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Volksmarching: a perfect way to enjoy spring, make new friendships

BINSFELD, Germany -- A group of volksmarchers enjoys the first rays of sunshine during a march through the Binsfeld forest. Volksmarches follow a circular route starting and ending at the same clubhouse, tent or community center. The customary sign-up fee is 2-3 euros. (Photo by Iris Reiff)

BINSFELD, Germany -- A group of volksmarchers enjoys the first rays of sunshine during a march through the Binsfeld forest. Volksmarches follow a circular route starting and ending at the same clubhouse, tent or community center. The customary sign-up fee is 2-3 euros. (Photo by Iris Reiff)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- With spring temperatures rising, volksmarching is an ideal form of exercise for the whole family and an excellent way for Americans to get to see more of their host country while meeting their German neighbors.

Volksmarching evolved from public running races sponsored by sporting clubs in southern Germany in the early 1960's. Competition was fierce during these races, with prizes awarded for the best times.

From 1966 until 1967, new rules were established by the International Federation of Popular States which eliminated times and provided a medal or award for everyone completing the walk at their own pace, within a reasonable time.

Volksmarching can be a lot of fun. Volksmarches follow a circular route starting and ending at the same clubhouse, tent or community center. At the clubhouse you register, pay the tour fee, collect a trophy, eat, drink and meet people.

The customary sign-up fee is 2-3 euros. At the beginning of the volksmarch, a registration or start card may be purchased for IVV credit and walk insurance on the trail. This start card is stamped at the control points along the route. If a person wants a trophy, the charge is usually an additional 5-6 euros. For registration, go to the table marked Gruppenmeldung or group-registration. People who are not yet registered and want to get an award afterward may go to the table marked Nachmeldungen or late registration.

Volksmarchers are always on marked, public paths accessible to anybody.
The hikes are almost always through woods and fields. The first checkpoint is usually three or four kilometers into the course where the card is stamped for the second time. Also, where refreshments are available for purchase.

It's usually after the first checkpoint that the course is split into either 10- or 20- kilometer trails. There will be another checkpoint on the course that is exclusively for 20-kilometer hikers, and the two trails generally merge once more before the final checkpoint. Sometimes, there are also longer distances such as 42, 100 or more kilometers for more experienced walkers.

After having the card stamped at checkpoints, show it to club officials who present the trophies. Common trophies include medals, plaques, beer mugs, wine glasses, wine pitchers, pewter or china plates, each reflecting the particular hike.

By now the starting area point looks like a festival. Usually local club members or people from the town offer home-made cake and coffee. Bratwurst and beverage stands are also available at most places.

It isn't difficult for anyone in Germany to take part in a volksmarch. There are more than 2,000 sport clubs across the country and nearly all of them organize at least one volksmarch each year. These club events are usually held Saturdays and Sundays, as well as on holidays all year round.

The Eifel Wanderers of Spangdahlem are a sanctioned club under the IVV/DVV and are willing to help teach people the ins and outs of volksmarching. Information on the club and on upcoming volksmarches is posted on the Spangdahlem fitness center bulletin board. Upcoming volksmarches will also be announced in The Saber Herald.