Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Angoon’s Betty Samato likes to walk. A lot. She has traveled on foot more than 7,000 miles in just over a year and much more since the coronavirus pandemic first began spreading through her home community.
“I walk 20 miles a day, most days,” Samato said. “I started out last summer walking two miles a day and I just worked my way up. For the last nine months I have been walking 20 miles a day.”
Samato, 66, had a moment of disbelief that prompted her first step.
“I got on the scale one day and looked at it and said, 'Oh my god, I have to do something,’ and that’s when I started walking,” she said. “And I haven’t missed a day since I started.”
That start was a mile.
“I was tired,” Samato said. “It was hard at first. But I just worked my way up. I cannot believe I can do 20 a day now. The most I have done is 29 miles in one day. I have really been trying to encourage people to walk.”
Rain or shine, holidays or regular days, inside or out, Samato puts in her steps. She has lost 82 pounds in 14 months and is comfortable at her current weight.
“I changed all my eating habits,” Samato said. “I cut out all my carbs and I cut down the amount I eat. I eat about a third of what I used to eat. I’m the person that when I make up my mind to do something, I do it.”
When visiting her daughter and son-in-law, Anne and Martin Stepetin, in Juneau and grandchildren Bryson, Edith, Martin Jr. and Kaiya, Samato lowers her mileage to 10 miles a day, “so I can spend more time with my grandkids.”
Born in Angoon to a Tlingit mother and Tlingit-Japanese father, Samato was raised on traditional foods but overindulged in their goodness and now has changed her diet.
“I eat a lot of our food,” she said. “I don’t eat the rice. I eat a salad or a vegetable with it instead.”
Retired from the Angoon school system, Samato has found the time to enjoy her walking.
“I walk most of it at home,” she said. “I do take one or two walks during the day. I walk three hours straight in the morning. I take a half hour break, and then I walk an hour and a half, take a half hour break, and then another hour and a half. Then I do my lunch for 45 minutes and then I do the rest after that. It takes me about eight and a half hours to do that 20 miles.”
She buys a new pair of Nike shoes every three months.
“I wonder if it is worth losing that much weight to have to buy a new pair of shoes all the time,” she laughed.
Samato had planned to start a walking club in Angoon. Locals have joined her or have been inspired to get outside more.
“A few people started riding their bikes and walking,” she said. “I have another guy that was walking with me. He said he can’t keep up with me. A lot of people get excited when they see me out walking.”
Even her family has been inspired.
“My grandkids walk with me,” Samato said. “When I come they love to get out and walk with me.”
Samato said she was not an athlete growing up.
“This is the first time I have done this much walking,” she said. “I just made up my mind that I needed to lose weight. My grandson said to me today, 'Grandma you lost a lot of weight… but you look so good, grandma.’
Samato plans to continue walking but will reduce the mileage.
“I was thinking maybe do 20 miles one day and 10 miles the next day,” she said. “I don’t think I can afford to lose too much more weight. I went from an extra-large to a medium. I’m four pounds away from my high school weight.”
Samato said the walking goes beyond physical fitness.
“Mental health,” she said. “I love to look at different clouds, and the sky, and the colors when the weather is changing. I love the fall time, the color changing of the leaves, I love to watch that. Every day it is different.”
Above - Betty Samato in Angoon.