Walkers, their red club T-shirts a bright contrast to the grey, overcast sky, gather at a year-round-event starting point, Beanies Coffee Bar in Ladner. Cheery greetings are exchanged; newcomers welcomed. Record books are stamped and maps distributed. Promptly at 10 a.m., with four-legged Flair and her biped partner Reg Dutton leading the way, members of the Surrey Trekkers Volkssport Club step out.
Putting their best feet forward is a way of life for these folks. They walk - for Fun, Fitness and Friendship (the club’s motto) and, at the end of some walks - food. Volkssporting activities also include cycling, swimming, cross-country skiing, inline and ice-skating but, by far, the most popular is walking.
“The goal of the group is to promote health and fitness through non-competitive outdoor activity,” says club president Brenda Dudfield, who, with husband Frank has been a member since 1992. “Walking is a great way to learn about an area, get exercise, meet new people and have fun.”
Activities are self-paced, which allows members to travel at their own speed. “We encourage participants to track and record their own personal accomplishment through event and distance stamps, which are kept in a record book,” says Brenda.
Newcomers to the club can participate in their first five walks free, using a free stamp book. Those wishing to participate in the Individual Achievement Award Program purchase record books. Most walkers choose to participate in both categories: Distance covered in kilometres, and Number of Events completed. Certificates, pins and sew-on patches are awarded at various levels.
A non-profit organization, volkssporting costs are kept to a minimum. A nominal registration fee of $1 or $2 is charged when registering for each event. Record books are $7 (which covers the cost of awards) and the annual membership fee is $15. All monies collected are used to pay program administration costs and event sanction fees.
Two main types of events are offered: Guided or Map Walks on a fixed day with a guide, or maps with instructions, and Year Round Events (YRE) or Seasonal Events, which are self-guided, with self-registration. These are also done as a group. Routes are numbered and dated by year. Walkers, whether in a group or walking alone, are supplied with maps and written instructions at the starting point. Annual events, Volksmarches, are held on a fixed date with marked trails and checkpoints.
Each route and trail is selected by area volkssporting clubs, measured for distance, access and walk-ability, and is rated on an incline scale of 1-5 (flat to hilly) and terrain (scale A-E - easy to difficult). Most walks are 10 kilometres, but some have shorter (5 km) options. Trails are also selected for natural beauty, scenic, geographic, local or historic interest.
To add to the fun, special YRE/SEAS events are designed so that walkers must pass within sight of a unique landmark or site such as a cenotaph or war memorial, a lighthouse, covered bridge, or a winery, cheese factory or brewery. For the Scholar program, a walker must pass alongside or through a formal educational institution. In Canada, special awards are given for walking in all 13 provinces and territories, and provincial capitals. Right now, the Club is co-sponsoring a special challenge in honour of the Olympics/Paralympics with bronze, silver and gold award certificates given for completing 5, 7 or 8 events.
Rain or shine (cancelled only when weather conditions present a safety hazard), Lower Mainland events are held every Saturday, Sunday and holiday, usually starting at 10 a.m. In winter, walks are also scheduled for Wednesday afternoons and in summer on Thursday evenings in Surrey.
Event planning is arranged together with sister club, Vancouver ‘Venturers, and can take place as far west as the Gulf Islands, north to Whistler and as far east as the Othello tunnels in Hope. Although many members are in the 50+ category, walks are open to people of all ages and ability.
Historically, translated from German as “the sport of the people,” volkssporting originated in Europe in the mid 1960s in response to the need for some type of outdoor sport free from competition. The movement grew rapidly and, in 1968, the International Volkssport Band (IVV) or International Federation of Popular Sports was formed to promote Volkssporting worldwide. Forty member countries currently participate. In 1986, the Canadian Volkssport Federation (CVF) was formed and now has 50 member clubs throughout most regions of Canada.
Returning to the starting point, Flair completes the 10 km walk with no problem. Like her canine cousin, Lassie, she has stamina to burn. “She likes to play more when we get home,” laughs Reg.
Today, the 20 or so of the club’s 90 members who turned out for the Ladner walk, return in good form and regroup at nearby Speed’s Pub for lunch. Some fast pacers arrive early, having completed the walk in 1 hour 45 minutes. Others take a little more time, but all are ready to enjoy good food and a leisurely chat.
The benefits of volkssporting are many. Enthusiastic walkers like retired teacher Rita Hopmans, a member since 1995, will walk another 10-20 kilometres later in the day. “Walking makes me feel good,” she says. “I can walk long distances; up to 30 km a day.” With upwards of 25,000 km in her distance record book, Rita is working, or walking, towards her next goal of 30,000 km.
Joanne Gormley and husband, Joe, joined the group a year ago after Joanne experienced some serious health issues. “I love being outdoors, and the exercise helps me keep fit,” she says.
Having friends to walk with, especially in places where it might not be safe to walk alone is a bonus, especially for women. It's one of the incentives that keep the very active group together; another is the opportunity for foreign travel. With established routes and events in Canada, the U.S. and 40 countries participating in the volkssport’s program, individuals can walk the trails and attend events, alone or in groups, in any country of their choice.
Volkssporting is not only fun, it keeps you fit, provides opportunity for lasting friendships, gets you out of the house and car, and is a great way to see other parts of the city, country and the world.
APRIL 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER AND LOWER MAINLAND
For further information contact:
Brenda Dudfield: President
Surrey Trekkers Volkssports Club
Vancouver ‘Venturers Volkssports Club
Contact: Verni Brown
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