By Maddie Devine
A couple of weeks ago, UVA Intramural-Recreational Sports and the Cavalier Volkssporting Club hosted the Good Ole Volkswalk right here on Grounds.
What is a volkswalk, you ask?
The term “volkswalk” comes from the German word volksmarsch, meaning “people’s march” and is a form of non-competitive fitness walking. Typically, participants walk either a 5 or 10-kilometer course on an outdoor path. This year’s course included visits to traditional sites like the Lawn & Rotunda, Carr’s Hill and Central Grounds, as well as more modern parts of Grounds, like Scott Stadium and first year dorms.
Our very own Pres. Teresa Sullivan is an avid volkswalker. In fact, she has walked with us across the scenic grounds of Monticello, Morven Farm, and Montpelier during the last 3 years.
We were fortunate enough to be able to sit down and talk with her to learn about her involvement with the sport and how she got into it. Check out our interview with her below:
How did you first get involved with volkswalking?
I first learned of volkswalking by reading a notice in the newspaper. I had a 4-year old at the time and it said you could bring your children so I decided to try it out. My first Volkswalk was in Austin, Texas in 1984 at what was then called Town Lake. I had another child shortly afterwards. Both of my children have done over 100 volkswalking events—and I think my husband has participated in 30. We are quite the volkswalking family! Even though I first began this sport over 30 years ago, volkswalking is something you can do for life. I’ve done volkswalks in several other countries—England, Scotland, Germany, and France—and this summer I’m hoping to participate in one in while visiting Norway or Sweden. Volkswalking is a very popular sport in other parts of the world. Last year I even participated in one in Anchorage, Alaska.
What is the significance of this walk returning to Grounds?
Grounds are certainly beautiful this time of year! Even if you have visited before, it is especially beautiful to walk around in the spring when all the flowers and trees are blossoming. In addition, there are a lot of sites on this year’s walk that people may not have seen before. For example, those who participated in the 10K volkswalk would have seen the new UVA Children’s Hospital. I hope that the next time we hold a volkswalk we can include the recently dedicated cemetery of enslaved people on the route—a lot of people have not been able to see that yet. Grounds certainly gives us plenty of walking options. In the future, we could even think about expanding the volkswalk further into Charlottesville. There are certainly no shortage of venues in the area!
What is your favorite place on Grounds to walk through?
Oh, the Lawn absolutely. It is beautiful at all times of day and looks significantly different in the morning than it does at twilight. It is about a quarter-mile to walk around the Lawn, so taking a few laps around it is a great way to get in your exercise for the day.
What are some of the other ways in which you stay active outdoors?
Honestly, volkswalking is about it for outdoor activities. I’m not a huge fan of cycling anymore because of all the cars and the busy roads. However, I have done biking events in the past -- most of them were on pretty safe, country roads.
If you could choose any place in the world to do a volkswalk, besides U.Va., where would you go?
I’ve done a bunch of really beautiful and scenic walks over the years. For historical purposes, there is one that takes place on the National Mall in Washington D.C. that is excellent. For sheer natural beauty, there are a couple great walks near the Columbia River in Oregon that have simply breathtaking views. But I honestly don’t think I’ve ever participated in a volkswalk that I haven’t enjoyed. It’s always exciting to see something brand new. That’s the thing about walking: if you are really walking mindfully, it is not only good exercise for your body but also very mentally relaxing. For volkswalking, I enjoy marching with other people because it makes the kilometers go by a lot faster.
You always meet a lot of interesting people at a Volkswalk. We also caught up with Mel Feather, an alumnus of UVA (Engineering '84), who has done all five of our volkswalks. Though he was in a walking boot because he'd just had surgery, it didn’t slow him down a bit.
Tell us a story about volkswalking.
International Volkswalk Association, which the American Volkswalk Association is part of, has an Olympic event every two years called the Olympiad. This year it is going to be held in Chengdu, China for five days. There will be hiking, swimming, biking, and the normal walks. They will even have a marathon walk (42 kilometers) and I’ve done about seven of those in my life. It is quite an event. Hundreds of thousands of people show up to these events. They also have the International Marching League, which we’re affiliated with, that does similar walks. They have this one hike in the Netherlands, I believe, that you must register for and they will only accept the first 25,000 registrants. This is a national event where literally one million people line the streets to watch.”
Maddie Devine is a third-year student in the College and a member of the IM-Rec Sports marketing team.