The German Village Walking Club doesn't take leisurely strolls.
Larry Smith started the German Village Walking Club about three years ago, not long after moving to that near-south neighborhood. The name, however, is limiting. Smith would be happy if the club became the urban walking club of Columbus, drawing walkers from every neighborhood and every suburb.
But be forewarned: Walking with this club is no Sunday saunter through the park. Smith and his 70 or so club members aren't stopping for photographs of wildflowers. They're not walking dogs. They're walking for fitness, or as Smith says, “walking with a purpose.”
The group gathers every Saturday in front of the Schiller statue at Schiller Park. An average walk draws 20 to 30 people, and Smith decides which Downtown route they'll take each week—a North Bank Park 5-miler, a Scioto Audubon/Downtown bridges 5-miler, an Arts District/Topiary Park 5-miler or a 5-mile Greenlawn/Scioto Trail route. Afterward, many gather at Winans Chocolates & Coffee, one of the club's sponsors, for a little caffeine and conversation. “We're solving the world's problems as we push the tables together at Winans,” says Smith.
Smith says the club has three goals: to get people moving more in our urban core; to showcase Columbus' Downtown redevelopment and to give back to the urban community.
The club has served community meals at the Reeb Avenue Center. It's collected and donated articles of clothing to the For All People Free Store at Whittier Street and Parsons Avenue, and the club will partner again this year with the African-American Male Wellness Walk (aawalk.org/columbus-ohio), encouraging African-American walkers to join club members in training in anticipation of the annual wellness walk, in which more than 20,000 are expected to participate on Aug. 11, beginning at Livingston Park.
Smith serves as the club's health coach, sending out a weekly newsletter to about 400 people, which includes information on the upcoming walk, health tips and motivational quotes.
“It really is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other,” Smith says. “You just have to start. And walking with a group helps maintain that healthy habit. There's not just camaraderie—there's accountability, too.” gvwalkingclub.com
Other Area Walking Clubs
The New Albany Walking Club has been in existence for 15 years and meets Sunday mornings at 7:30 a.m. at the Philip Heit Center for Healthy New Albany. Membership is $25 per year. newalbanywalkingclub.com
The Buckeye Striders Walking and Race Walking Club has outings Saturday mornings at 8 a.m., with sites rotating among area parks and trails. Membership fees are $18 per individual and $24 per family. buckeyestriders.com
The New Albany Walking Classic, featuring a 10K USA Track & Field-certified course (6.2 miles), will be held on Sunday, Sept. 9, beginning at 8 a.m. With registration capped at 3,000, walkers come from all over the country to what's been billed as the largest walk-only race in North America. newalbanywalkingclassic.com
The Heart of Ohio Hikers club is one of 200 chartered chapters in the American Volkssport Association, a nonprofit started in Germany in 1968 and in the U.S. in 1976 to promote healthy walking. Members participate in a number of 5K and 10K events throughout the year. ava.org