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35 The International Four Days Marches

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In the twentieth century the third week of July (when the International Four Days Marches are held) became a regular event on the Nijmegen calendar. This is the week that the residents of Nijmegen prove themselves to be hospitable, generous and cheerful. The Four Days Marches have made Nijmegen famous throughout the world.

The origin of the Four Days Marches Nijmegen lies in sporting events for army units held all over the country between 1904 and 1908. The goal of these events was to improve the physical condition of conscripted soldiers. In 1909 the Dutch Association of Physical Education (now the KNBLO) began organising four days of marching, which started from as many as ten different places in the Netherlands. That first year 306 people marched, of whom most were soldiers. The event had an overnight stop in Nijmegen for the first time in 1912. Thanks to the hospitality shown in the Prins Hendrik barracks, the marching event started to visit the city regularly. In 1925 the Four Days Marches settled in Nijmegen. The 1928 Four Days Marches was the first to have international participants. Germans, British, Norwegians and French nationals marched alongside the Dutch. In about 1930 the international interest became obvious throughout the country and other cities applied to host the event. However Nijmegen had proven its hospitality and the unique and varied walking routes in the area meant the Four Days Marches stayed in Nijmegen.

In 1937 over four thousand people participated in the event. The Four Days Marches was slowly changing from long distance marching organised by soldiers for soldiers into a walking event organised by a civil organisation in which soldiers also took part. Characteristic of the Four Days Marches is the lack of competition. The main goals are the stimulation of movement, preferably in attractive surroundings, and that walkers build up endurance through practice. After the war the number of participants continued to rise. By 1960 there were approximately 15,000 walkers. Since then the number of people increased by 10,000 each decade and participation has now peaked at 45,000. The walkers from all over the world are accommodated in schools, public buildings and peoples’ homes. Nijmegen is now pre-eminently the Four Days Marches city.
Sportsmanship and hospitality
since 1912
The Blauwvosjes walking club, 1937 (RAN)

35 blauwvosjes.jpg

Source: Jan Brabers in: De Canon van Nijmegen, Uitgeverij Vantilt (Nijmegen 2009)
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