Thursday, April 01, 2004

Walk for health, set pace for fun

By Bethany Harrison
Journal Features Editor

Placer Pacers members, from left, Roberta Murray, Jim Ferris and Pat Lucero walk across No Hands Bridge on an impromptu walk last spring. The group organizes walks through foothill landmarks, as well as travelling to other state scenic sites. (Journal file photo)

A group of sight-seeing athletes are setting the pace for enjoyable exercise in the foothills.

Placer Pacers is a club of “volksmarchers” — walkers who walk simply for the joy of walking and striding through historic points along the way.

With the foothills’ rich history, it’s a perfect place for volksmarching fans, like Christian Valley’s Herb Webber, who has been volksmarching since the 1970s and is a charter member of Placer Pacers.

“It’s pretty well accepted that walking is generally good for your heart and keeping your muscle tone up, and I guess it does that,” Webber said. “But that’s not the reason I do it. I do it because it’s fun. I get outdoors, I get to meet people with the same mindset that I have — sociable — and I get to see different parts of the country that I haven’t seen or explored.”

Placer Pacers is part of the American Volkssports Association and is more of a social group than a lean, mean, exercising machine. Members participate in miles-long hikes through historic parks and city streets and then convene for barbecues, potlucks, parties and more.

“What we get out of it is wonderful exercise and great friendship,” said membership chairwoman A.J. Bohanan.

“The primary purpose is to encourage walking for the health of it, and encourage people to get out and get exercise — and walk,” agreed club president Pat Lucero. “It doesn’t have to be a big thing like marathons or race walking. You just walk at your own pace. It’s a great way to see different areas.”

Lucero joined the club in 1990 and said she has logged more than 1,000 kilometers. Each walk is measured in kilometers, and most are 10 kilometers, or just over six miles. Walk venues vary from the shopping districts of Carmel to the wooded shoreline of Lake Tahoe. The difficulty ranges, so don’t count on it being a walk in the park — except that it usually is.

“You don’t see things the same way when you’re in a car, you just can’t,” Lucero said. “So it’s a great way to see things, to see the country.”

For serious walkers, there’s a new multi-walk event: California’s Golden Heritage Program, which encompasses 12 historic sites. The 12 walks must be completed by December 2005. During the event, members will learn about California settlers, the state’s role in the Transcontinental Railroad and more.

There area also year-round Friendship Walks, in which members can walk any Placer Pacers route on their own time and at their own leisure.

Placer Pacers is about 150 members strong, and weekend walks generally bring 70 or more walkers to the foothills trails. The top rule: It’s not competitive, so “get out, get exercise and get fresh air,” Lucero said.

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