Just what is "Volkswalking"?

Volkswalking comes from the German term "Volksmarch" that literally means "a people's walk." It's a noncompetitive outdoor walk, usually 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) through a scenic, historic, or interesting area over a predetermined route. Sometimes there is a 5 kilometer (3.1 miles) option. Volkswalks provide opportunities for people to see new countryside and landmarks, meet other people, and collect incentive awards. It's not a contest. Anyone who completes the course is eligible to receive an award designed for the event. This is usually a medal or a special patch with the payment of the appropriate fee. Everyone is a winner.

The purpose of Volkswalking is to encourage people of all ages to participate in the healthful hobby of hiking/walking/running on a noncompetitive basis. This makes Volkswalking an excellent recreational activity for the entire family.

The IVV, or International Federation of Popular Sports, was founded by Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein in 1968. It is the parent organization of an ever-increasing number of affiliates around the world. Among the largest is the AVA, the American Volkssport Association, located in Universal City, Texas, which oversees the events sponsored by more than 350 Volkssporting clubs in the United States.

Brought to the U.S. by servicemembers returning from Europe, Volkswalking is rapidly gaining popularity in the United States. Come participate in one of these walks, and discover for yourself why thousands of people of all ages in this country have joined the sport of Volkswalking.

The IVV, which governs volkssporting, has an incentive awards program which is separate from the medal/patch offered at each event.

You can participate in this program simply by purchasing (for $6.00 each) record books for events and distance, which are valid indefinitely and are honored at any IVV sanctioned Volkssport event worldwide. At each IVV event you complete, you are eligible to present your IVV distance and event books at the finish point and receive the official IVV ink stamp when you turn in your validated start card.

The different levels of achievement for events are: 10, 30, 50, and every 25 additional events, and for distance: every 500 km.

The first event book is completed when it contains 10 different IVV ink stamps; the first distance book is completed when it contains at least 500 km. All kilometers over 500 are automatically credited toward the next 500 km. When one book is completed, it must be sent to the AVA National Office, who will then mail the appropriate award, consisting of a stick pin, patch, and certificate. The name of each person receiving an achievement award is published in the official publication of the American Volkssport Association, "The American Wanderer." IVV record books are always on sale at each Volkswalk.

How do I find out about walks?

Volkswalks are sponsored by individual clubs. Some clubs sponsor one walk a year; many will sponsor several. Some clubs maintain mailing lists, but a person can always write to a club and ask to receive information (brochures) about their scheduled walks. A calendar of scheduled walks is published in The American Wanderer, the official bimonthly publication of the AVA. You may subscribe to The American Wanderer by writing to the American Volkssport Association, Suite 101, 1001 Pat Booker Road, Universal City, TX 78148. However, the best way to find out about walks in your area is to participate in a Volkswalk and pick up brochures about upcoming walks. There will always be a table at the start area at each walk with these free brochures.

Brochures contain a drawing of the award on the front, and the location (town) and dates for the event. Inside the brochure will be other important information such as start and finish times, where to send preregistration fees, last day to preregister, description of the course. There will also be a map or directions to the area, and a contact person to call or write for more information, if needed.

Do I have to be a member to participate?

You do not have to be a member of any Volkswalk club to participate in walks. However, if you would like to become involved with others who are interested in walking and in helping to plan walks, all clubs are happy to have new members. Benefits to club members and membership fees vary from club to club. It is a good way to meet new people, and it is a lot of fun to work together at a walk and participate in walks together.

How much does it cost?

Anyone can walk free at any Volkswalk event. However, if you want an award, the fee is usually $6.00 or $7.00 for the patch or medal and the IVV credit stamps in your books. The fee for the award is usually $1.00 less if you preregister for the event. If you want only the IVV credit stamp in your books, fees are normally $3.00.

The award may be an embroidered patch, and enameled, cloisonné or pewter medal or pin, or some other item, as designed by the sponsoring club. The brochure will describe the type and appearance of the award.

How do I register for a walk?

You may preregister for a Volkswalk by sending the required fee and form to the sponsoring club. Brochures will contain a preregistration form and information as to the fee and cutoff date.

An advantage of preregistering is to assure receiving the award on the day of the walk, as awards are set aside first for those who preregister. Walkers who register on the day of the walk will receive their award as long as the supply lasts; others will have their awards mailed, and award reorders can take eight to twelve weeks.

There is no refund if you are unable to make it to a preregistered walk. Volkswalks are not canceled because of bad weather.

How do I get to a Volkswalk event?

The brochure will give directions to the start place from the nearest highway. Look for directional signs as you near the start point. Walks often begin at a recreational area or a park.

When do the walks normally start?

Volkswalks usually open between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. and close between 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.. Check the times listed in the brochure because different walks may have different hours. Take your time and enjoy the walk and the companionship of other participants.

Walkers may walk alone or in groups. Some Volkswalkers will walk the course two or more times; this is allowed providing they finish before the announced closing time. Distance credit is given for completing the walk multiple times, but only one event credit is given for a walk.

Generally, the sponsoring club will place a large start sign and IVV flag or banner at the start place to make it easily seen by approaching motorists. The start place will include multiple tables with signs showing registration, start point and finish point, etc. Register if you did not preregister, then pick up your start card. Each person walking, even free walkers, must obtain and fill out a start card and carry it on the walk.

How will I know where to go?

Directional signs or bright plastic tape will be posted by the event sponsor to designate the walk route. To be sure a walker completes the required distance (and to keep people from getting lost), checkpoints are set up along the course, at which all walkers must stop and got a stamp or punch on their start cards. There may be one to four checkpoints on a walk.

What can I expect at the completion of the walk?

When you arrive back at the start/finish point, you will turn in your start card so that the event sponsor knows that you completed the course, and you will have your IVV books stamped for credit and receive your award, depending on the fee you paid.

Year-Round Events

Another kind of Volkswalk is the Year Round Event (YRE). Rather than being a scheduled, one-time Volkswalk, this is a permanent, any day walk. A YRE is typically available 365 days per year, during daylight hours. The start point is usually at a local business that has agreed to keep the self-service briefcase/box/kit. Hours and days available will depend on the business at the start point. Check points may also be located at a business.

The start point kit will contain an instruction sheet describing exactly what to do at the start and finish of your walk. Be sure to take a start card and a directions sheet/map from the kit to guide you along the trail which will not be marked like a scheduled Volkswalk. YRE award patches/medals are usually $6.00/$7.00 and may be available immediately in the kit or may be mailed to you one to three weeks after completing the walk. The award fee includes IVV credit stamps; for IVV credit stamps only the fee is is normally $3.00. For a YRE, the IVV event credit can be stamped once in the first half of the year and once in the second half of the year, but the distance credit book can be stamped as often as you complete the YRE.

YRE walks provide opportunities for participating in a Volkswalk at your own convenience any day of the year. Many people walk YRE walks regularly, providing them with healthful exercise as well accumulating kilometer credits toward IVV awards. Vacations can often include YREs. There are several hundred YREs now available in the United States, with more added each year.