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Volksmarcher has covered a lot of ground

Some 90,000 miles ago, Frank Miller had an epiphany: Walk, don’t run.

“I used to run five miles a day when I was in the Air Force,” the 74-year-old Miller said recently. “It was boring. You’re out there all by yourself.”

So when he retired in 1975, Miller decided to give volksmarching a try. He’s been walking every since.

“You meet a lot of people, see the countryside and pick up a few medals and mugs along the way,” he said of volksmarching.

His accomplishments include 48 one-day, 100-kilometer volksmarches.

But the milestone he reached in July is one of the most noteworthy.

This year, Miller completed his 25th International Four Day Marches at Nijmegen, an annual four-day series of 50-, 40- or 30-kilometer circuits around the Dutch city of Nijmegen.

This year, 39,933 hikers began the march, with 36,504 medals handed out to those who finished the event.

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But Miller said his ribbon and medal was different than the others. His medallion had a “25” on it, in honor of completing his 25th Nijmegen walk.

Miller said he did the 50-kilometer circuit (about 125 miles over four days) for 21 of his marches. The last four have been the 40-kilometer course to bring his total Nijmegen mileage to 4,840 kilometers, or just over 3,000 miles.

The total is higher than it needs to be, according to Miller.

“I should only have to do the 30k course (120 kilometers),” he said. “If you’re over 50, you only have to do 30 kilometers.

“I could still do the 50, but I did 40 because I walked with friends.”

Including his boss, Michelle Hetcher, who tried her hand, or more aptly feet, the last two marches.

Miller “talked me into the first one,” said Hetcher, the Spangdahlem-Bitburg food court manager. “I did it the second time because a friend wanted to do it. I won’t do it again until I’m 50 and get to walk 30ks.”

Unlike his boss, the 20-year Air Force veteran Miller couldn’t wait to go back for more after completing his first tour of Nijmegen.

“You get hooked,” he said. “By then you’re in condition, and you want to keep going.”

Conditioning is no problem for Miller, who in addition to the big events, walks to his job at Spangdahlem Air Base three times a week from his home in Bitburg, about eight miles and a steep valley away, and has participated regularly in volksmarches.

So, how far has he walked?

“Ninety thousand (miles),” Miller says without hesitation. “I’ve got 65,000 (miles) documented” with the international volksmarching body.

Miller, who likes to pause for a beer or two on his walk home from work, prefers to walk with British and Dutch hikers at Nijmegen. “The Brits and Dutch will stop along the way for a beer,” he said. “The Americans usually just go to the official rest stops.”

For all the ground he’s covered, Miller said he has no special equipment nor training regimen, other than walking.

“I’ve never done any lifting or do any stretching,” he said.

And how about state-of-the-art hiking boots?

“I just wear Nike shoes,” Miller shrugged. “They’re good and durable. The good part about them is you can buy a pair right now and go out and walk 100 miles.”

Miller, however, plans to walk a lot farther than that.

“I have to do at least six more (Nijmegen marches),” he said. “This year was the 94th march. I want to do the 100th.”

 

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