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Walking across Whidbey: A sport of the people
Three days, five routes, one healthy lifestyle.
This weekend the Northwest Tulip Trekkers, an outdoor walking club, are hosting the fifth Whidbey Walking Festival. From Friday, Sept. 10, to Sunday, Sept. 12, the Trekkers have five walks planned that showcase the island's views of Ebey's Landing, Penn Cove and the Olympic Mountains. The walks are between three and seven miles, and Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard will host one on Friday.
Whidbey resident Curt Myron, the director of the Whidbey Walking Festival, said the focus of the event is fun and fitness.
"The whole purpose of our sport is to encourage a healthy lifestyle through non-competitive sporting events open to all people," he said.
The Trekkers club is part of the American Volkssport Association which has sporting events all over the country. Volkssporting originated in southern Germany and translates as "sport of the people." Its philosophy stresses exercising at one's own pace and using physical activities to get away from the stress of everyday life.
Curt and his wife, Martha, have been participating in walking festivals for more than 20 years. Together they have traveled to 48 states and 28 countries for events. So far Curt has walked about 8,700 miles and has done 1,250 walks. He said this weekend's event is one of the largest in the area.
"Any time I get the opportunity to combine walking with a weekend I do so," he said. "This event is good because it's really nice to be able to show off the beauty of our island, and it doesn't hurt for visitors to leave some of their income here."
Martha said the event is appealing because it's adaptable for every individual.
"You can do it as extreme as you want," she said. "You can do it for the friendship of walking with others, or you can do it alone."
Curt began doing test runs of the walking routes last weekend to ensure the paths were clear and in good shape. He said depending on a person's interests, some of the walks may seem more favorable than others, but they're all good.
This year Curt expects at least 400 people to participate in the walks. He said in past events hundreds of people have turned out with 89 percent of the participants coming from outside Island County and 69 percent coming from out of state. In the last festival, people came from seven different states, Canada and Germany.
In addition to the walks, there's a meet 'n' greet scheduled on Friday with appetizers and a Bratwurst barbeque and Bluegrass show on Saturday at Jenne Farm.
Each of the routes will be clearly marked and walkers will be given maps and directions. Additionally, the walks are open to everyone, even dogs. Registration for the events is free and can be completed at the Coupeville Recreation Hall. Participants can volunteer to pay $3 for the walks and will receive a booklet to help track their progress. Shirts and hats can be purchased to commemorate the event and door prizes will be rewarded throughout the weekend.
For a full schedule of events and details, see the Trekkers' website.