Hilltop resident Ann Nicholson and her sister Bea Fulton were looking for a different type of exercise a few years ago when they learned about what is commonly known as the sport of the people.
“We had done the Metro Parks walks every winter for several years,” Nicholson said.
She told her sister “this is getting boring. It’s the same old, same old.”
That’s when the two sisters found the sport of the people – volkssporting, a non-competitive, inexpensive and family-oriented exercise program, offered in 45 countries of the world.
Since January 2002 when Nicholson learned about volkssporting, she has walked in the 48 contiguous states and just recently completed her “Walk the 88 Counties” program by walking in all 88 counties of Ohio.
“I enjoy the weekend trips and holiday trips,” she said of why she does the activity. “It gives you a chance to do inexpensive little trips and get to see what the United States and Ohio has to offer.”
Not to mention the many people she has met along the way.
It’s not unusual for Nicholson and friends to carpool to the regularly scheduled walk on a Saturday morning, whether it be in Sidney, where she got her 88th county, or across town to do a walk in Reynoldsburg, which has a designation of a year-round event or one that can be done any day of the year.
She remembers doing her first walk with friends, driving to Dresden where they did one of the year-round events that passed stores that handle the famed Longaberger baskets.
And she remembers that brisk morning in January 2002 when she and her sister Bea climbed into a van with others headed to Hueston Woods for a walk.
Conversation that trip centered on walks the people had done, some of the sights they had seen, people they had met. Veteran walkers feared they might intimidate a new walker.
“It didn’t scare me off,” said Nicholson, who has participated in 420 events and has 4,137 kilometers to her credit.
In addition to completing the Walk the 88 program where she will get a certificate and special patch, she has accumulated many other patches and certificates to show for her efforts.
In volkssporting, people who collect stamps in books for events participated in and distances walked get recognition along the way. They receive certificates of achievement, jacket patches and hat pins after the first 10 events, then after 30, 50, 75 and every 25 thereafter, and after every 500 kilometers.
In addition, the sport has several incentive programs, such as the Walk the 88 where people collect stamps in a book when they participate in a sanctioned and organized walk in a different county in Ohio.
Nicholson participates in nearly every one the American Volkssport Association has to offer. She has her PhD in walking and is nearing completion on her “Roads Scholar” program. In that program, she participated in walks where the route took her on a college campus. Doing five walks provides an associate degree, 10 a bachelors degree, 15 a masters degree and 20 a PhD. Another 20 campuses provides the “Roads Scholar” patch and certificate.
She also has completed the literary and authors program, the lighthouses, Walking the USA from A to Z, the rivers, and the railroads. She is working on the programs where walks take her through cemeteries, past court houses, through covered bridges and through state parks.
In these various programs, she gets a stamp in a specially designated book when she walks past the home of an author, or past a lighthouse or over a river or over a railroad track.
She is still working on her 50-state designation.
“I still have Alaska and Hawaii to go,” she said.
Nicholson has been able to participate in walks in the various states by signing up and going on tours put on by Wandering Wheels, a walking club that operates out of southwest Ohio.
And going to the American Volkssport Association conventions, she added.
Several walks are scheduled during conventions.
Since the program is open ended, there is no limit to how many walks or distance a person can accumulate.
Although Nicholson’s sister Bea isn’t walking as much these days because of arthritis, she is pleased that her youngest sister Karen Bush of Sunbury has started walking.
“She was telling her cardiologist about the program and he had been encouraging her to get some exercise,” Nicholson said.
“She’s got her first three walks,” she added proudly.
It was a great day in Sidney where Nicholson got her 88th county. All three sisters participated in that walk.
She was also pleased to learn that another Columbus resident, Pat Moran of Clintonville, walked in his 88th county that same weekend, reaching his milestone the day before she did when he did a walk in Lorain County.