Orv and Dian Lee have walked more than 13,400 kilometers and it’s not a leisurely stroll through their neighborhood, either.
The Lees are volkswalkers, which is German for “Walk of the People.”
Orv is the Eastern Washington Volkssport Club coordinator and former vice president and president of the Lilac City Volkssport Association.
“The position came open, so I was appointed to fill out a year’s term and then I was elected for two years,” he said.
Orv said he doesn’t want to be on the administrative side anymore and would like to get back to just enjoying the walks.
Volkswalking is a 10K (6.2 mile) or 12K non-competitive event for beginning to advanced walkers, generally organized by the host city’s volkssport club. Several clubs offer a 5K walk for beginners. Running the course is optional.
“We started in 1987, because Orv had high blood pressure,” Dian said. “We had read that if you get out and do a lot of walking, it helps with your high blood pressure.”
Dian said they first read about volkswalking when The Spokesman-Review years ago previewed a walk in Kettle Falls. They decided to give it a try and haven’t stopped walking since.
“Some of the walks are through historic areas,” Orv said. “Some of them are through cities and parks. Some of them are wilderness walks.”
Orv and Dian have walked in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Texas and Canada.
Volkswalking is one of the fastest growing recreations in the United States. The American Volkssport Association sanctions 700 clubs in the country. The Lilac City Club has 100 members. The Lees believe volkswalking is becoming more popular because of national publicity, the family atmosphere that surrounds the event, the scenic trails and the cost.
“People can walk for free (and) it’s open to anybody,” said Dian. “They’re only charged if they keep the record book and if they want to order a pin.” A record book is given to each participant so they’re able to keep track of their mileage and the events they enter.
Most walkers who are not members of a club are families with children, strollers, and sometimes dogs that make a day trip out of it.
“If they have kids with them sometimes they stop and have a snack,” said Dian.
There is no set time limit on a volkswalk. The organizers do like to have walkers off the trails by 4 p.m. Dian said the average person can finish the course in 2-1/2 hours. “It depends whether they have a camera and they’re sight-seeing along the way,” Orv said.
Trails are rated from one to five, with five being the most difficult. Most clubs have trail markers and sometimes a map for walkers to follow.
“The trails are always well marked with flags. They’re very organized walks,” said Dian.
The clubs usually have someone to coordinate a particular event and get what is called a trailmaster who decides where the trail will be, Orv said.
“That’s the biggest job, really,” he said, “because it takes a lot of studying around (the area) to develop a trail.”
Dian said they’re working on a trail now. Several more trips will be necessary before they start marking the trail.
Volkswalking came to the States through the military.
There are several volkssports besides walking - such as swimming, biking, cross country skiing, and in some areas rollerblading and snowshoeing.
Lilac City offers a daily walk year-round, starting and finishing at Deaconess Medical Center. Walkers can pick up a map at the switchboard from 8 a.m. to noon and start walking.
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MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: A CLOSER LOOK There are several volkssport clubs in the Inland Northwest. Spokane has two, Lilac City and Valley of the Sun in Otis Orchards. The West Plains Trekkers walk in Cheney and the Selkirk Striders and Coeur d’Alene Volkssport Club are located in Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene. The Lilac City Club will sponsor the Lilac Festival Volkswalk on May 18 at Audubon Park to coincide with the Lilac Festival’s Torchlight Parade. Idaho events include The Selkirk Striders’ fifth annual seasonal walk at Farragut State Park in Athol, Idaho, May 25-Oct. 6. Contacts: Orv or Dian Lee, Lilac City, 489-3198; Bill Stockman, Selkirk Striders, (208) 263-2792; John Huber, CdA Volkssport Club, (208) 667-6525.