As change happens in any organization, there’s the thoughts of those who have had the vision of bringing this international club to little ole Midland, Texas. There were those before us that talked the talk, literally walked the walk, organized, dreamed, and spent countless hours of time and energy to make a worthwhile idea to come fruition.
The man who started that vision and was the founding father of the Midland Walkabout Volkssport Club is Jack Rogers.
And probably there are no walkers in Midland more visible than the Midland Walkabouts – a branch of the American Volkssport Association, through which walkers can keep an official account of the miles they cover, with tangible incentives in the form of awards for finishing sanctioned walks.
The AVA was founded in 1979 in Fredericksburg as the formalization of a local club patterned after Germany’s volkssporting organizations. These groups sprung up in the 1960s in response to the postwar sporting competitions that monopolized public parks. To counter the sports craze, townspeople began staging volkssports festivals staged around non-competitive walking, skiing and bicycling where everyone who finished was considered a winner, and could, for a nominal fee, receive an award.
For Fredericksburg, the sport of choice was walking. Local volkssporters marked trails with designated starting and ending points and checkpoints along the way and offered each participant an official record card they could get stamped as a means of keeping track of the distance and the effort.
Soon volkssporting clubs began spreading to other states, and within a year, there were 45 American clubs.
Jack Rogers, who founded the Midland Walkabouts in 2001, was a Frisco pharmacist at the time the Fredericksburg club was started. He had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 10 years earlier, and although the disease had gone into remission, Rogers was determined to maintain a rigorous exercise regimen in order to keep himself fit in case of a relapse.
He began to hear about the growing walking club in 1978, and after talking it over with his wife, he decided to sell his drug store and move to Fredericksburg.
He participated in his first “volksmarch,” a 20K walk, in October 1979, in San Antonio.
“I showed up wearing the old Hush Puppies I wore to mow the lawn in,” he said, recalling the event. “Two San Antonio Sierra Club women zipped past me early in the walk, and I spent the rest of the time trying to keep up with them. By the time it was over, I had three blisters.”
The next day, Rogers bought himself a pair of walking shoes.
By the time he moved to Midland in 2001, Rogers had amassed more than 300 pins and patches for participating in walking events, and recorded more than 4,000 certified kilometers (2,480 miles) in his volksmarching distance book.
Walkabout newcomers, Larry Lanning and his wife, Norma Dean, who moved to Midland last April from Germany where they were stationed with the U.S. Army until their retirement, have been volksmarching since 1988. Lanning has participated in 175 events.
“I would do an event just about every weekend,” said Lanning. “And Norma has done at least 50.
“There are little sports clubs throughout Europe, and most of them are affiliated with IVV (the international organization, International Volkssport Verband),” he said. ” It’s a great way to see the country, foot by foot. The U.S. military got with the Germans and published lists of where the events were being held, and sometimes you’d have as many as 100 volksmarches listed.”
Lanning said, unlike the local events, the volksmarches in Europe would always feature food and drinks.
“It was a really big deal. They’d have refreshments, and an oompah band, and we had a great time, although I don’t think anyone ever lost any weight.”
Some of the walks now have historical significance to the couple, in light of subsequent events.
“We did a couple of volksmarches in East Germany after the wall came down, and then East Germany ceased to exist,” Lanning said.
The Midland Walkabout Volkssport Association, which began with 17 charter members, has grown to more than 36. In 2003 it staged five sanctioned 10K walks – three in Midland, two in Odessa – which will count for five of the required “10 in Texas” walking events members must complete before receiving a patch in the shape of a petal, Rogers said. That petal will be added to other petals year after year until the circular inner patch is surrounded by 10 petals to make a flower. The more ambitious walkers may complete the “20 (20K) in Texas” circuit and receive an additional patch.
In accordance with Volkssporting custom, Midland Walkabouts maintain a “Walk Box.” Volkssport members and others from out of town who want to participate in the sanctioned events or in any other walk may purchase walker’s packets and/or starting cards for the walks. The walk boxes are located at Kinko’s in Midland and at Days Inn in Odessa.
Members also may choose to go for awards from sanctioned events from all 50 states, or even international events.
While the patches and medals are fun, most of the Midland walkers said their real goal is the walking and the experience.
“My real enjoyment comes from the walking and the companionship,” said charter member, Alex Rose, a former marathon runner with the New York Marathon, the Dallas White Rock Marathon and several others to her credit. Ms. Rose took up long- distance walking several years ago. She presently serves as the club’s publicity chair.
Midland Walkabout president, Shirley Kite, agrees yet said she’s working for awards as well. “I certainly want the medals and the patches, but since our club is so new, it’s going to be a while before I’ll have many.
“I just love the travel, and being able to do something I love with other people who love the same thing,” she said.
In addition to the Texas Volkssport Association-sanctioned events, the Midland Walkabouts also participate in local walks for causes, such as the March of Dimes, multiple sclerosis and diabetes walks. And on their regular weekly walks, they pick up aluminum cans and trash.
“We’re involved in Keep Midland Beautiful,” Rogers said. “We look after Windlands Park, and keep it free of trash, and at the KMB’s big trash pickup last year, we cleaned up a stretch along Dallas Street in south Midland, and another area along Lamesa Road. We also picked up trash when we walked at the monastery in Stanton recently.”
The Club wants to thank Jack Rogers for all his contribution in starting the club and helping to bring in new members, no matter their ages or health!