If you are not familiar with Volksmarching, I’ll tell you ALL about it in a minute. But first …
Here is WHY Volksmarching could be (should be) a corner stone of your Walking Program:
- It is fun
- Make new friends
- You get to meet people, locally or around the world if you want
- It is available in over 40 countries around the world
- A huge motivator to get out and walk
- There are city walks and country walks, take your pick
- A great excuse to travel
- You have the opportunity to explore and enjoy the safety of a group
- You can walk at your own pace
- No need to be an “athlete”
- You can incentivize your walking program with stamps, stickers, pins, and badges
- You can set small goals (5km) or massive goals (100,000+ miles)
- Add a little or a lot to your regular walking program
What is Volksmarching?
Volksmarching (from German “Volksmarsch”, people’s march) is a form of non-competitive fitness walking that developed in Europe in the mid-late 1960s. There are now over 4,000 local clubs that make volksmarching available in at least 40 countries worldwide.
There are over 600 volksmarching clubs in the US and Canada. This year there are over 3,000 sanctioned U.S. volkssport events with participation open to the general public.
One of the unique aspects of volksmarching is the Achievement Awards Program in which participants can enroll in incentive programs keeping records of distances walked and events completed. Record books are purchased for a nominal fee. Many of the event walks have pins and sew on patches available and some of them even give out prizes for various accomplishments.
Set Your Walking Goals — Big or Small
I was introduced to volksmarching over 20 years ago by a friend. We were to meetup with a group of walkers at the beginning of a permanent trail. My friend ended up not making it, so I was on my own. NO problem. The event organizer told me all about the organization, how it worked and how I could join. Your first event is free, then you can purchase a “book” that tracks your walks along with “completion stamps.”
I was intrigued by the books and stamps, so one of the ladies in the group showed me her book. It was almost filled up. When the book is full, you send it in and get a certificate of completion and another book. The woman I was talking to (Joan) said that so far she had filled up 75 books. When I gasped, she said “that’s nothing.”
Joan called over Andrea who looked to be in her early 60’s. Turned out she was 75! Andrea said “walking keeps me young.” Hmmmm I thought. “Good advertisement.” What Andrea told me simply blew me away. I had NO idea.
She had started with her first volksmarch while in Germany on a holiday. She was hooked from her very first walk. Andrea walked over to her car and hauled out a jacket. It was literally covered with pins and patches. All from events covering the world.
She said that she had just finished walking every state in the US and every province in Canada for the THIRD time.
She said she has never grown tired of collecting pins and badges. She has filled up too many books to count and here she was doing a regular weekday 10K walk to collect another stamp.
Both Joan and Andrea were BIG enthuiasts who had literally walked over a hundred thousand miles. But they both encouraged me, and slowed down to accommodate me, as I started to walk slower and slower over my last few kilometers. They said … you can stay slow, or you can get faster. It doesn’t matter. Just walk, enjoy your surroundings and enjoy your walking companions.
Permanent Trails, Events and Sanctioned Events
Permanent trails are mapped out and are open year round for walking. Some of them are open 24 hours a day, others are opened specific days and hours. For example, one of the few indoor “trails” is in the West Edmonton Mall. You can walk the trail as long as the Mall is opened, all you need to do is register at the easily accessible box during regular mall hours.
Another permanent trail starts inside a “running room” store. During opening hours you register and off you go. There is actually nothing preventing you from walking the trail without registering … but IF you want a stamp in your book, you need to register.
Events may or may not be listed on a club’s website. For example that first walk I did, over 20 years ago? It was a informal weekly event. Anyone who showed up at the start of the trail at 5:00 pm on Thursdays was part of the event.
Sanctioned events are normally planned well in advance, and are either a one day event or a weekend event. These are official events that often have hundreds of participants. They may be sponsored by businesses and offer goodies in addition to your official participation stamps.
I regularly went to sanctioned events in Vancouver, BC. One of them had over 1100 participants and 4 different trail choices. It was sponsored by two local running stores and a local restaurant. We were given a nice little welcome package with a pin and a patch, discount coupons for the stores, as well as a liter of bottled water. At the end of the walk … water, coffee, soda and cookies were available as part of the package … and there were several food trucks selling a variety of goodies.
Volksmarching is addictive. You will find yourself exploring more and meeting like-minded people. You can enjoy the company of others, laughter, interesting conversations, all while getting some mood lifting exercise and fresh air.
My suggestion is to find a walk that is 5 or 6 kilometers (3.1 or 3.7 miles). Once you are comfortable with 5K then tackle a 10K walk. And don’t be afraid to walk at your preferred pace. If you simply can’t walk fast, don’t feel intimidated into walking faster than comfortable. The whole idea of volksmarching is NO competition. This means accommodating both fast and slow walkers.
Interested in finding out more?
Here are several country links … from the country websites you can access calendar events for across the country. You can also drill down to local chapters and get started by this weekend!
- American Volkssport Association (AVA)
- The Canadian Volkssport Federation (CVF)
- Britian, Ireland, Scotland, Wales