On step change and quick wins

What may seem a daunting idea to many for all the right reasons, turned into an enlightening experience for me. Determined to succeed, in preparation of the 103th  International Four Day Marches, Nijmegen July 16-19, 2019, I

covered 745 kilometres,

climbed 843 floors,

set over 1.072.919.000 steps.

The idea to participate in ‘de Nijmeegse Vierdaagse’  was born a year before, summer 2018. At that time I decided to return to the Netherlands for a sabbatical, after living and working in UK Higher Education for nearly six years. Participating in ‘de Vierdaagse’ was putting myself up for the challenge to walk 30 km per day, for four consecutive days, within a set time limit of 10 hours each day.  Preparing for this challenge would keep me focused and seemed like fun.

Although determined to participate at any rate, I was lucky to find a comrade in arms, who, like me, looked forward to the challenge of ‘de Vierdaagse’. We were baptised the “walking-mamas” by our kids.

Our journey started in January 2019 the 14th with the registration for ‘Via Vierdaagse’, a training programme for first-time ‘Vierdaagse’ walkers. When we participated in the live training workshop at the end of that January, we quickly understood this was not only about walking. This was about interval training, muscle strength, endurance. This was about outfits and shoes, blisters, healthy food and water. This was not hiking in peace and quiet, this was walking in a 44.500 walkers’ queue or in proper Dutch “op een kluitje lopen” for four days.

The online ‘Via Vierdaagse’ training schedule encouraged us  to walk at least once or twice during the week.  In the weekends, longer walks stood on the menu, and as walking mamas we held joint training weekends on a monthly base. In addition, our kids advised us to use a walking app, so we could share and comment on each other’s’ workouts (and on which they commented as well, of course). During these seven months of prep-time the app registered 745 training kilometres, 843 floors and 1.072.919 steps.

My training sessions started with walks of five kilometres. At first, I would come home exhausted and my muscles would ache for days. Yet, with every training session I started to feel stronger. Each time it was a joy to be outside. Walking, step by step, and finding new small roads and lanes, beautiful secret spots and landscapes in my old familiar surroundings, was exhilarating and energising.  

With every step I also started to better understand the magnitude of the challenge we were undertaking. On-off  I had to push myself to put on my walking shoes and go: purpose and discipline. Not only that, the weather during ‘de Vierdaagse’ would be  one of the big unknowns; we could have rain all four days or be walking in tropical heat without shade or a cool breeze: endurance and effort. To succeed and stay healthy, sticking to the training schedule was essential.  No quick wins for ‘de Vierdaagse’.

I enjoyed the challenge, setting a target and going for it.  And yes, the walking mamas did it! ‘De Vierdaagse’ marches : we walked 4 days, 137 kilometres, climbed 12 floors and took 201.997 steps with a smile and in a wink. The kisses, the gladiolus and the medals were well deserved,  the experience of love, friendship and achievement a gift. ‘De Vierdaagse’ brought me home, step by step.