These students are going to walk the Four Days Marches: ‘it is a core part of studying in Nijmegen’
After a long two years, Wednesday finally marks the opening of the Four Days Marches. But what motivates people to sign up? Are they walking for charity, or as part of student life in Nijmegen? Vox spoke to three students and first-time participants on the 50-kilometer route.
Lotte Dirchs (23) did not officially register when she walked along for a day with the Four Days Marches for the first time in 2019. ‘It was so crowded that there were times when we didn’t move for half an hour, which honestly kind of soured me on the experience.’
Even so, the International Business Communication student – and former Miss Supermodel Netherlands – will once again be participating this year, and for two reasons. ‘I really enjoy hiking, and this year I’m joining to support the charity ‘Crohn en Colitis NL’. That’s the patients’ association for people with Crohn’s Disease or Colitis Ulcerosa (an inflammation of the colon that causes ulcers, ed.). ‘I was diagnosed with Colitis Ulcerosa in 2021, so we will have to wait and see if I can finish the Four Days Marches.’
Another person joining for charity is Daan Klein Velderman (24), for the ‘Beat Batten’ foundation; one of his friends has a daughter who has Batten, a metabolic disease that can affect children. But that is not the only reason for the Civil Law-student to participate. Klein Velderman: ‘If you’re studying in Nijmegen, then joining the Four Days Marches is a core part of the experience.’
Tristan Wouda (24) agrees. ‘At some point at the start of my studies, I made a deal with a buddy to participate in the Four Days Marches before the end of our student years. I will be graduating this summer, so time is short.’
All three participants say they’re well-prepared, and they have joined organised marches before. Dirchs will be joining the Marches well-rested, as she will be skipping the Vierdaagsefeesten. ‘I may go out for a drink after I’m done on Friday, but that will probably be my limit. Klein Velderman has also taken it easy. ‘My friends think the Four Days Marches are a bunch of nonsense, and they’re hoping that I will give up quickly so that I can go partying with them. And honestly, I wouldn’t mind that very much.’
On the other hand, Wouda will be starting the first fifty kilometres Wednesday * with a slight handicap; he’s already had a few beers over the weekend. But he remains confident: ‘I’ll go to bed on time tomorrow tonight, so I’m sure it will be fine.’
‘When the marching becomes too much, the audience will help you get through’
Dirchs and Klein Velderman both have their own apartments in SSH& buildings, and so they have every chance to rest up over the next few days. ‘The younger residents in my hallway might make some noise, but that probably won’t be too bad’, according to Klein Velderman. Wouda lives in a rather busy student house, but he’s come up with a clever solution: ‘Our house is pure chaos during the Four Days Marches, so I’ll temporarily be swapping rooms with my girlfriend. Her house is much quieter as her flatmates are all busy with internships.’
The hikers will be accompanied by countless enthusiasts, and there will be music shows along the road. But not everyone is of the same mind on this. While Dirchs hopes that things won’t get too crowded, Klein Velderman thinks it’s great fun that there are so many people in the audience cheering them on. ‘The marching can get pretty tough, and those cheers can help you through it.’
Bonding with Older People
The students aren’t bothered by the fact that they’re probably far younger that the average participant. ‘I like that hiking is such an inclusive, all-ages sport’, says Dirchs. Wouda is also not bothered. ‘I’m generally quite good at bonding with older people. My friends are always saying that I have the soul of a fifty-year old, so I’m sure we’ll get along.’
* The interviews were conducted before the recently announced cancellation of the first walking day, due to extreme heat.