De Vierdaagse, 160km in four days

An image of light brown hiking shoes and light blue socks, resting in the sand, legs crossed.

1999, Nijmegen, Netherlands

It was the day before we would participate in 83rd edition of the annual event, De Nijmeegse Vierdaagse or The Four Days Marches and the three of us were excited. And nervous. A television crew found us, as my aunt had tipped them about us walking, and they wanted to film the three generations — my mom, me and my daughter.

For months we had trained to be fit enough to complete the distance of 40km every day for four days. By the time we stood at the start at 6am on that first day, we had walked about 500 kilometers on weekends in the past months. We were ready. And yet we were not. We had to be back at the same place where we started at 5pm and on that first day we wondered if we would manage, as we just barely made it. We rested frequently during the day, ate our energy bars and drank our sports drinks jam-packed with electrolytes. Despite our training, despite the good hiking shoes we were wearing, there were blisters and sore feet and aching muscles.

The first two days we walked through small villages where the residents sat on camping chairs on the pavements, cheering us on, and some of them handing out paper cups with water. Those were nice days, but by the time you get to the sixth or seventh village you have seen it all and you are tired and all you want to do is to just be left alone so you can concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.

We were good together, the three of us. Watching out for each other, making sure enough was drunk and eaten, and we had our laughs and also our tears. Because yes, it is hard. While we walked, we were mostly quiet, and busy with our own thoughts.

The third day was brilliant. It’s called the day of Groesbeek and takes you over a road going up and down several hills. It’s such a change from walking on flat terrain all day long. On that road it was like the three of us found our inspiration again, and we marched back to Nijmegen in high spirits, despite sore feet and yet again, some blisters.

If you have made to the morning of the fourth day, you are almost home free. The fourth day is all about celebration. Almost everywhere on the route there are people cheering you on, singing songs, and congratulating you on your achievement. This day we did the same as we did on the other days — we fell in pace with the military to take our minds off our own tired legs. And we made it. We finished De Vierdaagse and we were so proud of ourselves!

About two months later we started practicing again.

2000, Nijmegen, Netherlands

By the time this 84th edition came around, we had walked about a 1000km in training. We had actually not really stopped walking after the 1999 edition of The Four Days Marches and we were in high spirits. We’ve done it once, and surely we can do it again!

Getting ready on that first day to start the walk the mood was… different. None of us had slept well, and somehow we all dreaded the four days ahead. I didn’t feel ‘right’. Everything felt… uncomfortable. I was wearing the same I would always wear to go out walking… a short legging, T-shirt, a tracksuit for the chilly morning, which would soon disappear in my backpack, good walking socks and of course my hiking shoes. Still, something felt… off.

That evening we returned to our room — we were staying with people who rented out a room to participants every year — tired. Quiet. We did our best to pep each other up, and went to bed early, thinking that was the reason why we felt like we did. What I didn’t tell mom or my daughter was that my hips ached. It was different than the year before. My hips never bothered me then, and now they overshadowed the discomfort from the blisters I yet again had on my heels.

The next day we were in better spirits, and knew that once we get through it, the next day we would walk to Groesbeek and over that hilly road again. We looked forward to that. Once again we went to bed early, and once again I kept quiet about the pain in my hips. It was only the next day that I mentioned it, because every step hurt. Mom had problems with her knees, and my daughter was just plain tired. We kept on encouraging each other. We were not going to quit. We could do this. We did it once, we would do it again.

And we did.

But on Friday, the last day of De Vierdaagse, the three of us knew that we needed rest. We needed to stop walking for a couple of months. We agreed that we would only start training again in January 2001.

My hips were killing me, and I had no idea why. No idea where it came from. It was only when we got home, and I started putting my stuff away, that I held my shoes in my hand, and saw the worn down heels that I realized: 1500 kilometers in training, and walking De Vierdaagse twice on the same shoes might not have been the best thing to do…

Sidenote: Whether it really were my shoes back then, or whether it was my lower back, I still don’t know for sure. I still suffer from pain in my hips occasionally, waking up from it in the middle of the night and not able to lie on my side. It comes from my lower back, and thankfully frequent visits to the chiropractor helps me with this!

© Rebel’s Notes
Image from Pixabay


Reminiscences: Musings in Memoir

9 thoughts on “De Vierdaagse, 160km in four days

  1. I could never do this. I admire all of you who can! Did you participate again in later years?
    I can imagine that training and walking it would kill one pair of shoes, haha!

    1. We only did it those two times. Mom wanted to do it again, but she never got around to do so.

  2. Regardless of how you felt physically, it was a great accomplishment to finish this twice. And to do it with your daughter and mother!! Wow a fabulous thing to do! I’m sorry you have had recurring hip pain since though. It’s important to have good footwear if you are hiking.

    1. It was a wonderful experience, and indeed so good we did it twice. The first year we got a medal, and the second year the medal had a little crown on it, because we did it for two consecutive years. I still have both my and mom’s medals 🙂

    1. Yes, for sure. And somewhere in the boxes we have in storage, I still have the footage that was shot by the local TV station that first year.

  3. Oof! That’s really really far to walk!

    Shoes make a huge difference when it comes to any kind of exercise, so I wouldn’t be surprised if your worn heel contributed to your hip pain.

    1. Back in South Africa I did quite a lot of long hiking trips too, up and down the mountains, and love it. But yes, good shoes should always be the first priority, and that’s something I will never forget again 😉

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