First day of International Nijmegen Marches cancelled due to expected heat
The International Four Days Marches in Nijmegen will be a three day event starting on Wednesday instead of Tuesday this year. The board of the 4Daagse Foundation said on Sunday that it has no choice but to cancel the first walking day of the 104th edition of the event. The weather conditions will be unique on Tuesday, according to the march leader, Henny Sackers.
Sackers was "very disappointed" that this decision was necessary after two coronavirus years in which the Four Days Marches could not take place at all. “It seems as if there is a curse on the 104th Four Days Marches.”
Temperatures are expected to be even worse than in 2006. That year, two walkers died during the first day of the event as temperatures rose to 34 degrees Celsius. Thought it was never conclusively proven that they died as a result of the weather, the organization drew up a heat protocol soon after.
The Four Days Marches' own weather service has predicted a "code red" for the region around Nijmegen and the Betuwe, which makes up the route for the first day of the Four Days Marches, Sackers said. Alternative heat scenarios that the Four Days Marches has developed as part of its weather protocol are simply insufficient to handle the situation, he said at a very well-attended press conference in Nijmegen. It is organizationally impossible to postpone the entire Four Days Marches by one day.
The Four Days Marches board and Nijmegen Mayor Hubert Bruls emphasized that the decision was not only taken because of the health of the walkers, but also because of the health of the hundreds of people who work every day to ensure that the walk runs smoothly. Even the Red Cross and other healthcare organizations might not be able to cope with an overload due to such extreme temperatures.
Sackers strongly advised the 42,000 registered participants against walking on their own on Tuesday. There are no provisions along the way, not even medical care, he emphasized. After three successful days of walking, participants will still receive a Four Days Marches Cross, an official award. The regulations provide for one day off, according to the board.
The mayors of Lingewaard, Overbetuwe and Arnhem, the "transit municipalities" for Tuesday’s walk, were informed of the decision on Sunday. Registered participants should receive a text message or an e-mail about the decision.
The Vierdaagsefeesten, the parties which started on Saturday, will continue for the time being, according to Mayor Bruls. There may be some adjustments to the daytime schedule on Tuesday due to the high heat.
The Four Days Marches will now officially start early on Wednesday morning with the course that leads to Wijchen. In Nijmegen it is Roze Woensdag, or Pink Wednesday that day. Many runners will also wear pink that day.
Sackers previously said that the amount of wind on the route and the humidity level was also important in their decision making. The event’s own weather service created a weather forecast analyzing the situation on the walking route.
The decision was expected to involve the event's medical service, an exercise physiologist, a sports psychologist and the Red Cross. Other measures the organization could have implemented include starting the event earlier or finishing later, shortening the route, and letting soldiers walk without a full pack of gear.
Although more than 42,000 walkers have registered for the 104th edition of the event, several thousand people are no-shows every year. That figure could be higher with the expected high temperatures.
Reporting by ANP