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Walking club gets back on its feet

POULSBO — On an unusually sunny and warm January morning last weekend, the New Havne Veien Walkway was filled with people decked out in fleeces, light jackets and walking shoes and armed with water bottles and portable CD players.

While it’s not unusual to see residents and tourists trekking around Little Norway on such mornings, the group in front of Liberty Bay Books had different aspirations.

The Kitsap Volkssporters club was revived Jan. 17, as more than 75 people, including children and dogs, showed up to participate in the 10-kilometer walk.

The Kitsap group had been under the leadership of the Olympic Peninsula Explorer’s Club for the past three years, until experienced Volkssporter and Keyport resident Rob Williams decided to get the local chapter up and running again. And based on Saturday’s turnout, it doesn’t seem like he’ll have any problem with club participation.

“I think by the turnout today, I think that’s a great sign,” Williams said of his hopes for the club to grow.

The German term Volkssport means “the sport of the people” and while the Kitsap club plans to focus on walking, other clubs around the world include other sports, such as hiking, swimming or bicycling. The sport became popular in the United States in the 1970s.

There are seven established event routes in Kitsap County — one in Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, Poulsbo, Hansville, Port Gamble and two in Silverdale. Events take place about once a month at different locations. The walks are non-competitive and participants can travel at a leisurely pace, completing the routes in about two to two and a half-hours.

Participation in any of the events is free but club officials ask that people register at the “walk box,” which is set up at the starting point.

However, if participants want to keep track of their distance and the number of events they complete through the American Volkssporting Association, there is a fee for club booklets. After completing certain distances, participants can also earn pins and patches for their achievements.

“There has to be some way to pay the people in Austin, Texas who keep track of your distance,” joked Evergreen State Volkssporting Association Northwest Coordinator Victor McAllister to the gathering crowd Saturday morning. “I can’t say how excited I am by all the people here.”

The morning’s event brought both new and experienced Volkssporters from all over Kitsap as well as from outside the county.

Kingston resident Fran Larrabee has been Volkssporting for about 17 years.

“For the exercise and all the different places you can go,” Larrabee said of why she participates. Her experience was evident by the various types of sporting patches that were stitched to her jacket, each claiming a different area or event in which she participated. Larrabee walks about two or three times a year and has completed routes in Vancouver, Spokane, Yakima, Seattle, Tacoma and Portland, Ore.

Diane Allen of Silverdale has been Volkssporting since 1987.

“It’s just a wonderful way to see different places, towns and people,” Allen said. “You’re going slow enough to see all the nice little things.”

She and Susan Leggett of Port Townsend also noted how it’s a good way to meet new people and a great way to exercise.

“It’s a healthy thing to do, I think,” Leggett added.

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