Thursday, July 02, 2009


Nordic Walking: “Experiences Going Walkabout on Poles with a Modern Day Legend” ~ By Mike ‘Walking Wizard’ Gates.

Finally, the opportunity that over the years I had long been waiting for was soon to become a reality. I was about to meet up with and walk “In the Footsteps” of a man who is the “Real-Deal”!

Way back in 1985 he was the first person to bring the concept of “Walking with Poles” (Nordic Walking) to urban pathways and suburban parklands. It all happened in a quiet little back street in Wisconsin, USA. He is the ‘Original’; the ‘Modern Day Pioneer’; a ‘Nordic Walking Legend’ – His name is “Tom Rutlin”.

After a 14 hour non-stop flight across the Pacific from Australia to California and suffering the effects of jetlag, I arrived at the hotel to meet-up with this living legend and Nordic Walking giant. As I entered the lobby I was approached by a quietly spoken gentleman with a trim, toned physique. At 61 years of age, if this is what 24 years of walking with poles does for ones aging process, then you can forget the ‘anti aging creams’ and ‘magic pills’. Tom Rutlin has re-defined the medical journals, which should now read “Get on Poles not Pills.” Fair dinkum, this guy is in great shape for his age!

Straight away we broke into intense discussions that would extend over the 4 days. I was so privileged and honoured to be in the presence of this very modest & humble man. Not a moment was wasted by me to listen and learn from this inspirational human being, about the amazing wealth of knowledge and understanding that he, Tom Rutlin, has extracted, researched and developed about walking with poles. He has spent the past 24 years tirelessly & unselfishly singing the praises of the “power of the poles” to all who would listen across the global community.

One thing that really shone out “like a beacon of light” from Tom Rutlin, over the days I got to know him; is something I have only ever personally witnessed, with the same level of intensity and belief, from one other person, another legend of our movement – “Marko Kantaneva”. In 1993 (some 8 years after Tom’s founding work in the USA), Marko pioneered the “Pole Walking movement in Europe”. What both of these pioneers realized, independently of each other and what they have both been selflessly promoting ever since, is that this is a “Physical Activity for All”! Essentially it should be about “inclusiveness”! It should be about encouraging people in our communities onto poles! The focus should NOT be about “pole products” and “self interests”! The focus should be ‘the people”!

On behalf of the few of us who have been so lucky to have met you and to the many who have yet to meet you: To you “Tom Rutlin”, from all of us in the “World of Walking with Poles (Nordic Walking)”, we stand & salute you for your 24 years of tireless “service”, “energy” and “effort”, for which you have been so “visionary” and “innovative”; daring to dare where before you no one else would go.

You are truly an amazing human being which this wonderful physical activity can not yet do without. And if the decision were left to this Aussie, I would Knight you “Sir Tom Rutlin”, in recognition for all your many “Behind the Scenes Achievements” that so many know little, if anything about. However, at this time the only privilege & power that I can bestow onto you is to be able to call you an “All Time Great Nordic Walking Mate”!

Warmest Regards
Mike “Walking Wizard” Gates

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