What began as a monthly Apple Watch fitness goal became a bonding experience for a Verona mom and her son.

It all started when Kristen Bystol’s 11 year old son Parker’s Apple Watch issued an activity challenge to walk over 190 miles in July. When the quarantine started, Parker had already decided that he wanted to get out for a walk each week.

But the Apple Watch challenge took it up a notch.

“He said, ‘Mom, I think I can do it,’ and I said ‘I’ll do it with you, but it has to be actual walks, not just steps,’” Kristen said.

Her rule was that they would walk together on an “actual walk” – not just in the yard or around the house. She said the Apple Watch achievement goal was what got them moving.

“That’s what started the whole conversation,” she said. “We decided to shoot for 200 miles, which didn’t seem like a lot until you find out how many miles you have to walk a day to accomplish it.”

They also lost a week of time, starting the walks on July 7. Kristen said most days they had to walk eight miles a day but walked as little as three miles and as many as 14.5. Kristen estimated they walked 16-minute miles, so their average walk was around two hours long.

“It depended on what we had going on,” she said. “We would get up early, get our miles in before it got too hot out.”

Some of the walks were around the Harper Drive neighborhood where they live, and they walked to the Epic campus often and Fitchburg a few times.

“Our favorite walk was to Epic and then we’d take the path to Cross Country Road,” Kristen said. “We’d look at all the different buildings, the pond next to it – it seems out in the country out there, not in the city.”

She said the highlight for Parker was to walk up to the new high school and peek in to see the pool facilities, as he’s big into swimming.

Kristen said she used to train for half marathons and ran the same paths years ago while training, but her son hadn’t gone with her. She said he feels he knows Verona much better now.

In addition, the walks were accompanied by “fun talks,” she said.

“We talked about my son’s goals in life, all the things he’s going to do as an 11-year-old,” she said. “He wants to travel the U.S. in an RV and see all the states – we talked about dreams and all the things he wants to do when he gets older. They were fun talks; we talked every day.”

Upon completion of their goal, Kristen ordered them shirts that said ‘July — 200 Miles Strong’ and also ordered a large ‘200 Miles’ balloon for their yard from Funny Faces Family Entertainment.

While they have scaled back their walking since meeting their 200-mile goal, they still have new challenges on their bucket list, such as walking the 21 miles around the Lake Geneva shoreline.

“Parker is pretty motivated for an 11-year-old boy, he has goals, that’s fun,” Kristen said. “He just recently told me how much he misses our walks and talks. If only we had that amount of time to walk every day.”

Neal Patten, community reporter, can be contacted at neal.patten@wcinet.com.