MANKATO — If you are wondering how many miles you can get out of a good pair of walking shoes, ask Garnet Cafourek.
He wore out a pair this winter while walking laps around the Madison East Center mall. His answer: 500 miles.
Cafourek is one of dozens of people who have become regular mall walkers at Madison East. There's usually someone doing laps whenever the mall is open, said Rosie Brunmeier, mall manager.
The early crowd, which starts arriving before 6 a.m., tends to be the serious walkers. Later in the day it gets to be more of a social crowd. They enjoy chatting while they stroll. People working in the mall like to do laps during the lunch hour and a new crowd of people from the 9 to 5 working world shows up at night.
"They were here before I started here 17 years ago," Brunmeier said. "It really adds some liveliness to the business atmosphere. People can look out their windows and it's like seeing your neighbors walking by. It's really like a community event."
One trip around the mall, including detours down a couple corridors, is a half mile. Garnet's goal when he started walking in January was to do 1,000 laps by the end of March. He reached his goal with more than a week to spare despite a slow start due to a nasty virus.
He walks between eight and 18 laps, or between four and nine miles, every day he is at the mall.
"The advantage of walking here is you can stop whenever you want to," he said. "There's bathrooms on both sides and lots of places to sit down. The halls are wide and you don't have problems passing. This is a wonderful place for people doing therapy."
Helen Peterson has been a regular walker at the mall since 1997. She started walking at the River Hills Mall in 1994, but realized it was too easy to get distracted there. She caught herself stopping too much to check out the latest fashions instead of keeping her heart rate up.