Completing the 4Days Marches is a wonderful achievement, one that hundreds of thousands of walkers can boast about. Completing the 4Days Marches sixty times, however, now that’s in an entirely different league. Only 13 participants have managed that so far. Huub van Oort (83) was planning to join that illustrious group this year, but unfortunately COVID-19 threw a spanner in the works. Still, the fanatic Brabantian remains optimistic: ‘There will come a day when we will all be lined up at the start once more’.
Participant since 1958
Mr Van Oort was participating in 1958 already. He can still remember the first years down to the last detail. ‘I participated as a soldier. It was mainly tough going, loaded down with heavy gear, a gun and a heavy helmet. All the same, I wanted to participate again the next year. Unfortunately, I only had two days off, so I went as a spectator instead.’ Mr van Oort participated continuously as a civilian from 1960 until this year. It was a real hassle for him to arrange this in those days. ‘I was one of the first from Tilburg to participate in Nijmegen. Through a colleague I was eventually able to take lodgings with a nun. It was quite an adventure at the time.‘
De Oude Molen campsite
In the 1970s and 1980s, Mr Van Oort and his family had a regular place to stay. ‘For 25 years we stayed at the campsite De Oude Molen in Groesbeek. Those were wonderful times. Every year it felt like returning home, because we already knew most of the campsite guests. We travelled together with a friend of mine and both our families, always with two tent trailers set up next to each other. We walked the 50km routes; the children walked 40 or 30km per day. The women drove us to the start. Just imagine: they had to get up early each morning and drive there and back again three times. At the end of the week, on Saturday, we arranged our stay for the following year at reception.’
Putting up the flag
Mr Van Oort is now the only one in his family still participating in the 4Days Marches, simply because he still enjoys it too much to quit. ‘Every year, before heading off to Nijmegen, I put up the 4Days Marches flag. People from all over the local community drop by to wish me good luck. “Hey, Huub, off again are you?” That’s what they all say. I just love that.’
Plugging along on the Zevenheuvelenweg
What Mr Van Oort enjoys above all is the entry. ‘In my first year when I was walking with the military, I was above all happy that I made it. It was tough going, and there were hardly any spectators at the finish line. These days I enjoy the party along the route. Actually, it’s on the Zevenheuvelenweg that I really get the 4Days Marches feeling. When you’re walking there and look back, you can see the whole crowd plugging along. It’s a wonderful sight.'