YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE – Alkmaar’s Festival of the Foot

No surf on the Dutch beach, but plenty of action.

No surf on the Dutch beach, but plenty of action.

The mass walk is a peculiarly Dutch activity, one that I’d avoided until now. That’s surprising, given how much I enjoy hiking.

But yesterday I tagged along with my friend Anita and 6,800 of her Dutch walking mates on the ‘Plus Wandel4Daagse Alkmaar‘, for a brisk stroll through North Holland.

Each morning for four days, walkers strap on their boots and set out on a loop out of Alkmaar, north of Amsterdam. They’ve signed up to cover a daily distance of anything from a gentle 8.5km to a tough 40km. Anita had opted for 25km a day – quite challenging enough, thanks very much.

The early morning kickoff at an Alkmaar sport complex.

The early morning kickoff at an Alkmaar sport complex.

See you again soon, Alkmaar.

See you again soon, Alkmaar.

The tulips are finished. but the landscape is still beautiful.

The tulips are finished for now, but the landscape is still beautiful.

We shared the road with whoever else was around.

We shared the road with whoever else was around.

The locals didn't seem to mind.

The locals didn’t seem to mind.

On the 6km beach stretch we could spread out a bit more.

On the 6km beach stretch we could spread out a bit more.

Neither were the beach huts.

No time to lounge in a beach hut.

The band played for us as we rounded the corner at the halfway point.

The band played on at the halfway point. 13km to the Finish.

Refuelling with koffie and appeltaart in Bergen.

Refuelling with koffie and appeltaart in Bergen.

And of course, there had to be a place where the girls handed out free cheese.

And of course, being close to Alkmaar, there had to be a place where the Dutch girls handed out free cheese.

Yes, there is some forest in the Netherlands.

Yes, there is some forest in the Netherlands.

The home stretch.

The home stretch.

Thanks for the company, the jokes and the history lessons, Ruud, Imogen, Anita and Loes.

Thanks for the company, the jokes, the history lessons and the encouragement, Ruud, Imogen, Anita and Loes.

I could fill this post with more serious information about the Dutch Four Day Marches, beginning with the famous one in Nijmegen which started as a gruelling military exercise and has run for over a hundred years. A quick web search showed me there are also annual Four Day Marches from Apeldoorn, Haarlem, Hilvarenbeek and other places.

No time to do them all, or even write about them; I have to go and massage my leg muscles.

The Alkmaar 4 Daagse was running for the seventh time. It was my first, and probably not my last.

For a map of the day’s route, click here.

14 Comments

Filed under Hiking, Holland

14 responses to “YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE – Alkmaar’s Festival of the Foot

  1. Robert 7 Lynn Medina

    Very impressive!! However possibly more comfortable than some of our Blue Mountains scrambling/walks.

    • True, Robert. 25km in the Blue Mountains would be harder, though I don’t usually manage that sort of distance there. 25 Dutch kilometres were still enough to have me feeling it. Respect to those who do 40km or more, four days in a row.

  2. Rachel Stewart

    Here in the USA the C & O Canal Association has a 184.5 mile, two week supported hike on the C & O Canal towpath, which runs from Cumberland, MD to Washington, DC. Next one is Spring 2014. Care to join?

    • I just googled it, Rachel. It looks great, though two weeks and 184.5 miles walking behind a bagpiper could get a bit wearing, even for you and me with our Scottish surnames. Perhaps he stops for a rest every now and then.

      • Rachel Stewart

        Oh, dear – that piper is there for only the first 10-15 minutes or so of the walk!!! Last time the piper was female, and her husband (also in kilt, etc.) thumped on a big drum. I guessed he was there to set a good swift pace.

  3. You are turning me into a hiker! (Not a biker though.) In a country as flat as the Netherlands (equally flat as the area in Finland where I come from) I might just make it, one day.

    • As it happens, TM, my friend Anita recently walked such a big event in Vaasa, Finland. She really enjoyed it. I see it’s coming up again in August.

      • Now you’re talking! That’s the town where I studied and I grew up less than 100 km from there. I must check the August event as my sister still lives close by and we visit her regularly. Not to mention one of my best friends who lives in Vaasa. BTW, we spent today, i.e. Midsummer, hiking at the Nuuksio National Park off Helsinki.

  4. TM, I’ve heard about the great hiking in Finland, so it’s on my bucket list. The Vaasa walk is on the international marches website:

    http://www.imlwalking.org/

  5. This sounds like such fun! Must be a great vibe, when so many people are walking together.

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