Saturday, I headed over to Headwaters Park and did the Three Rivers Strollers annual Germanfest Volksmarch. I ran the 10Ks in 1 hour 12 minutes and 2 seconds. I was not running a race. In fact, Volksmarching came about in the late 1960s to early 1970s in response to the first running craze.
Volksmarch, or people’s walk, originated in Germany. There, walks would attract hundreds, if not a thousand or so, participants, and everyone got a medal. Walks were non-competitive and everyone walked at his or her own pace. American GIs introduced to Volksmarching on their tours of Germany brought the sport to the U.S. I was an American GI introduced to Volksmarching while I was in Gernany in 1977-1979. I enjoyed the walks and festive atmosphere that surrounded them. I did not consider myself a runner, and I enjoyed them. When I got home, I discovered the Three Rivers Strollers and their walks.
The founder of the club was not a GI returning from Germany but rather a school teacher who had taught at Department of Defense schools in Germany. He organized the Three Rivers Strollers and put on Volksmarches long before the sanctioned American Volkssport Association was formed
Saturday’s Volksmarch was my first in nearly a year. My wife, son and I drove up to Pokagon State Park in August and walked a year-round walk that starts from the Potawatami Inn. The next day, I took our car to the shop and well, we are now a car-free family (but that’s another story). I stopped going to Volksmarches for a variety of reasons. I was a new father and taking a baby to walks was not a problem where strollers were OK. It’s when he began toddling and didn’t want to ride in the stroller that Volksmarching became an issue. Imagine walking 10Ks with a little person walking about a half a mile and hour. That’s about how fast he walked back then. Other things took over our interests and Volksmarching fell by the wayside.
Nine years ago, I worried about the future of Volksmarching in this country. Walks barely drew 50 participants. Even that rare walk that drew 100 or more, many of those first-time walkers rarely came back for a second walk. I’d go to walks across Indiana and see the same faces. Rarely did I see a new face. Walks in Ohio, particularly in the Dayton area (home of Wright Patterson Air Force Base), drew larger crowds but still nothing like the festive atmosphere that surrounded the walks I did in Germany.
I had fun on Saturday. I saw some familiar faces and found out that the Three Rivers Strollers’ next walk, July 20, is at Eagle Marsh. That walk is during the Three Rivers Festival. I think I’ll get up early that day and go over to Eagle Marsh and walk. Maybe I’ll catch up with some old friends. Maybe some new faces will show up and want to keep walking.