The Loop, a longtime landmark for runners and walkers in Dalton, continues adding more believers to the idea of physical fitness.
Most people consider Civitan Park, located at North Tibbs Road and Shugart Road, the starting point. Those traveling the 4.15-mile loop will negotiate Tibbs, take a left onto College Drive and go past Dalton State College, go left to follow Walnut Avenue across I-75 back to South Tibbs Road and then back to Civitan Park.
Before sunrise and well into the night-time hours on just about any day, participants will get in plenty of exercise on those roads.
Vicki Postelle, Karen Hemphill and Pam Allen, all of Dalton, regularly run together as a threesome.
“We run the loop probably four days a week,” said Postelle, a customer service representative. “We run usually about 5:15 or 5:30 in the morning. We can smell the bacon cooking at IHOP and Shoney’s.”
They usually start at Hemphill’s home on Wood Valley Road, less than a half mile from Tibbs.
“The Dalton Half Marathon course runs right by my house,” Hemphill said, referring to the race that will be run for the first time on Oct. 16. “The St. Patty’s race (a two-mile event) also came by here.”
Why such an early start?
“I go early because of work,” said Hemphill, an adult literary instructor at Dalton State. “The course has a little bit of flat area, little hills and convenience.”
Allen, who works as an office manager, said, “If I don’t run, I just don’t feel good. It makes me feel so much better for the rest of the day. And it certainly helps to have the good company.”
Occasionally the threesome adds extra distance to their running routine.
“Sometimes we’ll throw in the Trade Center hill and Dug Gap Road,” Postelle said.
Postelle is the most serious runner in the group. She has been going to Atlanta on recent Saturday mornings for instructional classes in preparation for the July 4 Peachtree 10K road race and contemplates her first marathon in the fall.
“I only do maybe two races a year,” Hemphill said. “I don’t like crowds.”
Allen has a similar racing philosophy, though she completed the Atlanta Half Marathon last Thanksgiving.
Lee Daniel, an attorney, has been a fixture in a Saturday morning walking group that does The Loop while starting from Regions Bank at the intersection of Walnut and Tibbs.
“I used to run it, but I quit six months ago on the running due to some leg problems,” Daniel said. “We walk it hard. We will do it both clockwise and counterclockwise. We will start right at 8. Anybody getting there late will just have to catch up.”
Larry Harrison, a banking executive, acknowledged no “fixing the world” problems on their brisk walks.
“In that hour or so, nothing is said worth knowing,” Harrison said.
Over the past dozen years or so, the human landscape has changed dramatically.
“At one time, you rarely saw women doing The Loop,” Daniel said. “Now you might have more women than men out there. I’m certainly not complaining.”
Other regulars on their weekly walk include Larry Swanson, Barry Robbins, Steve Cantrell and Jake Harrison.
David Leatherman, a past president of the Carpet Capital Running Club, has been a serious runner for many years.
“You certainly see more people on The Loop,” he said. “You get a lot of camaraderie.
“I work south of there (as an engineer with Shaw Industries) and live north of there (in Rocky Face). It’s convenient. In the winter, I run there before dark.”
A female group of six to 10 people, which includes Dalton High coaches Karen Galyon and Pam Brackett, usually runs The Loop three times a week from Regions Bank with a 5:30 a.m. start.
“I used to walk The Loop seven days a week,” said Martha Greene, a nurse who lives on Tibbs Road. “I used to do it under an hour. I do parts of it now.”
The Loop is hardly restricted to the middle-age crowd.
Alex Ocaompo, 17, is heading into his senior year at Dalton High.
“I run The Loop probably three or four times a week,” Ocaompo said. “I’m doing it primarily to get ready for wrestling.”
Anna Peracta, 18, a recent Dalton High graduate, completed the course on one hot evening with her cousins, Mayra Sanchez, 16, and Lorena Cortez, 15, who attend Dalton and Southeast Whitfield high schools, respectively.
“We just try to stay in shape,” Peracta said. “We do it four times a week.”
Jack Turner is 85 and chairman of the board for Alliance Bank and proves that age knows no boundary.
“I walk about a mile or 1 1/2 miles each day on Tibbs Road and sometimes Wood Valley,” Turner said. “I’ve been walking regularly for the last 25 years. I usually walk before breakfast. Then I go to work.”
“Outdoor Adventures” is a summer series highlighting places and activities for area residents to get outside and get moving. To suggest a story idea, write to email@example.com.