Richardson logs 50 miles/week

Voncille Richardson was spending Wednesday morning like she always did, walking around the track on the second floor of Hattiesburg’s Family YMCA of Southeast Mississippi. She said she walks 50 miles in the three days she comes to the Y.

With her walker in front of her, Richardson keeps a steady pace. Left, right, left, right …

The 86-year-old Lumberton woman started her routine at about 8:30 a.m. and was set to finish at 11 a.m. Richardson walks at the YMCA on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

“I was coming on all of the days, but they stopped me,” she said during a break from the walking to work out on the machines. “They said I was doing too much. Then they told the doctor and the doctor told me not to. I would still come, but the doctor said I shouldn’t.”

Richardson’s oldest daughter, Mable Myles, drives her mother to the YMCA from Lumberton and then Myles stays to participate in some of the classes. Richardson said coming to Hattiesburg is safer for her.

“I was walking at the track in Lumberton,” Richardson said. “I go so early and they were afraid because people started coming around there with hoods on. Pretty soon, I was walking by myself and they stopped me. I’ve been here ever since. It’s healthier for me here too because there are more things you can get on for your health.”

Walking is something that Richardson has been committed to doing for a long time.

“I’ll be 87 on Aug. 20,” she said. “I’ll be ready for that, you better believe I will. I’ve been walking for over 50-something years. I started walking when my last child was born and he’s 53.”

Richardson, the mother of four girls and three boys, said, “I do 50 miles every day; I don’t quit until 11 o’clock. You can’t get people 70 years old to come up here, much less 80.”

Richardson has been a fixture at the Hattiesburg YMCA.

“I’ve been coming up here since they built it,” she said. “When I first came up, I walked on the treadmill. I walked on the treadmill 100-something times, sometimes 200. They took pictures of me then because they hadn’t seen a woman my age then to walk like that on a treadmill.”

However, Richardson had to adjust her walking style on the banked track.

“So I was walking and I fell,” she said. “A bone doctor told me that I was blessed because I could have killed myself. I hold my head up when I walk, so my head didn’t get it. This whole side was hurt. He told me I was fine; he didn’t even do surgery on me.

“My new doctor told me that I didn’t need surgery. He told me to wear a back brace when I’m walking. I don’t need it when I’m at home or going to church. When I get to the house, I pull them off.”

Richardson said the walker is necessary.

“I was walking up here first with my stick all these years until January,” she said. “I was coming around that corner and I could have been going too fast. When I got around that curve, I started to slide. The Lord didn’t let me fall; I had that stick and I just kept hold of it. My oldest daughter, Mable, saw it. When we went to the bone doctor, he said he would put a back brace on me and I’ve been walking ever since.”

Growing up healthy and attending church play important roles in Richardson’s life.

“I never drank; I never smoked,” she said. “I never knew nothing but the church. I have a healthy body. The doctor that waits on me – and he’s a hard doctor – he said he wished that his heart was like mine.”