Soldier’s Story – The International 4 Day March Nijmegen – Feb 20 2021

1 month to go before I leave in preparation to attend the International 4 Day March Nijmegen. I wrote this story in Feb 2021 and it was ipublished n The Royal Regiment of Canada ICH DIEN Journal last Fall.

Soldier’s Story – The International 4 Day March Nijmegen – Feb 20 2021

WO Glen Moore CD (Ret’d), Vice President, Web Master & Life Member

The Royal Regiment of Canada Association

It all begin in 2012 when I was searching the internet and I came across the website for The International 4 Day March Nijmegen. I was intrigued because I always thought that it was mainly for the military to participate but then I found out that civilians can participate as well. After checking out the website and finding out more information I decided that this would be something to set a goal for and try to accomplish.

The International Four Day Marches Nijmegen (Dutch: Internationale Vierdaagse Afstandsmarsen Nijmegen) is the largest multiple day marching event in the world. It is organised every year in Nijmegen, Netherlands in mid-late July as a means of promoting sport and exercise. Participants walk 30, 40 or 50 kilometres daily depending on their age and gender and, on completion, receive a royally approved medal (Vierdaagsekruis). The participants are mostly civilians, but there are also a few thousand military participants.

Standard distances:

30 km × 4 days

40 km × 4 days

50 km × 4 days

Military category:

40 km × 4 days – Wearing uniform + at least 10 kg (+ water, etc.) marching weight for males aged 18–49, for females the weight is optional.

The “Vierdaagse” (Dutch for “four days event”) is an annual walk that has taken place since 1909. Based at Nijmegen since 1924, it now takes place in the third week of July. In 2016 it celebrated the 100th edition (reflecting that the marches were curtailed during the two world wars). Depending on age group and gender, walkers have to walk 30, 40 or 50 kilometres each day for four days. Originally a military event with a few civilians, it now is a mainly civilian event. Numbers have risen in recent years, with over 40,000 taking part, including about 5,000 military and is now the world’s largest walking event. Due to possible congestion on the route, since 2004 the organisers have limited the number of participants.

Many take part every year, including several who have taken part in over 60 annual marches. The current record is held by Bert van der Lans, who completed his seventy-first march in 2018, at the age of 86. Each day of the marches is named after the biggest town it goes through. Tuesday is the day of Elst, Wednesday the day of Wijchen, Thursday the day of Groesbeek and Friday the day of Cuijk. The routes always remain the same unless there is a specific need to change. This happened in 2007 (route changed in 2006 but cancelled) when the walkers went along the Waalkade, beside the River Waal, on Wednesday for the first time due to congestion on the original route.

The 2006 march was the first to be cancelled in 90 years (apart from 1940 due to World War II). The extreme heat meant that during the first day’s march there were thousands of drop-outs and two deaths. Following the 2006 cancellation, it was decided that in future the organising committee would adjust the start time/distance/finish time to manage the event, instead of outright cancellation. The 2016 centenary event responded to unusually hot conditions by adjusting the starting times, and/or increasing the valid finishing time to reflect the difficulty of course. On the Friday, as participants near the finish, the public presents the walkers with gladioli, a symbol of victory since Roman times, when gladiators were likewise showered with these flowers. The entry into the city and towards the finish, along the St. Annastraat, is for that reason called Via Gladiola during the Nijmegen Marches. As far as a week ahead people will reserve spaces alongside the Via Gladiola by placing chairs and even couches.

The finish is also shown on Dutch television.

The marching event has three different types of awards:

Cross for the Four Day Marches (Dutch: Vierdaagsekruis): awarded to participants who successfully completed the Four Days Marches according to regulations. The medal is an official Dutch decoration that can be worn on a Dutch military uniform. It is fully named “Cross for demonstrated marching skill”, as defined by Royal Decree on 6 October 1909. Each year a walker receives a specific medal in bronze, silver or gold, with or without a crown, as well as ribbon numbers of varying design, to denote the number of times the event has been completed.

Group Medal of the Four Day Marches

Orderly Medal of the Four Day Marches (not an official award since 2017)

When I First started preparing for the march in 2012, I began around February 14th St. Valentines Day which would be 5 months to prepare. I was required to registered for the 4 x 40 KM but I decided to register for the 4 x 50 KM. I started to follow the suggested training schedule on the website and I originally used TTC station stops to walk the distances and increase every 2 weeks. Due to popularity there’s a lot of people who register for the march so I had to be waitlisted. I continued training until when I unfortunately found out that all the spots were allocated and I wasn’t able to go in April 2012.

This was heartbreaking and I decided to set my goal to retry again in 2013. After the New Year came by in 2013 the website information was posted at the end of January so I thought why not register again and start training on St. Valentines Day Feb 14. The International 4 Day March Nijmegen is one the best organizations that I have seen because they have adapted through the years and realized that the size and scale of this event and the number of participant’s involved, they have modified and changed their rules to allow people who didn’t get in to make a lottery draw to determine who gets the allocated spots for people who have registered and actually if you were eliminated before your chances increase. I was very happy to get drawn in 2013 so I was all in to go in July 2013. As part of the march organization, they setup host families that you can stay at during the march. You pay a specific rate for room and board which includes food. I trained hard to go in 2013 and by the time I went I was reasonably confident that I had a good shot to complete. I found my host family information and then booked my flights and I was all set to go. I spent time in Amsterdam before I went to Nijmegen. I found the host family place and ended sharing a room with good friend James Smith as well there was a couple of other people also in the same house.

Over the years that I have participated and completed the march the respective days routes are usually the same. Here’s my nutshell version:

Day 1: Elst – Blue Tuersday – Traditionally walkers wear Blue. This considered the longest day, a real dog breakfast in that it’s usually averages approx. 52 KM for the 50 KM marchers that includes crossing the Nijmegen Bridge on the way out and on the way back in and then onto festive return through the town to the finish line.

Day 2: Wijchen – Pink Wednesday – Traditionally walkers wear Pink. This considered the shortest day, but don’t let this fool you because this the day that the most people drop out. This usually averages approx. 48 KM for the 50 KM marchers that includes going out in the open field trails around water dykes and it can be brutal especially if it’s hot because there’s no cover. Every marcher bitches and complains about this day until the festive return through the town to the finish line.

Day 3: Groesbeek – “The City of the 7 Hills” – IMO, this the toughest day because at least half way though you’re a low elevation and then you start to go up 7 hills up towards and past Groesbeek Cemetery and then you finally read the sign that says “Welcome to the City of the 7 hills” (which some think are mountains) but trust me this the real thick and thin of the 4 Day march and you’ll need to take a least one or 2 (even more) breaks to get though then it’s onto the festive return through the town to the finish line.

Day 4: Cuijk – If ever they had a setup, build up to an EPIC day this it. Words can’t explain what this day means. It’s filled with pure emotion and satisfaction. There are some very cool highlights during this day which are Airborne Memorial near Grave, Netherlands and then the Engineer Pontoon Bridge which they build specifically for this day to allow you to cross a river and as James Smith and I dubbed in 2013 “Around the Clubhouse Turn” onto the receiving the Gladiola Flowers, crossing the finish line and receiving our well-deserved medal.

Since 2013, I have completed the March (4 x 50 KM’s) in 2014, 2015, 2016 (100th Anniversary which they had a 4 x 55 KM option that I registered for and completed), 2018 & 2019. Unfortunately, due to the COVID 19 Corona Virus The International 4 Day March Nijmegen organization has cancelled last year and this year. They’re intending to resume the march in July 2022 which I’m planning to go to.

This has been a personal experience for one that I have relished and cherished every time that I had the opportunity to go and participate. It definitely hasn’t been easy, I had lots of help and support along the way. I have enjoyed every day seeing all the marchers and local people who are all there to help you complete it. The common theme and saying is “SUCCESS”. This not a walk in the park by no means. You need to be personally motivated, have passion, be prepared, train, don’t take anything for granted, enjoy and smell the roses. Every time I have gone it’s been different in its own way. There’s been some sorrow but for the most part there’s been a lot of satisfaction and fulfilment. Everyday the locals are there at the beginning of the day high five you, and when you go through the cities\towns and suburbs all they’re they to keep your spirits up, ensure you get water, food and anything else you need.

They look forward to this event and are always welcoming.

You Will Never Walk Alone!

Glen Moore – Nijmegen Marcher #6