Walk like a Finn

HANCOCK – FinnFest USA 2013 is about celebrating Finnish culture and heritage, and one aspect of that culture will get possibly worldwide attention as an attempt will be made to break a world record.

David Maki, FinnFest board member who is taking the lead on the attempt to break the record for most participants in a Nordic Walk, said the current record of 1,026 walkers was set in 2007 in Sweden.

Maki said Nordic Walking involves walking using a set of poles similar to cross country ski poles as support.

“It originated in the Nordic country of Finland,” he said.

Maki said the intent is to get into the Guinness World Records, and there will be spotters along the way to make certain participants are following all Guinness rules, including keeping their elbows at about a 90-degree angle. The poles must touch the ground and can’t be carried, either.

The activity is similar to skiing without skis, Maki said, and ski poles can be used, but they must have a Guinness-approved rubber tip on the end which contacts the ground, and they must be of proper length to allow for the 90 degree angle of the elbows. Some participants will use poles specifically made for Nordic Walking.

Maki said there is a particular technique for Nordic Walking.

“It’s a matter of incorporating poles into the walk,” he said.

The registration for the record attempt will take place at 8 a.m. June 22 at the Church of the Resurrection on West Quincy Street in Hancock. The walk will start at 9:30 a.m. Participants will walk east on West Quincy Street to Hancock Street, Front Street then walk over the Portage Lake Lift Bridge to Lakeshore Drive in Houghton to Ray Kestner Waterfront Park.

Information about the record attempt can be found at finnfestusa2013.org. Go to the Program tab, then scroll down to Sports and Games.

Maki said it won’t be known how many participants will take part in the walk until it gets going, but it will happen however many there are.

“We’re going to go ahead no matter how many (participants there are),” he said.

Maki said Pete Edwards, an expert in Nordic Walking from Traverse City, will be available before the walk to give instructions in technique, and to examine poles to make certain they meet the Guinness criteria. There will also be poles available to rent or buy at the starting point.

It’s expected two of the participants in the walk will be former participants on the television show “The Biggest Loser,” Maki said. Watchers of the show will know them as Buddy and Cassandra. They will be at the front of the walk, and they will take part in other FinnFest events.

Maki said besides individuals, FinnFest organizers are hoping local groups and businesses will take part in the Nordic walk record attempt.

“Let’s all make sure the Copper Country makes its mark on the Guinness Book of World Records,” he said.