’ When she talked to us about it, it resonated with me because I knew I could walk. That wasn’t a problem. It was
only 100 minutes. We got together and we got a group of 6-7 women and we developed a plan of action, how we were going to go about
this walk. We got donations of food and water and we started walking. We walked on John Nolen Drive.”

Girl Trek held a nationwide competition to establish representatives in major American cities to help it with its goal of getting one million
African American women walking regularly by 2018. Ruffin encouraged Mock to compete.

“It was a two-month process,” Mock said. “It started out with a long application, 30 questions and several essay questions about why I
wanted to be a representative for the Madison GirlTrek. After that, we had a series of group interviews and then we were actually flown
out to New York to participate in more interviews and some workshops. We had 23 women from around the country who made the cut. We
have them from places like Los Angeles and Chattanooga, Tennessee,. I’m just proud to say that I made the cut because we had some
fantastic women in this group.”

As the GirlTrek representative, Mock will be like a walking ombudswoman who will promote the creation of walking groups or the
expansion of existing ones and hook African American women up with those walking groups.

“I plan to partner with a lot of organizations where they are primarily Black women such as Black sororities and churches,” Mock said.
“We just want to let them know that this is something that we need to do for the health of our community. I also hope to partner with other
groups and organizations who also want to take seriously the benefits of walking. Like I said, anyone can walk. It is simple to do.”
While promoting walking with other women, Mock will also continue to keep her own personal pace.

“The UW Arboretum is my favorite place to walk,” Mock said. “I usually walk in the arboretum because it is quiet and serene. There are so
many beautiful things about it. Nature is here. You see the beautiful foliage. You see trees.  You see beautiful birds all about. It’s just really
refreshing for me to walk here. I also love John Nolen. That’s one of m y favorite places as well because you walk right by the water. And
when you look at the water, it is so mesmerizing. And you don’t realize you’ve walked so many miles until you are done.”

Mock wants to get 1,000 women walking in Madison. With her enthusiasm, she’ll probably get a whole lot more.

For futher information, e-mail Vanika Mock at or call her at (608) 444-9061.
By Jonathan Gramling

It was so much easier, almost natural, for Vanika Mock to stay fit when she
was younger. She was involved in sports when she was in middle school
and high school. And when she went to college at the University of
Arkansas-Pine Bluff, she had to walk to classes. There was no public
transportation system. Mock just burned off the calories during the course
of her every day life.

But then something happened to Mock right around the time when she
moved to Madison. She entered her middle years when her metabolism
slowed down and she worked in an office job where she sat for most of the
workday. Mock gained weight, slowly enough where her friends and she
did not take proper notice. And then her 40th birthday rolled around.

“I saw my photo from my 40th birthday party and realized that I had gained
so much weight,” Mock said. “I had gained so much weight that I felt
uncomfortable in my skin. I tried on a dress for the party and the dress was
the biggest I had ever worn. And I could hardly zip it up. I had two people
holding the dress in so I could wear it. At the party, I couldn’t breathe
because the dress was so tight on me. When I saw the pictures, I almost