Speed hiking seeks recognition
By Michael Uugwanga
THERE is no denying how beneficial a walk through the woods can be for your overall health.
If you have ever had to catch your breath on an uphill stretch of trail or if your legs have felt sore after a hike, you know that hiking is a workout.
You may have also likely experienced some of the health benefits of hiking: improved cardiovascular performance, more endurance, stronger muscles and a better mood.
It is against this background that the Namibia Hiking Federation (NHF) has embarked on turning hiking into an appealing sport code.
One of the most popular codes under NHF is speed hiking.
Speed hiking is fast packing or rapid hiking, covering longer distances over technical, rocky terrain, both on and off trail while moving fast and light.
NSHF was established under the Namibia Sports Commission (NSC) as an initiative by the Ondundu Youth Development Organisation that is registered with the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service.
Hiking in general is a long, vigorous walk, usually on trails or footpaths in the countryside and in many parts of the world, hiking also defines a sport although it is not seen as a real sport .
“The sport itself is played this way; athletes’ times are taken at the foot of the mountain and at the crest (top) of the mountain and judging is based on the overall time taken to complete the hiking route.
“We use the Speed-Over-Distance-Time formula to announce our winners. The sport can be played by anybody, but to become a professional speed hiker one must be above the age of 16 years. The federation has so far managed to register close to 350 solo hikers across the country and most of the clubs’ members are affiliated to other sports codes recognised by the NSC.
“We are the ones also responsible for organising the All Sport Code Speed Hiking Competition (ASCSH 2020), which usually takes place in November every year at Ondundu Kaiser-Wilhelm Hiking Trails, situated alongside the western-by pass road adjacent to University of Namibia (UNAM). Indeed, speed hiking was never a sport code until only in 2016,” said Eino JI Mbango, president of NHF and founder of Ondundu Youth Development Organisation.
Like many other sport codes, the federation found it difficult to host events due to the Covid-19 pandemic, although the federation has already planned to host a few events before the end of this year.
NHF has not been receiving funding towards development even though the commission is entrusted by the directorate of sport within the Ministry of SYNS to give funding towards development.
“We already had a plan in place to host at least six local, three regional and one national event for the year but unfortunately all these events had to be cancelled in this regard due to Covid-19. But on the other hand the management is working hard to host at least one event by the end of the year, taking into consideration Covid-19 rules and regulations as well as taking into account the set guidelines as provided forth to all federations by NSC. The federation did not receive any funding from the commission due to the financial crisis experienced in the country since 2015 but we have been receiving excellent intellectual and strategic management support from the commission,” said Mbango.
He continued: “The NHF is yet to organise an international speed hiking event and has been proactively engaging in making contacts with various countries in speed hiking / hiking associations in search for partnership and collaboration in return. Some international stakeholders have welcomed the idea.
“The idea of also converting speed hiking into a digital gaming platform or online gaming was also discussed and was also highlighted in our meeting agenda as a result it was included in our strategic plan for 2021-2023, with the aim of promoting speed hiking as a code.”