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The Lincoln assassination tour stretches from Lafayette Square to Ford's Theatre and clocks in around 4,500 steps -- one of Snider's shorter tours. (Image: Chuck Carroll)

Walking your way to weight loss, with a history lesson on the side

Almost seven years ago, I lost 265 pounds by walking at least five miles a day. There was a lot more that went into it, but those steps essentially became my sole purpose in life. Pavement was pounded rain or shine along a stretch of the Custis Trail in Arlington, day in and day out.

It’s a decision I’ve come to regret.

Although I’m extremely grateful to have a new lease on life, I kick myself for not exploring trail options beyond the path paralleling I-66. Just a few miles away are some of the most brilliant sites in the country.

If you’ve lived in this area for any length of time, there’s a good chance you’ve become immune to its wonders. It’s nothing to walk by the 555-foot Washington Monument with its dueling off-white colored stones. The same can be said for the 160-year old Capitol Dome, which is still beautiful even when encased in scaffolding. How many times have we walked by the residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue without thinking twice?

We owe it to ourselves to change that.

Rick Snider is ahead of the curve in that regard. A long-time trusted source for Washington Redskins news, he now devotes his weekends to guiding tourists through the city as the founder of Capital Photo History Tours . He concurs that history is often overlooked by locals.

“That’s true wherever you go to live," Snider says. "You’re just living your life -- you’re not going to the Smithsonian or hanging out at the Lincoln Memorial,” he said.

Challenge accepted!

With the sun shining on a seasonably warm July morning, I rolled the dice on Metro and met him outside the White House. When I arrived, he was preparing to embark on the Lincoln assassination tour. But the back story here is that Rick is lucky to be alive to give his favorite tour.

In 2002, Snider suffered a near-fatal heart attack at Redskins Park; the “widow maker” kills 19 out of 20 men it strikes. He would have become a statistic had it not been for the quick action of the team’s medical staff.

Today, he’s a much healthier man due in large part to the 14,000 – 20,000 steps required on an average tour day. Over the past year, he’s lost an impressive 55 pounds.

“I’m in the best shape of my life,” he boasts. “I used to be really tired when I would do these tours -- I mean exhausted. Now it doesn’t bother me much. I can walk all day.”

As the tour group gathers in Lafayette Square, Snider introduced us to the cast of characters involved in Lincoln’s assassination; a group that extends well beyond the president and John Wilkes Booth.

We learn of a scandalous affair that led to a deadly shooting across from the White House in 1859. The high society murder formed the basis of the modern “temporary insanity” defense.

About 1,000 steps later Snider chuckles as he reveals the alcohol-fueled decision to construct the Treasury Building so close to the White House. A few minutes and 1,200 steps later I learned history is at our feet at Freedom Plaza. Did you know the original plans for the White House and Capitol are outlined in bronze on the pavement?

We kept going, hanging on every word as Snider reveals more about Booth’s hastily-fashioned assassination plot; his getaway, an undiscovered confession letter, the co-conspirators and those who were ultimately hanged for the slightest involvement. By the time we reach Ford’s Theatre, our minds are filled with stories never printed in any school text book I ever read.

At 4,500 steps, this is among Snider’s shortest tours, but it’s also among the richest in history. Roundtrip, the steps are doubled and it’s not uncommon to go out more than once in a day. Snider estimates he takes 1.4 million steps every year giving tours, which amounts to roughly 700 miles and an astonishing 340,000 calories burned.

He’s getting exercise, staying fit, and people pay $20-$40 to join him. He’s a genius.