Adventurers of the Week: Olympia couple nears goal to finish a volksmarch in all 50 states

Sheila and Bob Morrison of Olympia pause for a photo during a February volksmarch at Ocean Shores. They have each finished more than 1,400 volksmarches, including ones in every state other than New Mexico and Michigan.
Sheila and Bob Morrison of Olympia pause for a photo during a February volksmarch at Ocean Shores. They have each finished more than 1,400 volksmarches, including ones in every state other than New Mexico and Michigan. Courtesy

Later this month, Bob and Sheila Morrison will visit Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico, to do a little walking and exploring.

The couple, both 74 and retired, will participate in volksmarches and when they’re finished, they will have completed one of these 10-kilometer walks in every state but Michigan. They hope to check Michigan off the list this summer.

“We like to travel,” Bob said. “When we joined volkssporting, we discovered there are clubs all over the nation and all over Europe. So wherever we travel we are able to walk.”

The Morrisons are members of the Capitol Volkssports Club, one of eight South Sound clubs, and typically finish more than 100 volksmarches per year. Since they started in 2004, each has walked more than 15,000 kilometers (more than 9,300 miles).

Some marches are group events and others follow preset course that participants can do any time they like. While walking is the most popular volkssport event, there are also occasional cycling, swimming, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing events. The events are free, but most choose to pay $3 to participate in the award program.

Pins and patches are given for everything from distance to completing challenges such as doing a volksmarch in every Washington county or in every state. Bob helped start a challenge called the Centurion Club for those who do 100 walks in a year.

“You have these books where you keep track and that’s part of the reason I stay motivated,” Sheila said. “You want to add to that as many kilometers as you can. There are people who have walked 30,000 kilometers. We know somebody who has walked 90,000.”

We caught up with the Morrisons the evening before they were to participate in a Tacoma volksmarch and they fielded a few questions about their love for walking.

Q: How did you get into volkssports?

A: (Bob) We have walked for years, in the evening for exercise and we started finding out that our friends were getting older and weren’t walking. We wanted to know some people who walk.

Q: What do you like about volkssports?

A: (Bob) It’s a sport we can do together. It’s not like me going off to the golf course and Sheila going off to play tennis.

Q: It seems like a very social activity.

A: (Bob) Frequently we are walking in groups because the Capitol Volkssport Club is very active. They have walks on Monday, in the summertime walks on Tuesday evenings and walks every Thursday. That’s a social event because it always ends up with lunch. … And when you are traveling, typically if you contact the local club they will come out and walk with you.

A: (Sheila) We’ve made a lot of friends.

Q: Are the walks usually in interesting places?

A: (Sheila) People in that town map out a walk so you get to see interesting things that you might not otherwise see. I mean, there were places in Seattle I didn’t know about.

A: (Bob) It’s great because you see the things that a local person thinks you should see.

Q: What about the health benefits?

A: (Bob) We believe we stay healthier and vibrant because we are active. Walking isn’t very strenuous, but we are doing it enough that we are getting some aerobics. We clip along at 3 mph. We see other people who are not keeping their weight down and not keeping their blood pressure down.

When I was traveling a lot my blood pressure got high. My doc said, “Let’s try some lifestyle changes.” Now that I walk all the time, my blood pressure stays right in line with where it should be. We want to keep doing it as long as we can.

Q: Who’s typically participating?

A: (Sheila) There are a lot of couples. But it is really predominantly women even though there are some single men. Therefore it gives women a chance to walk together. The group aspect is nice. Also, we are kind of old. Most people are retired and have the time to do it. Of course, we’d like younger people to come out too.

Q: Any interesting trips lately?

A: (Bob) We walked the Cotswold Way in England (in November). … We walked that 100 miles over 10 days. It was really up and down. We got some rain. We just loved it. We stayed at a bed-and-breakfast each night. We met lots of people, stopped at lots of pubs and we spent enough time with the people that we were able to appreciate what they do and who they are.

Q: So you do cycling events too?

A: (Bob) We share that with the Puyallup club (Daffodil Valley Volkssport Association). There aren’t a lot of bikers, but the bikers who do them enjoy a ride but are never going to keep up with the club people. They’re going 7-9 mph while all those guys with their Spandex on are going 15-18 mph.

Q: What motivates you to keep doing this?

A: (Bob) I’m more driven by the fact that I just like to walk. When I was traveling in Cincinnati, in the evenings I’d go walk on the dikes along the Ohio River and I would think, “I’m just happy when I’m walking.” So, I guess, I have to walk to keep happy.

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Try volkssport

There are eight volksports clubs in the South Sound area, according to the American Volkssport Association. Find a directory of clubs and events at ava.org.