This year we started very well from the Achterhoek on the 4-Daagse, not only did I pass the Arnhem exit, I also ignored the Arnhem-Noord signs. Quite a long way towards Ede I finally felt the wetness and my primal cry also reset the sleepy brains of Wim and Melanie, who rode with us. As always prompt, Wim asked if I wanted to take him to UMC Utrecht in advance, to which I answered petulantly that if we had been on the ferry to Tessel, he probably wouldn't have noticed anything yet.
Anyway, it all worked out and that's how we and quite a few other runners started Elst's day. It was warm and given the condition of our upstairs rooms this morning, it was highly advisable to keep a cool head now. In practice, that meant filling bottles for me and making neckerchiefs wet for Wim, so he could walk quietly and didn't have to get involved in the pushing and pulling work of sweaty and splashing fellow runners. Even though finding Wim was sometimes quite an ordeal, because he both changed course and took off his hat. I ran wild after a hat, which turned out to be a strange guy. We then briefly short-circuited the how and where to walk. I think the observation that there is little shade from Oosterhout – via the dike to Lent back to Nijmegen – is only made under these kinds of extreme conditions. We wanted to rest one more time, but the fear of becoming one with melting asphalt kept us going.
The day of Wijchen – pink Wednesday – started at a quarter past four, we were allowed to start half an hour earlier, because of the expected very high temperatures. For us this meant that we could start at a quarter past six, half an hour earlier than the regular 30 km runners. We got this early start last year – when we applied for dispensation because the supervisor was not yet sixty – as an unexpected, but welcome bonus. This year we only requested that early start and luckily it was granted. However, we were gone cold, praising ourselves lucky with the legroom, or the gate went off the dam and the rest of the herd was released as well. You quickly get used to such a privileged position, because Wim and I almost felt a little short of attention. Snobs that we are.
It was hot, luckily a little more wind, but during the last kilometers on the Waalkade and in the city center the heat was really scorching. Not only for the runners, the crowd dressed in pink also didn't look armpit fresh. Yet we arrived in plenty of time and hurried to our favorite resting spot under the trees.
Unfortunately, all places were taken and looking for a seat – at least for Wim – we were allowed to use the bench at the Red Cross tent. Through the group app in which I indicated our place, this caused quite a few startled reactions. Well, don't think about that then.
This time the battery alarm went off in the bus, on the way to the transferium in Lent. Wim sat behind me and I heard him tell his neighbor not to be scared, but that he had a supportive heart and had to change his batteries. Her pronounced 'okay' was completely nullified by her stunned face as I handed Wim the batteries one by one.
On the day of Groessen, the mountain stage of the outdoor category, the alarm clock was set 15 minutes earlier again, because of the interview with TV Gelderland. Mosquitoes and a full head were game-breakers that night, yet we were ready at six o'clock on the Wedren and we were busy for over an hour with all kinds of things to tell. Fortunately, it was a little less warm, which is nice in view of Groesbeek. Because climbing is hard for Wim, we always take such a pimple in stages, climb a bit, step next to the road and catch our breath and then look up again and the legs underneath. That's how it worked and relieved that we got through this day well, we finished again around three o'clock.
Day four is Cuyk's day, a place where the 30 km is not completed and that is a shame, because it is always a great party there and walking over the pontoon bridge is a special experience. But don't worry, there was plenty to do. Occasionally we were recognized from the interview and sometimes addressed. Like a man having a chat. Just before he put the socks back in, he asked us, 'Do you know what my wife said last night when she saw you?' No idea of course and we looked at him questioningly.
'That man, he looks better than his wife….'
Chewing on those words, I thought – it was thundering and pouring by now – that this was actually great to hear, both for Wim and for me and I could see the humor in it.
We got through the thunderstorms unscathed, which was a good thing with all the equipment on our backs. Rarely has a disposable poncho been treated so tenderly and lovingly as by us. Bet that an average dentist searches for cavities less intensively than we did.
Towards noon the weather got old-fashioned warm and we could start a dry entry. Just like last year, when Wim, friend Gerrie, Anke and I walked the last kilometers together, we felt intensely grateful that we could experience this together again. This Four Days Marches was one of extremes, but my concern for Wim was overcome by respect for his enormous willpower and admiration for the achievement he has achieved.
Video report of Wim and Willy's performance
Broadcasting Gelderland in the 4 Days news
Willy: The cameraman and interviewer accompanied us until the first roundabout, after which we were again among us.