No Four Days Marches in 2021

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It is with a heavy heart that we are announcing that the 2021 Four Days Marches will not be going ahead. The COVID-19 pandemic and the additional measures make it impossible for us to organise the 104th Four Days Marches in a form that anyone should be able to expect.

Social distancing impossible and vaccination coverage not high enough

There is a good chance that in July the 1.5 metre social distancing rule will still need to be observed in the Netherlands. Though there is good scope for taking measures for the walkers at the start and finish area, social distancing presents problems along the route, as well as for the spectators. We must take into account the attraction of the Four Days Marches to the general public: monitoring and enforcing social distancing at the largest event in the Netherlands is impossible. Another consideration is whether the Four Days Marches can really be the Four Days Marches without the festivities and the support of the spectators along the routes.

We also understand that there is uncertainty about how high the vaccination coverage will be by July. There is a chance that the coverage will not be high enough at that time to safely hold the Four Days Marches. March coordinator Henny Sackers explains: ‘We feel a great responsibility for the health and safety of our participants, spectators, volunteers and employees. We cannot guarantee their safety at this time and do not want to expose anyone to danger in any form.’

Not responsible financially or organisationally

To organise a major event like the Four Days Marches, preparations are started months in advance, and costs are incurred at this time too. With the ongoing uncertainty, which could continue into the summer, the risk of taking those steps now is too great. In addition, the participants need to start their preparations well in advance. They need to arrange days of annual leave, invest time in training, and incur costs for registration, transport and accommodation, while the uncertainty for them, too, is great. By making this decision now, walkers, employees, volunteers, partners and suppliers know where they stand.

No compromise on identity

Standing together in the dark with thousands of participants waiting for the starting shot, high fives with those who have come to cheer you on, and being able to hug each other at the end of each day’s walk: that’s the Four Days Marches feeling. The encouragement of tens of thousands of spectators and the unprecedentedly diverse and international field of participants makes this long-distance walking event unique. Especially at this time, the organisers would have liked to have provided a ray of hope; however, there is a limit to the number of concessions the organisers are willing to make where these negatively impact on the identity of the Four Days Marches.

Everything done to avoid cancellation

In recent months, we investigated all possible ways the Four Days Marches could be held again in 2021. For example, along with many other ideas, it was considered whether the Four Days Marches could be moved to a different date, whether it was possible to organise several routes to be walked at the same time, and whether wearing a face mask while walking the routes was an option. In the end, though, Stichting DE 4DAAGSE discarded all these measures, considering them not feasible and/or undesirable for various reasons. Head of Organisational Affairs Lotte Janssen explains: ‘External parties arrange their entire schedule and their holidays around the Four Days Marches being held in the third week of July. Even road maintenance is planned around it. This means that we cannot simply reschedule the Four Days Marches or spread the event over several weeks.’

Shared disappointment

The organisers share the sense of disappointment that will undoubtedly follow this announcement. Firstly, the disappointment of the participants who have had to forego the Four Days Marches two years in a row now, but also that of the residents of Nijmegen and of the towns and cities along the route who, yet again, will miss out on having a front-row seat at the festivities. And then there is the disappointment of the partners, suppliers, volunteers and all the other people who make the Four Days Marches possible or who warmly support the event. And finally, they share the disappointment of countless businesses who will now have to miss out on sales in this already difficult time. Stichting DE 4DAAGSE will – from today – do everything it can to organise a festive Four Days Marches again in 2022.

The future

Participants who were registered and paid their fees in 2020 are in any case assured of a place in the next edition of the Four Days Marches. Further information about registration and the regulations will follow at a later date. The organisers are also looking at how everyone can still experience the Four Days Marches feeling together this year too. After all, even without the actual event, for walkers and for the city of Nijmegen, the third week of July will always be the week of the Four Days Marches. Once the organisers know more about this, information will be posted on the website and on social media.

The organisers would also like to take this opportunity to encourage everyone to keep moving and keep walking. Henny Sackers: ‘We hope that everyone will stay healthy and that we can meet again at De Wedren in 2022.’

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Countdown to the 106ᵗʰ edition of the 4Days Marches