I should ask if there are any “Volkssporters” out there, because it is not just walking; Volkssporting includes biking and swimming also. Since my wife and I just do the walking, that’s what I’ll focus on here.
As best I can tell, Volksmarching started in the early 1960s in Germany and Austria. It was during the time that jogging was the craze, but too many people were trying to run too fast and too far and were keeling over. As an alternative, a non-competitive walking sport was introduced. The governing body over this was, and still is, the International Volkssporting Verband (IVV).
A club would lay out different distance courses that people could walk at their own pace. The most common distances were 10 kilometers (about 6 miles) and 20 Kilometers (about 12 miles). There would be control points at different intervals where people could rest and get something to drink. The starting point was where you ended the course and there would be more food and drink and often live music playing. I hope you are getting the picture…Germany, food, drink (beer) and music…sounds like a good time, with a bit of exercise thrown in as well.
Over the years, Volkssporting has grown to include biking, swimming, cross-country skiing and even snow-shoe events. It has also spread to all the major countries of the world. My wife and I were fortunate to earn the IVV Europa Cup by completing an IVV walk in fourteen different European countries.
In an effort to facilitate more walkers, clubs have expanded the number and length of the walking routes. The shortest is now 5 kilometers (about 3 miles) and the longest is usually 42 kilometers (about 24 miles). There are some extreme walking events. Belgium has their annual “Death March” of 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) and Nijmegen, in The Netherlands, has their famous 4 day walk where participants walk 42 kilometers a day on four consecutive days. The Nijmegen walk usually capped at about 10,000 participants due to the extreme logistics involved.
Volkssporting was undoubtedly brought to the U.S. by military personnel who fell in love with the activity while stationed in Germany. In the U.S., the IVV is known as the AVA, or American Volkssport Association, with its headquarters in Universal City, Texas, right outside San Antonio. The AVA’s website is: www.ava.org.
There are clubs in every state and they are always looking for new members. Last October my wife and I made a long overdue trip to Ohio. In route to Columbus, we did IVV walks in Xenia and Yellow Springs. While in Columbus, we did the “Ohio Capital Walk” which included German Village. We also did the walk at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. That’s where we saw the two bears, Brutus and Buckeye, as well as the manatee exhibit at the aquarium.
The club in Columbus is known as the “Heart of Ohio Walkers.” If you are interested in more info about this club, send me a PM and I’ll pass it along.
All told, we’ve done about 800 walks all over Europe and the U.S. The places we’ve seen and the people we’ve met have made this sport very rewarding. If you have any interesting Volksmarching stories, I’d love to hear them.