Number 957 crashed at 17,76 before the 100-kilometer finish in Bornem

Alas I was unable to close the loop on Saturday 12th August, walking the 100-kilometre through the Antwerp, Flemish-Brabant and East-Flanders provinces, joined by 8.4k fellow nutcases, who started their cavalry on Friday 11th August at 9 o'clock in the evening from Bornem-centre.

Initially all went well, the course is as flat as a pancake, I carried the correct clothing, temperature and humidity was conducive to endurance sports and thanks to my worn and sturdy Scarpa mountain boots, I was kept safeguarded against painful blisters or twisted ankles. As a herd of migrating mammals, we stepped through the cold & wet night, until a drab morning greeted us near the Duvel brewery. Not even halfway, but 11 brave runners ahead already arrived at 10:30. Midway 2 guys from the Bundeswehr (German army) were so kind to take my picture (me at the left), amazing - in the distance still to come - how many young soldiers seem to suffer as much as everyone else.

Walking is one of my favourite pastimes, but after 50 kilometres, the nature of this journey was a bit shifting. Instead of delight, one becomes primarily focussed on continuing step-by-step, village-after-village: Merchtem - Buggenhout - Opdorp - Lippelo. Now I clearly felt that I didn't eat nor sleep appropriately, since for 4 consecutive days before the event, I went sailing after work, arriving late at home, and surviving on makeshift dinners. At some point 2 little girls like angles were distributing small colourful notes, each reading "persist": I'll keep and frame this little note, as it might also indicate: "If not this then next time".

For me this death-march proved its name worthy at 82,2 kilometres in Puurs, where I decided to take a nap around 4 o'clock in the afternoon, with 5 more hours to cross 17,76 kilometres (9 o'clock being the 24-hour deadline). Suddenly I raised too quickly to rush on, instead I collapsed completely, and found myself surrounded by the Red Cross. Really my petrol tank ran dry completely, and by the time I became fully conscious, I felt as stiff as a wooden board. Dragging myself off the stretcher, I decided to enter the ranks of the happy losers, swearing to myself I would never incur such an physical ordeal on myself ever again. Anyhow that was at the moment itself, meanwhile I already figured out how to better prepare next time ;-)

  • Catch 8-to-10-hours sleep days before, and sleep through the afternoon on Friday. What's killing is not so much the distance, but the fact that you deprive yourself of sleep during 24-hours, so your head/brain goes spinning.
  • Eat meaty and complete meals until day itself, then Friday consume a lot of pasta. During the voyage, stick to sandwiches, salty soup and lots of fruit. Next time I prepare some greasy ginseng broth to drink when I near the end, some sugar-tables might also bring solace, prepare for your batteries to go flat.
  • Actually I was dressed too well, next time I take a fleece which is not that thick, anyhow it is still beginning of August, even though night-temperatures fell below 10° Celsius.
  • Loose my Leki walking sticks in these conditions, I came to appreciate these implements for mountain and heavy backpack work, but in flat terrain they are more an annoyance and a burden to carry.
  • Excellent idea to carry 4 sets of spare socks (1 pair for each 25 kilometres), thanks to changing my feet were kept in top-form (in sharp contrast to my head).
  • A hip-bag seems more practical compared to a back-pack, no matter how light, the straps around your shoulders become uncomfortable.
  • Tiger-balsam doesn't soothe the potential pain in the knees or ankles sufficiently, next time I carry a tube of Algipan or something similar.
  • No use carrying an MP3-players - I feared I was going to get dead bored - prior to 50 kilometres you talk and listen with everyone, afterwards you become too preoccupied cruising ahead.

It's all in the head, you really can if you want to do it. Much of the material/mental preparation is strictly personal, however it can boost your morale if you can bring supporters with you, next time I won't forget to mobilise family and friends, since there seems to be a lot going on for non-walkers as well.

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