Rain was threatening at 6:30 a.m. on a recent morning in Indian Meadows Park and the trails were already muddy from previous storms, but that didn’t deter Bernie and Marylou Geren.
The Mechanicville residents were there with water bottles, bug spray and cheery smiles, ready to start their day with an invigorating 10K walk.
Walks are their thing. Members of the Empire State Capital Volkssporters — a local walking group — the couple has completed club-sanctioned walks in all 50 states. They did their 50th walk in Honolulu Feb. 19 — the 50th day of this year. The walk also took place in the year of their 50th wedding anniversary.
“I did not want a big party,” insisted Marylou.
So, instead, she and Bernie walked.
On their actual anniversary, June 20, they set off on a tri-state walk in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.
“Our kids took us out to dinner a different weekend, since we were busy,” Marylou said.
Since they’ve started tallying club-sanctioned treks in their official Volkssporter walk books, 73-year-old Bernie has racked up approximately 6,500 kilometers — about 4,040 miles.
Upcoming Empire State Capital Volkssporters Wednesday Walks
Walks take place at 6:45 a.m., 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. at each location, unless otherwise indicated.
Aug. 13 — Washington Park, Albany
Aug. 20 — Troy
Aug. 27 — Gloversville — one walk only, at 9:30 a.m.
For starting points and other information, visit www.walkescv.org.
“He didn’t write the kilometers down on mine. I know I’m higher than he is,” said Marylou, 71, taking her walk book from its protective plastic zip-top bag and flipping through the pages, a unique rubber stamp print signifying each completed walk.
The two joined the Volkssporters in 1999 and since then have gone on club-sanctioned walks through cities and scenic countryside they never would have thought to visit otherwise.
“I wouldn’t visit a cemetery in Princeton,” Bernie assured, then went on to recount how interesting the experience was. He and Marylou went there as part of a walk that also led them through the Princeton University campus.
Often finishing each other’s sentences, they debated which was their most interesting walk, then agreed that one of the best was a trip up Cadillac Mountain in Maine at 4 a.m. to see the sunrise. Located in Acadia National Park, it’s highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard and during certain months, the first place to view sunrise in the United States.
“Fortunately, it was a very nice morning. It was moonlit. I thought I’d need one of those head lamps but it was so light out you didn’t need that,” she recounted.
The group of Volkssporters who gathered with the Gerens to walk in Indian Meadows are a social bunch. They livened the dreary morning with their laughter and good natured chatter. That camaraderie is one of the things the couple likes best about the group.
“When I was president we [met at] a fire hall, and after the meetings, I would have to turn out the lights to get them to leave because they sat around talking,” Bernie recalled with a laugh.
Now that the Gerens have walked in all 50 states, the goal is to keep going.
“We’re trying to do border crossings now — any walk that has a border crossing,” Bernie said. “It just keeps us travelling.”
The two are also working on walking in all of the state capitals.
“But it’s not a priority,” Bernie noted. “If we’re there, we’ll stamp our book.”
Upon completion of their 50th walk, the couple got T-shirts and a plaque from the American Volkssport Association — the parent organization of their club — but it’s clear the walks have earned them way more than that. They’re got all sorts of stories about places they’ve seen and people they’ve met, they’re in good shape and it’s clear they’ve been having a lot of fun.
They do find time to do a few other things besides walking.
“She bikes; I golf,” Bernie said with a laugh, then added, “She goes to the Y.”
“He’s supposed to. Getting him there is something else,” Marylou retorted playfully as the two prepared to set off on the muddy trail at Indian Meadows.