The Great L.A. Walk Takes on Santa Monica Blvd.

Sometimes you just have to walk it off. It doesn't really matter what the "it" that you're walking off is, but the catharsis that follows is a feeling worth sharing. When was the last time you walked for the sake of walking, with no destination in mind? When was the last time you went anywhere without a car, or took a minute to explore the city you live in? That's exactly what the Great Los Angeles Walk was designed for.

The third annual Great L.A. Walk was held on Saturday, Nov. 22, "just because," a novel concept that has been gaining popularity since the first walk a couple years ago. "I launched the walk in 2006 to celebrate my 10th anniversary in Los Angeles," said Michael Schneider, the mastermind of the event. "I thought it would be a cool way to see the city up close and personal, so I decided to walk the entire 16.6-mile length of Wilshire."

By now, this anniversary walk has evolved into an event that welcomes anyone who wishes to put their legs to use for a change, for whatever reason they can think of.

This year, the walk started at Union Station in downtown L.A. and stretched its feet all the way to the shores of the Pacific Ocean. It spanned a total of 18.3 miles, from Union Station to Cesar Chavez Blvd. to Sunset Blvd. and the whole length of Santa Monica Blvd. "This year, for our longest walk yet, we got about 150 people," said Schneider.

The average walker crossed the sandy beach finish-line in about eight hours, a time frame that was hardly enough to catch on to all the marvels of the city that usually go unnoticed from the confines of automobiles.
The walk gathered its troops at the Union Station in Downtown, L.A. bright and early on Saturday morning.

A few megaphone equipped brave-hearts riled up the crowd with energy boosting pep talks and laid out the day's plans. Everyone that had managed to roll out of bed by 9 a.m. began their journey, first taking a detour through Olvera Street, then making rounds through Echo Park, Dodger Stadium, and onward towards Silver Lake.

The massive throng of tourist look-alikes exhausted their index fingers as they snapped pictures of seemingly new and exciting sights that were illuminated to them throughout the walk. The city walls were suddenly full of graffiti art, interesting posters, scraps of wisdom, and even a sidewalk lined with Greek statues.

The crowd met friendly city dwellers on the street, including a guava saleswoman and a smiling nun who waved at the cameras and bid the walkers a good day.

A good day it was, as the event route steered the crowd through Sunset Junction, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica.Some walkers rested their feet and quieted their grumbling tummies in cafés and restaurants along the boulevard.

The Great L.A. Walk was not only a place to blow off steam and rejoice in the company of strangers who quickly became friends; it was an opportunity to find hidden treasures in the city that normally get blurred in the rush of traffic. "I always enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city just west of downtown most," Schneider said. "The diversity of people, businesses, buildings and topography make it quite an interesting walk."

A toast of the feat was held at the Britannia Pub for those who endured the length of the walk. Most of the group made it to the ocean just in time to catch a glimpse of perfect sunset clouds that veiled the sky in shades of purples and pinks. The sand provided a soothing massage for their soar feet at the end of almost 20 miles, leaving no room for complaints.

"Now that the Great Los Angeles Walk has become an annual tradition, we'll be back with another one again next year-as always, the Saturday before Thanksgiving," said Schneider. "I'm already mulling which street we'll tackle next year." There are treasures to behold regardless of the choice, so over the Christmas holiday ask for a comfortable pair of shoes and mark your calendars for next year's fourth annual walk.

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