By Michael V. Hannigan
The News Staff
ATHENS — Erik Bendl walks with The World, The Dog, and The Stick.
And he walks … and walks … and walks.
Better known as “The World Guy,” Bendl walks across the country with his Blackmouth Cur mix named Nice and an inflated 6-foot ball painted like a globe, which he steers with his walking stick.
In the past seven years he has been on six long walks that have taken him through 34 states and more than 4,500 miles. His current walk started in Seminole, Alabama and included Mississippi, Louisiana and now Texas. He made his way through Athens on Thursday, April 5, just two days after his 50th birthday.
Why? He walks to promote diabetes prevention awareness in memory of his mother, a Kentucky state legislator who died at 54 of complications from the disease.
He has a better way of saying it, though: “My reason for walking is to get everyone else active, that’s my main push.”
That’s right; The World Guy is a fitness guru — unconventional, for sure — but fitness guru just the same.
“It is up to everybody, diabetic or not, to keep active to help keep (diabetes) away,” he said.
He recently named his philosophy “The Movement Movement.”
“It kind of goes along with ‘love yourself, go for a walk,’” he said.
But what about the world? Well, a friend was going to throw the big ball in the trash back in 1988 and Bendl rescued it instead.
And he’s been saving the world ever since … yeah, Bendl loves metaphors.
Even though he admits his world is just a big ball, it still has a personality all its own.
“It expands and contracts with all the elements,” he said, “the sun, clouds, humidity, barometric pressure. I have a pump to put air into it and I take air out of it if it gets too tight. It does take tender love and care.”
As for the stick, he said, “It is just a little old stick, but I’ve found it helps me steer and direct the course of the world … there I go with the metaphors again.”
Bendl has done all of the work to let folks know he’s on the up-and-up; he’s registered as a non-profit and has partnered with the American Diabetes Association. There is a link to the ADA on his website, www.worldguy.org. (He warns that the blog sidebar isn’t updated – he can’t do that from his phone.)
But he doesn’t ask for money when he’s out on the road and he isn’t worried about getting donations in his name.
“I really don’t care (who gets credit for donations),” he said. “It is going be one of us that gives the right dollar to the right organization that will recreate pancreases to help Type 1 diabetics.”
As for the rest of us, he’ll put the metaphors aside and talk straight.
“It is not about the money, or the miles or anything like that. It is really about if I can reach somebody I’ll never know and get them to maybe walk a couple extra days and be there a couple extra hours for their family,” he said. “It really does matter.”
ADDITIONAL INFO: The Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.com) lists the following benefits of walking:
- Lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol)
- Raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol)
- Lower your blood pressure
- Reduce your risk of or manage type 2 diabetes
- Manage your weight
- Improve your mood
- Stay strong and fit