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Mid-Florida Milers Walking Club to Host Winter Park Event

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The Central Florida chapter of the American Volkssport Association is hosting a 5K walk on March 30 that will begin at the Winter Park train station. Mid-Florida Milers has spent 35 years promoting fellowship and healthy habits through a series of community events throughout the greater Orlando area.

Mid-Florida Milers was founded in 1989 by Gloria and Mark Merwarth. The couple were avid walkers and members of the American Volkssport Association: a non-competitive sports nonprofit that began in Germany and hosts all-ages community walking events called Volksmarches (people’s marches). The club met for several years at Winter Park Memorial Hospital – now AdventHealth Winter Park – where Gloria worked as a nurse.

Volksmarches range from three to six miles with milestones celebrated by a pin, patch, or certificate for each distance achieved. The Winter Park route is part of a national list of 1,800 paths mapped by chapter members to showcase attractions and popular scenery. Most are accessible for wheelchairs and strollers and are pet-friendly; however, dogs are not allowed in Winter Park’s Central Park.

“It’s what we call an organized walk,” said event organizer Michael Kirchner of the March 30 walk. “Everybody arrives at the site, we sign in, and off we go.” Participants will receive a map of the route that includes lakefronts, residential and retail areas, and the Rollins campus. Participants can walk in groups or on their own and everyone goes at their own pace.

Mid-Florida Milers offers organized walks throughout Orange and Seminole counties on the first and third Saturday of each month. The routes are also available year-round through the club website. According to Kirchner, another Volksmarch series, dubbed “Traditional Walks,” offer routes that are exclusive to each event. Prior to the pandemic, Winter Park residents could find hard copies of registration paperwork and maps at a local Walk Box location that has since gone virtual. “We had one by the hospital, then we had to move it to the YMCA down the street,” Kirchner said. “But it was taken out during COVID and was never replaced.”

The Association advocates proper precautions for all participants; sunscreen and plenty of water are a must. “We have checkpoints along the way and there’s water available at each one,” Kirchner said. He estimates the Milers club numbers close to 100 members but there’s always room for more. “It’s by no means crowded,” he said of the events. “You meet friends, make new ones, and enjoy at your own pace.”

Check the Mid-Florida Milers website for event registration, routes, club newsletters. Association memberships are available at AVA.org.

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