It is hot in August in Oklahoma. It is one of the hottest months of the year and even walking a few blocks could cause problems for some.
Imagine walking from one end of Altus to the other. There are some who do it regularly and it does not bother them.
Now imagine walking from Altus to Headrick. There probably is nobody around Altus who does that although there are some bicyclists who ride that distance at least once a week.
But finally, imagine walking from Altus to Lawton. Surely there is not a soul alive who is willing to do that, especially not in August.
Well, with the exception of one.
Air Force veteran Alan Barth has been attempting the walk since 2012 when he was 59 years old. He does not attempt it for fun, but instead to teach people about Muscular Dystrophy or MD.
“I have been asked many times if I had a family member with muscular dystrophy,” Barth said. “The answer is no. I decided to do this based solely on my wishes to help fund research to find a cure for this terrible disease.”
When he is not walking for MD, he is an auto mechanic who volunteers his time to work on the vehicles of the younger generations so long as they buy the parts and agree to donate some money to the Muscular Dystrophy Association or MDA, around the time he attempts his walk.
Since he began, he estimates that he has raised nearly $12,000. Lawton Christian School donates roughly $500 per year and although he never handles the donations directly, he encourages anyone who wants to donate to send it straight to the MDA in Chicago.
Not too long ago he received a wall plaque from the MD for a very generous donation because of his walk and although he never found out who donated, he appreciates that they did.
He is gearing up to walk again this year and will start in Altus this time around. He is set to begin his walk at 8 a.m. on Aug. 18, from the B-47 airplane in the Altus City Park, but he believes this year will be his last walk attempt.
“This walk represents an incredible effort in endurance and as my track record goes, I am one-for-four with 2013 being my only year of success,” Barth said. “Starting in 2012, I walked 24 miles, 50 miles the next year, 30 miles the year after that, and 31 miles last year.”
Barth acknowledges that he is getting older and it is time to pass the torch, but he hopes on his last walk he can bring some others to walk with him and support this cause.
He also said that anybody who wants to walk with him should be prepared mentally.
“If I leave at eight in the morning, by 11, I can only look at the shoulder of the road with my hat bill pulled low and my sunglasses on in an effort to screen out the blinding light of the highway,” Barth said. “I stop sweating around noon because by about that time, my body adjusts to the heat and conserves moisture. I eat my last meal the day before as there is nowhere to go to the restroom along the highway. I can drink along the way as everything I drink goes to my body for support and my bladder never fills.”
“Under no circumstances do I stop or sit or bend my legs because if I did, they would lock up. My support vehicle must pick up my empty bottles as I would lock up by bending over,” he said. “At about 30 miles, the sun is going down and things are getting cooler. I feel like I have rocks in my shoes, but they are blisters and generally break around the 40-mile mark. At two in the morning and with 10 miles left, I can hear things moving in the grass and I am all alone, but I am under a canopy of stars. There seems to be a shooting star every three or four minutes and it makes the pain go away.”
But the best part is saved for the end of his walk.
Barth said that by the time it is 3-4 a.m., he feels like he is not alone anymore and is very much at peace with himself and his surroundings. He said that he can almost feel another presence walking alongside him and that although he is not an overly religious man, it is nothing like he has ever experienced before.
“I feel that any request made to the almighty in a genuine and sincere manner is always received,” Barth said. “All I want is for those kids to get up out of those wheelchairs and do the things that other kids do. That’s all.”
Anyone who would like to support Barth on this walk, consider making a donation to the MDA. He is always hoping to get more people out there to walk with him and in his final year, he hopes some actually do.
For more information or to volunteer to walk, call Alan Barth at 580-647-7638.
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.