In the sport of volksmarching, the attraction isn’t trying to walk the farthest or the fastest.
Those who love it have found themselves hiking over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco or crossing between the thundering halves of Niagara Falls.
In a single 10-kilometer course, they might find a classic movie theater, a family-owned bakery or an original Carnegie library.
Volksmarching combines hiking with scavenger hunts, taking participants along a preset course while encouraging them to find unique landmarks, answer trivia questions and look for clues along the way.
People aren’t racing to be first or competing against anyone besides themselves. All they have to do is finish.
“You don’t see those kinds of things in a car,” Greenwood resident Jan Van Vlack said. “These walks take you to points that you wouldn’t see otherwise.”
Van Vlack has been volksmarching for the past four years. An avid walker already, she could be found bounding through her neighborhood and along Greenwood’s trails to stay in shape.
But when a friend introduced her to volksmarching, she found a way to get exercise in a social, entertaining way. Now, it’s not unusual for her to do six miles or more every day, with weekends coming in clumps of 20-mile marches.
“There’s no pressure, and you can take as long as you want to finish. When I go to a place that I’m not familiar with, I find a volksmarch,” she said.
The activity originated in Germany in the 1960s as part of the volkssports (“sports of the people”) movement. People were looking for a way to exercise in a free, noncompetitive sport that included all ages. Though volkssports included cross-country skiing, bicycling and swimming, walking became the most popular.