During the third week in July the eyes of the walking world will he fixed on Nijmegen. Lying in the eastern Netherlands, the city has been called 'the walkers' Mecca'. Reason for this is that since as far back as 1925 the international Four-day marches have been held here. The sporting event takes its origin from an even earlier dare when in 1909 the marches were organised for the first time by the Royal Dutch League for physical Education. Though this first event drew only some tens of walkers, the Four Day Event (International from 1 928 onwards) rapidly became so popular that it drew participants on their thousands. Even by conservative estimates, 870,000 walkers have by now extensively flexed their calves in the Nijmegen region.
In the Event itself and right from the start of the proceedings, despite massive numbers, participants are surrounded by a wave of passion. The glorious entry to the city at the end of the final day of the Event is the occasion for all the enthusiasm to reach its height. Lining the route into the city, rechristened the Via Gladiola, are an average of a quarter of a million spectators each year. Inexhaustible in applauding walkers as they pass by, clapping increases as a token of moral support for those whose limbs are plagued with blisters.
As you might expect, members of the large number of marching hands and music corps taking part in the Four Day Event are happy to lend a hand with this moral support Just as atmospheric is the prelude to rite Event which takes place with a flagparade in the local Goffert Stadium on the Monday evening preceding the first marching day, it is here that delegates representing some 35.000 walkers from more than 40 countries present themselves in a cheerfully loud and colourful show on the Astroturf and in the air.
Gigantic amounts of' food both solid and liquid find their way' into this city set on the river Waal, where for the past quarter of a century international Summer Festivals have also been held. Walkers are accommodated during the week at private addresses as well as at hotels and camping grounds in the city' arid surrounding areas. There are plenty of places available for groups and for members of the armed forces from Holland itself as well as from abroad, a tent camp is set up in the 'Heumensoord' nature reservation on the outsides of Nijmegen having a Capacity of 8,000 places.
For those who make their acquaintance with 'The Man with the Hammer' during the Four Day Event and do not manages to reach the final tape (about 8 percent of those who start out in this sporting event) there are of course many who need more care and attention than simply treatment for blisters.
To ensure proper reception and care for these, the Nijmegen Municipal Theatre is set up as an emergency hospital and the Dutch Red Cross presides.
Ii is almost inevitable that so successful a fixture as the Nijmegen Four Day Event should have its imitators in the form of multiple day walking events elsewhere in the world. Bern in Switzerland has held its two-day event for the past 36 years and Castlebar in Ireland, as the Netherlands, has a four-day event. Outside Europe (which still has multiple day events in Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, England and Austria) a three-day event is held in Japan and a two-day one in Taiwan. initiatives are being developed in a number of other countries and territories throughout tire world for the holding of multiple day walking events.
Where the ten events mentioned are concerned, the KNBLO administrators have forged enduring links by the setting up of the international Marching League accompanied by IML. distinction grades and insignia.
Information about the International Four-day distance marches which will take place every year in Nijmegen in the third week of July can be obtained from the KNBLO in the Hague (tel. 070-360+141).
Last Modified: Sunday, January 31, 1998 at 11:32 PM
Made by D.J.Bongers, Velp