14-year-old Pepper White of Waskom was one of only eight people who completed Christ Fit Gym’s annual 100 mile walk with the cross this past weekend.
Pepper was the youngest person to complete the walk over the weekend, and was given the honor of carrying the cross into the church as the group completed their 100 miles.
“They select someone every year to have the honor of carrying it at the very end and I was chosen, which was very cool,” Pepper said.
The walk, which happened from Friday, Dec. 6 through Saturday, Dec. 7, is something that Heath White, Pepper’s father, never pictured himself completing, let alone finishing with his is daughter.
“I heard about it from some friends and I had never done it before,” Heath said. “I knew my friends were only going about halfway, and that’s what I expected to walk as well.”
However, that was not the case. He said that Pepper was the reason he kept going.
“We stopped at the half way point and that is already 50 miles, and I remember I said ‘Pepper we can stop whenever you need to’ and she said ‘No I want to keep going’ so we did,” Heath said.
Pepper remembers it differently.
“We were holding hands for a lot of it and at certain points I was slowing down, I was slowing the whole group down, and he was dragging me along next to him,” Pepper said.
Heath said that the walk took the group from Boisser up to Benton and then to Minden, Louisiana.
Only 15 people before the Whites were able to complete the walk on their first try.
“It is extremely difficult, it’s a lot of endurance and you have to be in the right head space,” Heath said.
Pepper is a cross country runner who has been competing since she was in 7th grade. However, she said that the longest she has ever run for cross country is four miles.
In preparation for the walk Pepper said that she started running long distances in October, eventually getting herself up to running 14 miles straight.
“They say you should be walking six hours a day in preparation of something like this,” Pepper said. “I’m in school, I don’t have the time for that. So even though it wasn’t the exact right kind of training it helped prepare me and get my feet ready.”
She said that there was a number of times a long the walk that she considered quitting, even falling asleep while walking for a half a mile around 2 a.m.
“I was holding my dad’s hand and he said he would guide me so I could shut my eyes for a while because they were getting so heavy. Next thing I knew I opened them and I was in a completely different place,” she said.
One thing is for sure, Pepper and Heath both say that running runs in the family.
“When my wife was pregnant with Pepper I was running a race and she wrote ‘Go Daddy Go’ on her stomach, she has been a runner since she was in the womb,” Heath said.
Pepper said that she hopes to do the walk again next year.
“I wouldn’t have kept going without my Dad,” she said. “He’s a hero.”