One of the country's most well-known family conflicts is being used for a positive purpose as residents from Kentucky and West Virginia compete in the Hatfield-McCoy Healthy Feud.
Residents of six West Virginia counties and Pike County in Kentucky are pledging to walk 100 miles in 100 days. The event runs through Dec. 17.
Technically, all the Kentuckians would walk as McCoys and the West Virginians would stroll as Hatfields. The feuding families were generally geographically split by the Tug Fork River, the boundary between the two states, said Adam Flack, executive director of West Virginia on the Move, one of several community groups in both states promoting the challenge.
The story of the long-simmering and often deadly feud has a real resonance with people in the area, Flack said.
"There are a lot of descendants, and they are very proud of it," he said.
Those outside the families apparently find the history of the feud fascinating too. Last year, a History Channel miniseries on the feud, which lasted from 1865 to 1891, was a ratings bonanza and inspired a new wave of tourism and interest in the region related to the conflict.
Flack said the concept, to walk 100 miles in 100 days, has been used for several years through a program at West Virginia University HealthCare in Morgantown. Flack, who worked with the program before joining Get Moving West Virginia, said as many as 5,000 people have participated.
That campaign had a new theme each year, he said, but when the idea of having a healthy feud came up in a brainstorming session, Flack said he knew it was the slogan.
"It was like, 'Man, that's it; we don't even need to discuss it,'" Flack said.
The Mingo County Diabetes Coalition in West Virginia is another group helping to promote the walk. Director Jennifer Hudson said her group already had a popular program encouraging people to talk during lunch and the 100-mile challenge seemed a perfect complement to that effort.
Walking 100 miles in 100 days seems a lofty goal, but it is easily doable, she said, even for people who are just beginning to exercise. Doing something as a community helps get "everybody pushing each other to do something," she said, and she expects at least 1,000 people to participate in the Healthy Feud.
Using a dark period in the region's history to promote something positive, she said, "transcends some of the negative stereotypes of the region."
Because Pike County teams are competing against teams from six West Virginia counties — Lincoln, Boone, Logan, Wyoming, Mingo and McDowell —Flack said there won't be a true tally pitting the Hatfields against the McCoys.
"We'd look pretty bad if the Hatfields didn't win," Flack said with a laugh.
Instead, he said, an individual county will emerge victorious, which leaves open the possibility that Kentucky-based McCoy teams could reign supreme. The county mainly wins bragging rights although there are prizes drawn randomly among all the participants.
In the end, he said, all participants are winners because they are consistently exercising beyond the 60-day mark. Most experts say that it takes doing something consistently for 60 days to create a sustainable habit, he said.
Team captains get weekly newsletters with tips on how to include more walking in a daily routine. Flack also is working to map safe-walking routes in various communities and marking how long each route is. If someone knows a trip down the lane and back is 1.1 miles, for example, that person is more likely to complete the full route.
Plus, he said, everyone who logs 100 miles gets a Healthy Feud T-shirt.
To learn more about the Hatfield-McCoy Walk 100 Miles in 100 Days Healthy Feud, go to MingoDiabetes.com/Walk.