Mark Barnett of Carry the Load Photo by Hilary Schleier

Mark Barnett of Carry the Load Photo by Hilary Schleier

This Memorial Day, people around the nation will walk through the day and night carrying a load, both physically and symbolically. While it started as an esoteric and personal event, Carry the Load — a 20-plus-hour walk to honor veterans, police and firefighters — has gained recognition. Lake Highlands resident Mark Barnett says that the event has been on his radar for a couple of years but that this year he decided not only to get involved but also to bring others along with him. The Lake Highlands CrossFit instructor so far has recruited about 20 people to his team, but he’s not satisfied. He wants you.

 

How did you become interested in Carry the Load?

A Navy Seal named Clint Bruce started the event in 2011 as a way to honor American soldiers, law enforcement officers, firefighters and their families, especially those who have died or were wounded in service. Participants would walk 20 hours wearing a 40-pound backpack—the approximate weight of a military load— to symbolize the load that these people have carried and the sacrifices they have made for their country and fellow man. Clint came and spoke with the CrossFit group that first year and I thought it sounded great, but I didn’t do anything about it. The next year I heard about it again and I decided, next year I am really going to do this thing. So this year I — and others at CrossFit Lake Highlands — organized a team.

Is the team just for members of CrossFit Lake Highlands?

No. Anyone can join our team and come to our practice walks, which we have every Saturday morning until the event beginning at the CrossFit facility in Lake Highlands. So far we only have about 20 members.

That sounds like a lot.

Well, yeah, but I want to show up with 40 or 50.

What about people who can’t walk that far or carry a heavy load?

The event really isn’t about walking the whole 20 hours — actually it is 20 hours, 13 minutes this year — but about walking a little, in recognition of those soldiers and first responders, and carrying whatever you can, even if it’s a water bottle.

Are you planning to walk 20 hours and carry a 40-pound backpack?

I am going to try.

Since you are into CrossFit, does that qualify you to meet the physical demands of walking 20 hours in May in Texas?

Being a CrossFit member does put you a little ahead of the game as far as fitness, but, you know, the first practice walk, the first three or five miles was pretty easy, but after about 6 and 7 miles, it got hard. I practice by walking and wearing the weighted vest as much as possible, like when I take the dog out for a walk. People look at you a little weird, but that’s OK. In the end, the event is a physical test, but it is more a time of reflection rather than a contest of strength.

Why is Carry the Load important to you?

The cause is important. Within the CrossFit community there are a lot of service men and women. My grandfather fought in World War II, and I have other family members who have served. Overall, I have a great amount of respect for the group of people Carry the Load is dedicated to. In addition, I want to promote fitness — getting out and walking every day — to the community. Walking is a great way to start your day.

What’s the best way to join your team? Event details?

Come out to a walk. We start at 6 and go in loops. You can come at 6, 6:45, 7 or 7:45, for example. We post the exact times on our site and Facebook page a day or two before. You can also just participate in the event by visiting Carry the Load’s website and signing up. The actual walk begins Friday, May 26, at 4 p.m. at Reverchon Park near the Katy Trail. It ends at 12:13 p.m. Memorial Day. 

Answers have been edited for brevity.

Visit carrytheload.org and click Dallas Memorial March. There, you can register and, if you wish, choose to join team CrossFit Lake Highlands. Registration is free, but the average participant, according to the website, raises and contributes $200-$300 in donations. You can also donate $5, $500 or whatever you wish in person at CrossFit Lake Highlands, 9850 Walnut Hill, when you attend a practice walk any Saturday morning in May.