But before he arrives in Canberra, he will walk in his 270th IML event — the 19-20 March IML walk in Rotorua, New Zealand — and receive award number 90. [IML awards are based on a series of three walks. For example, after completing your first three events you would receive award number one; after your second set of three events, award number two, and so on.]
How does he do it? “I am walking nearly 15 IML events each year, all over the world,” Bernd explains. He completed his 269th IML event in Barcelona, Spain, last November.
Bernd participated in his first IML walk 28 years ago in Bern, Switzerland. “In 1992, I became a Master Walker in Japan,” he continues. “My award number was 156.” A Master Walker has completed walks in the eight founding IML member countries: Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Austria, Japan and Switzerland.
He travelled to Chengu, China, last September, to participate in the IVV Olympiad. This celebration of Volkssports is held every second year in the country of an IVV member. Olympiad events include walking, swimming, biking, and sometimes other non-competitive sports. Additional social and cultural activities encourage mutual understanding and friendships among those who attend.
“I stayed in the Sichuan Jinjing Hotel, in the center of the city. Wonderful rooms with box spring beds,” he recalls. The breakfast was nearly like at home and so was dinner and lunch.”
This was Bernd’s third trip to China. In 2006 he walked in Dalian and in 2014 he walked in Beijing/Zhaitang. “I think I have to report that at the first time of my stay in China I did not get coffee at all. Only green tea, which was formidable to me. But this time there was everything!”
The Chengu gathering was the 14th IVV Olympiad. Although not an actual IML event, walkers who completed at least 20 kilometres per day were entitled to an IML stamp.
“Chengu is a very big city with many cars and motorcycles, but all the motorcycles had electric motors,” Bernd remembers. “The drive on the event bus through the city to the start area took one hour. On the first day there was an Opening Celebration about two hours long with speeches, dances and songs. Participants from all nations walked behind their flag in the hall to the stage.”
Walkers could choose from 6km, 11km, 22km or a 42km marathon. Biking distances were 6km, 11km, or 22km. Swimming distances were 300 metres or 1000 metres.
“Every day the route was the same through the Egret Bay Wetlands Park on concrete ways. Sometimes we walked on the normal road with many cars but there was a policeman or soldier every 50 to 100 metres to ensure the walkers stayed safe. But not so fine was that walkers and bikers used the same routes. I was told there were 20,000 walkers from all over the world!”
Bernd walked 22km four times, biked 22km twice and swam 300 metres. Amazingly, he has participated in all 14 Olympiads!