It all started with a week of bushwalking with Leo in Australia during March 1999. Having been able to keep up with the odB patriarch of walking (twenty years my senior I might add), I was pronounced capable of doing the four day march in Nijmegen. It became an idea that took on a life of its own. Before I knew it, I was registered for the 84th Four-Day March of Nijmegen (Vierdaagse van Nijmegen), as were the other two rookie walkers, Mies and Flip, plus veteran Leo (of course). Did we sign up for the 30 km event? Of course not. Was 40 km an option? Gracious no. We would do the 50 km course!
Sorry, no pictures of the start. At 4:30 am, the flash on my camera would be insufficient for capturing any more than the few meters ahead of me. I can tell you though that there were wellwishers on most every corner as we headed north out of town for the bridge across the Maas. Even in the first hamlets we traversed at 5 am, people were out in their yards, bundled up in their lawn chairs, watching and cheering, wishing the hordes "Succes!!!". Of the 43,008 people who register for the 84th Vierdaagse, 41,093 started, and it seemed like they were all trying to navigate down the narrow streets at the same time.
The route took us within a block of the home of Jack and Stien odB in Valburg. Much to our delight, they had set up a rest stop for the odB walkers, having refreshments and food ready. One lucky walker even got a light leg and foot massage, courtesy of Kees van Splunder. With water bottles topped off, we fell back in step with the masses who continued to file past.
This day's route took us through Wijchen twice, where we were greeted both times by Flip's family: Annick, Lisa, and Julius, who had hot coffee and light snacks for us. In the afternoon, we also had the pleasure of meeting Annick parents, Yann and Joos Hardeveld. The sight of familiar faces was a welcome break in the monotony.
Quite unexpectedly in the afternoon, while traversing the seven hills, we looked up just in time to see a sign on a lamppost bearing Jim's name. It was put there by the parents of Jacorien Wouters, whom Jim had befriended while she was on an extended work assignment in San Jose, California. Ironically the sign referenced TUDelft, the work place of Jacorien's husband Jerry, whom the Wouters had thought was the 'connection' with Jim. After a short conversation and a group picture, we were once again on our way.
The odB walkers each wear a special T-shirt on this final day. It showed a bird eating a frog, but the frogs hands were around the bird's throat, preventing him from being swallowed. The caption read, "Never ever give up!". Through the course of the day, many of our fellow walkers voiced their concurrence with that small, but powerful message.
A mere 285,000 steps and 43 hours of walking after we started, the four of us had our medals. We had successfully completed the course! Each of us, for our own reasons, had accepted the challenge and met it. With the gratification of knowing that they were equal to the task, the rookies took to verbalizing their hard learned lesson, "Never ever again!" Maybe.
Last update: 06-Aug-2004