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Thanks, Mom, from Dairy Queen to Global Volksmarching

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Wendy Bumgardner, who hosts the website walking.about.com, posted a question to Facebook this morning asking about walking mom memories. Instantly, I thought of walking to Dairy Queen with my mother and brother on hot summer evenings in Kansas. We usually got a small cone or some sort of slushy drink, and on one of the walks, I found a whole nickel and felt so rich! As a kid we pretty much walked everywhere since Mom's medical issues prevented her from driving. School was about 3/4 mile away and included a busy intersection. The grocery store was a mile in one direction, DQ a like distance in the other. Even the closest bus stop was several blocks away for trips beyond walking distance. But we walked, and I credit my mom with giving me "walking legs."

As an adult, I got away from walking, turning into a running snob. Then, predictably, the knees gave out, and I went back to walking. Fortunately, a colleague introduced me to volksmarches or "people's walks," a sport service members brought back from Germany (www.ava.org is the place for info). The story is that volksmarching was created in response to increasing numbers of competitive events that could have only one winner. In volksmarching, the standard distance is 10K (about 6 miles), though shorter distances are available, and every finisher is a winner; I have boxes of patches, suncatchers, and other trinkets to prove it.

Over time, DH and I were drawn to longer walks in more exotic locations, and we discovered the International Marching League Walking Association, an umbrella organization for walking festivals around the world (www.imlwalking.org). DH calls it "volksmarching on steroids," since the minimum requirement for a stamp in the IMLWA passport is 2 days of walking 20K (a little over 12 miles) each day. In fact, our honeymoon was spent at the festivals in Wonju, Korea, and Hagashimatsuyama, Japan.

Most IMLWA events, though, offer longer distances up to 50K. The most strenuous walk we did was in Nijmegen, Netherlands: 4 days, 50K/day earned us the Queen's Medal. No need to prove anything to anybody after that, though we did return twice for shorter distances. Other places we've walked in this series include England, Ireland, Austria, Germany (many times), Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, U.S., Taiwan, New Zealand, and Australia. In a couple of weeks we leave for Luxembourg's event to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the founding of the IMLWA. Looking forward to seeing this country neither of us has been to before.

When we return, it will be time to start preparing for the DC IMLWA event in October, the US FreedomWalk Festival (www.usfreedomwalk.org). DH liked the concept so much he founded this walk, the only one of the series still operating in North America, as the walks in Vancouver, WA, and Victoria, BC, have closed down. Seems on this continent, it's hard to attract walkers and volunteers for health-oriented, non-charity events. Too bad, but we'll keep walking for our health anyway.

Happy trails!
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