DOVER — There’s no chasing down personal-best times or mad dashes for trophies, medals or individual glory for the First State Webfooters. They are just a group that loves to get out and walk.
That’s what keeps the Webfooters, who are charter members of the American Volkssport Association, blazing paths and trails throughout Delaware. The group hosts year-round, traditional and special walking programs.
They simply enjoy the camaraderie, fresh air and the chance to stretch their legs.
“You can go to any state in the United States and there are American Volkssport walking groups,” said Kathy Kresko, a Smyrna resident who is the president of the First State Webfooters, a walking club inspired by similar organizations in Germany. “But we are the only one in the state of Delaware, though.
“The good thing about this walking club is that it’s for all abilities and members of the whole family.”
This year, the First State Webfooters are celebrating their 40th anniversary.
The group was originally organized by an officer at Dover Air Force Base in the early 1980s and most of the early members were airmen once stationed in Germany.
“It all actually started at the Dover Air Force Base,” said Ms. Kresko. “The military came back from Germany, and they just started the Volkssporting.
“They encountered Volkssporting and when they came back to the United States, they wanted to continue to do walking events. It’s noncompetitive and so they joined the American Volkssport Association and we’ve been a member for 40 years.”
Louise Faire, 91, has been a member of the Webfooters since its inception. She is the oldest member of the group.
“I grew up in Germany and we never had a car,” said Ms. Faire. “We walked everywhere. So I’m used to walking and I enjoy walking. You see a lot that you don’t see when you drive in the car.
“I just like being out in the fresh air and seeing things like the sight of the fields and the trees and everything.”
The Webfooters will be busy Saturday hosting Volksmarch in Rehoboth Beach for the 31st consecutive year as part of the Sea Witch Festival.
This year the group will host a noncompetitive triathlon, featuring six bike routes from 10.6 to 43 kilometers, 5K and 10K walking routes and a 300-meter swim.
The event will start at the Sussex YMCA on Church Street in Rehoboth Beach at 8 a.m. and participants should be finished by 5 p.m. The swim will take place in the YMCA pool from 11 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.
“We’re excited this year because it’s a triathlon,” said Ms. Kresko. “This program helps us support the Y’s youth program.
“The Sussex YMCA will be the starting point and from that point there’s a 5K walkaround, which takes you down through Rehoboth and you’ll see the (Sea Witch) parade and the ocean. We also have a 10K, along with multiple bike trails, which will take you from Rehoboth to Lewes. You can do a 10K or you can do a 43K. And this year you can swim.”
While the Webfooters have some big events scattered throughout the year, such as the Sea Witch Festival, they also have more lowkey events, such as the “Couch to 5K” program it offers in the spring to individuals who might want to get out and join the group.
“In the springtime, we offer a ‘Couch to 5K’ program where we help you get off the sofa basically every week until you’re ready to do a 5K,” said Ms. Kresko. “It’s an eight-week program and the end result is we’ll walk a 5K.”
The Webfooters have weekly walks among the group – and family members if they’re interested in participating – every week.
Ms. Kresko said the group of around 25 active members has plans to continue to grow and offer more events. They are trying to reach out to the community and encourage people to join.
“Right now, it has dwindled down a little bit,” she said. “We have about 25 active members, but we’re part of an association that has more like 2,500 members. Because it’s not only a national, but an international organization.”
Oh, and about that name, Tom Sunde, who served as the Webfooters’ president for around 20 years, said it has to do with the wide array of weather that occurs in the First State.
“We walk in all sorts of wet weather. Even though they say Delaware is three counties, at high tide it’s only two,” he said with a laugh.
“I found out about (noncompetitive walking) in Germany and we rotated it from Germany to here and it’s just something I look forward to doing.
“At that time, I had a 30ish-year-old son and there’s the old saying about an adult male’s ego. Well, it gets bruised a little bit when you have a 35-year-old pushing you all the time. Walking with the Webfooters is more relaxing and is just a lot of fun.”