Dead Man Walking

"All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking" according to Friedrich Nietzsche, but - on afterthought - attempting to march 100 kilometers from/to Bornem during the "Dodentocht" (Death-march) is the ultimately destruction for both mind & body. Last year I crashed at 82.24 kilometers in Puurs - see last year's blog-entry - this year the hammer of the Götzen-Dämmerung already hit me full force at 68,81 kilometers in Buggenhout. Out of a total of 8.958 people 5.489 finished within 24 hours, so a simple calculation reveals that I am 1 out of 3.469 or 39% to give up prematurely :-(

Initially I was all set for triumph ... Friday evening 10th August at 9 o'clock my spirit was high as I kick-started not too far behind, keeping a steady pace of 5.5 kilometers per hour. Walking-weather was simply great and the partying & singing non-walking folks along the path got global temperature rising to a climax. When the night fell our horde cruised along the prettiest side of the Schelde river (more downsteam the delta it becomes quite industrial) past the Hingene-, Schelleland and Oudbroek-polders. Occasional silly cramps tortured my stomach, so too much coffee prior to departure seemed the only miscalculation compared to last year. This year I wisely refused a free beer at the Duvel and Palm breweries - and opted for hot tea instead - or was that perhaps my vital mistake? In between Londerzeel and Steenhuffel I crossed the 50 mile- or rather kilometer-stone after 10 hours and 48 minutes moving non-stop forward.

Statistically I was going to make it, but as the sunshine broke through the chilly morning fog, some mental strings snapped inside me. Before Steenhuffel at 53,34 I was still cheerfully chatting with a temporary Berlin walking companion, in sharp contrast the road between Merchtem and Buggenhout turned into a dreadful nightmare: My backback weighted me down to my knees, my shoes became a ton each, my calfs frooze into concrete ... in short every sensible fibre in my body and neuron in my brain called me to halt on the spot. Once arriving at Buggenhout my decision was made and I called my wife to collect the rubbish.

Am I not fit to GO the end? Actually all long forgotten horrors of last year - when I even briefly lost conscience - suddenly mastered my alter-ego and knocked me down before I could take it any further. Once she picked me up, my wife was re-considering to drive me directly to the nearest sanitary asylum - willingness to walk 100 kilometers is slightly abnormal behaviour in China, notwithstanding that during 1934/5, Mao & the Red Armly traversed 12,500 kilometers over 370 days during the so-called "Long March", losing 93,000 soldiers along the way - however she finally decided to deliver me home safe & sound (by car).

What will I do to get it right in 2008, on top of what I learned in 2007 ;-)

  1. Much lighter walking shoes for this occasion, my Scarpa Ladakh almost suit any terrain (no blisters) but after 60 kilometers you might as well drag Dutch clogs on your feet.
  2. There seems to be a lugguage service, so be a - smart - wimp and get your lugguage travelling on the parallel circuit.
  3. Doing so enabled some fellow travellers to savour their own Macaroni/Cheese serving half-way, which should certainly strenghtens the force within.
  4. Carry the minimum on a hip-belt - as I already discovered last year, but I ignored my own experience - even loose the sweater.
  5. Walking sticks last year were no use in flat field, however put them on the lugguage, as they might come in handy keeping straight in the last 40 kilometers.
  6. Tight elastic trousers are preferable, as loose-fit seems to cause uncomfortable burns after a while, which for normal - yeah - walks doesn't seem to apply.
  7. Grab a tube of Algipan or some other mussle & bone pain-relief which you can apply yourself, as you better stay out of the numerous Red Cross stations were you feel like entering a war-zone.
  8. Get someone to talk to cheer you up ... if not get a parrot (then again that's rather heavy on left or right shoulders).

To close on a positive note, I must say I never slept as well as before & after walking this mythical "Distance" which so far remains untamed.