Nijmegen Four Day Marches

The Nijmegen Four Day Marches (Vierdaagse) is an annual international marching event held in the Netherlands.

In 2013 the UK military contingent consisted of almost 900 uniformed personnel. The RAF High Wycombe team began training in February and by July, we had clocked up a total of 420 km and were feeling confident.

Nijmegen tests your ability to co-operate as a team and help others to draw on their stamina, above all it is an endurance event; individually, you require determination and energy. Each day starts and ends at the purpose built Heumensoord Camp, forming up after breakfast at 0400 or 0500. Early starts mean you have covered a fair distance before dawn, and with daytime temperatures of 26ºC, which felt considerably warmer, heat injuries were clearly going to be a risk. The importance of a steady pace and effective sun protection quickly became apparent. By the end of Day 1 the team were in fairly good shape, a few blisters and hotspots, but no major dramas. We started drawing on our self-motivation at this point, because despite being tired, you had to get up and do it all again. Sure enough, at 0300, quads and thighs were taught, with little sleep we had to jam our feet back into boots. It was then that we reaped the dividend of training, once in motion, the body gets used to it – but hydration was crucial, it is everybody’s job to protect themselves from heat injury and to spot it in others. Rest at the end of the day was crucial to being ready in the morning – sorting your kit, eating, showering and sleeping. For those of us in good shape after 2 days, Day 3 was a challenge. As the route rose over the hills – surprisingly arduous after 65 miles on the flat – you have to dig deep. Marching songs helped; increasing the team’s pace and supporting those suffering in silence.

However, if you start Day 4, come hell or high water you’ll finish it. Although the conditions were just as strenuous, the mood is upbeat and the crowds were buzzing. Along the whole route spectators applaud continuously, people offer snacks and drinks, children stand in the road, you are offered gladioli stems, showered from garden hoses, bands play, Mayors take salutes and café owners make a killing. The tumultuous reception over the last few miles underlines how culturally important this event is to Nijmegen. The crowd lining the route is 10 deep provide the tonic to survive the last few hours and complete all 163.8 km. Being part of the scene is truly memorable and alone draws people back time and again.

The RAF High Wycombe team were awarded 2nd place overall for RAF Regular teams and in recognition of the leadership necessary to guide a team around the course without losing any individual to injury, a team medal was awarded and rightly retained by our team leader Debbie.

Team members: LAC Catherine Cornall, SAC Karl Thayer, SAC Josh Brimmer, SAC Doc Loosley, Fg Off Tony Van Geene, Flt Lt Debbie Seymour, Flt Lt Mike Proctor, Flt Lt Katie Bell, Flt Lt Kerry Shardlow and Flt Lt Rob Perry.