Andy's 2018 Nijmegen Marches Adventure...

Walker Andy shares experience of Nijmegen Marches, following numerous charity marathons with breast cancer charity, Walk the Walk.

Tickets – check, Gear – check, Bags – check, bra – check, butterflies in the stomach – check.

Nijmegen here I come!

Despite having completed marathons for WTW including the Three Land Challenge a month ago, this feels different, very different! 4 marathons in 4 days is a new level but that’s what makes it a special challenge. Let the adventure begin...!

We meet up at the Hotel, get settled and head down for the team talk. This is our first chance to meet all the team and familiarise ourselves with the routine for the next four days. Afterwards we head downtown to Nijmegen to register the team and get our armbands for the week. This gives us our first view of the Wedren – this is the start and finishing area for the marches. When you see the grandstands and so many people milling about you get your first sense of the scale of the event. Everything now becomes very real and very exciting!

In order to avoid the heat of the day, the Marches start early, so we have to get up at 2.30am to have breakfast at 3am and get on our way by 3.30am. This actually isn’t so bad considering we don’t normally get any sleep during a regular MoonWalk! On the first morning the adrenaline gets you up and going, so after a quick breakfast and final check of our kit, off we go. The coach drops us off about 4am and as you get off the coach trying to be quiet, we become aware of what can only be described as the noise of a football match in the distance.

The closer we get to the start, the louder it becomes. By the time we reach the start we are greeted by a sea of people cheering the flow of Walkers on their way in a cacophony of noise and music – it’s absolute bedlam and it’s amazing!! And it’s 4.30am!! This place is nuts and it’s wonderful! As we make our way out of town the noise and the people continue for a couple of kilometres till we hit the countryside. When we get to the first village on the route, we are startled to find hundreds of people lining the route, all sitting down outside their houses and cheering you on – this is such a buzz to feel their support and makes us all feel very special indeed!

And this carries on and on and on for the four days. Every village en route have their street parties welcoming you and immediately you forget about being tired as you dance to the music and high five the kids. Along the route, lots of people give you water or spray you with sprinklers, which is great fun and cools you down. Every other person seems to be holding out a bowl of sweets or melon or cucumber – there’s a lot of cucumber! – and if you’re really lucky, sometimes you get an ice lolly which tastes like heaven in the heat!! And the bands continue to play, mixed in with DJ’s playing every type of music – I now actually have a liking for Europop (don’t tell anyone...) It sounds like you always have at least 5 tunes playing at once as you walk along among the crowds...

The Nijmegen Marches has its origins as a military event and in-between towns and villages we would often find ourselves marching along with troops of soldiers from all different countries as they sang their marching songs. Some of them even let us march with them which felt like an honour, particularly as I was wearing a pink tutu at the time, but that’s another story! By the end of the four days we knew the words so well we were singing the songs in our sleep!

Every day we were treated to the incredible mix of festivities surrounding this event. It feels like the whole of Holland are here having a party and cheering you on. A couple of the girls had been struggling with the pronunciation of Nijmegen, so we had for ease nicknamed it Narnia and this truly feels like a fantastical place where anything can happen around the next corner!

On the fourth day the carnival atmosphere gathers pace and reaches its height as we enter the last few kilometres, which is known as the “Via Gladiola”. Here the people are packed in the sides of the roads and in grandstands, offering stems of gladioli to us all in what feels like a victory march to the finish as we accompany the marching soldiers and the military band. It is a sight I will always remember. The colours, the cheers and the affection of the crowds is beyond words. The sense of pride and achievement that you feel now is almost overwhelming as we see the Finish Line approach. After four days, we have done it!!

As at the end of every day, we head over to the Wedren which is a closed off area for the Walkers for a beer and chips party – let the celebrations commence! Here the bedlam continues – two brass bands take it in turns to bang out their versions of famous songs, interspersed by a band on the main stage – the air is full of music and euphoria! As we sit with our celebratory beer I get chatting to a man who has just completed his 45th Nijmegen Marches. His wife tells me he actually hates walking but he loves this event so much he trains for a couple of months before so he can do it, then goes back to walking the dog afterwards! I now know why he has to come back every year – this event is intoxicating!

It is called the Walk Of The World and you can see why. This is like the World Cup, The Tour De France for Walkers. We’ve met soldiers and civilians from all parts of the globe. Nearly 48,000 walkers are cheered on by a million people over the four days. The respect, the joy, the fun, the music and the love I’ve been privileged to be part of for four days will remain with me forever. Nijmegen has presented me with my biggest challenge to date and rewarded me with the greatest Walking experience of my life with memories and friends to cherish for the rest of my days.
If you are worried about whether you are up to this challenge, let me share a few facts with you. 3 people took part who were 91 years old. 281 people took part who are 81-90 years old. 3867 people took part who are 71-80 years old.

If you follow the Training Plan you can do this. We walk as a team and we support each other as a team. Jen and Claire, who looked after us this year were fantastic from the minute we arrived and supported us all the way. If you want to be part of a team on the best walking event around I’ll see you next year!
It’s been a couple of weeks since returning and the songs are still in my head! I can’t believe it’s finished... I want to go back!!

My Grandaddy was 101, He did the Nijmegen Marches, Just for fun, Your left, your left, Your left, right, left, You do the Nijmegen Marches, With your Walk The Walk left...

Do you want to be part of the Walk the Walk Nijmegen Marches Team in 2019? Register your Interest now!


Bra picture

Get involved

Here's just a few ways of supporting us!