Fourteen thousand very weary walker put their best foot for forward on Friday (18 July) to make some attempt at a triumphal entry into the little Dutch town of Nijmegen.
Fourteen thousand very weary walker put their best foot for forward on Friday (18 July) to make some attempt at a triumphal entry into the little Dutch town of Nijmegen. They had just completed this year's Nijmegen Walks.
The Walks began 1909. Then, only 41 people took part. Fifty-three marches later, with only a break for the war years, the number of starters this year was over 15,400.
Organised by the Royal Netherlands League for Physical Culture, the Walks are non-competitive events to encourage people to reach their peak of physical fitness. Participants certainly needed to be on top form this year -- in the first two days of the four day event, which began on Monday (14 July) temperatures were over 809 degrees Fahrenheit (26.7 degrees Centigrade). By Wednesday an Englishman and a Dutchman had already died as a result of the marches.
One thousand three hundred and sixteen pairs of feet had given up the trek by Thursday
On the last day, a brilliant sunshine, the first marchers filtered into Nijmegen. They came over a pontoon bridge specially set up over the river by Dutch Army Engineers. Some 200,000 onlooker lined the streets to cheer them home.
The oldest walker was an 85-year old Dutchman, the youngest cheating a little, a babe in arms.
There was a 74-year old Swiss with a wooden leg, who had trained over some 800 kilometres (500 miles) specially for the Walks. He got a special bouquet for his performance. A blind man also got an ovation.
Also among the finishers was a contingent of Israeli girl mineworkers, and a number of military units, including the third battalion of Britain's Queen's Regiment.