12. Leeuwarden

The most difficult part kept for the end

12. Leeuwarden

The most difficult part kept for the end

Listen Kees Bovée: “I was now already plodding along for about 16 hours. How much longer could I keep it up? It was not only physically hard, but mentally too. We walked through a polder where not a single person or a farm was to be seen. Fortunately, my tortured muscles automatically kept on doing their grinding work, left-right, left-right. The arms rhythmically swinging along as well. When the misery was at its height, I started to hallucinate. In spite of the fact that I was cross-eyed with wretchedness, I had visions of a lovely warm bed and a table full of delicious food.” Henk Gemser: “On that last stretch we got lost and searched endlessly. We had no idea at all where the canal was; everything was covered with snow. Still we didn’t take off our skates, because otherwise they would freeze immediately and you’d never get them back on again. I did have my Friasian skates and my gym shoes on my back, but what difference would it make? We walked through thick snow. But nevertheless, nothing could happen to us, we thought. Even stumbling we would surely get there in time. Long before, we could see the lights of the Groote Wielen in the distance, so we knew where the finish line was.” George Schweigmann: “The wind had blown the field completely clean: all the snow was lying in the Murk. I said: “Boys, it will be much better for us to walk on land with our skates on, because look at it, over here it’s green!” So all of us climbed on to the bank and walked through the fields with our skates on. We did come across a lot of gates, big metal gates. We had to climb over them with our skates on. And so we plodded along, until someone said: “What’s the time now actually?” “We better have a look”, I said. One of us had a match, and looked at his watch. It was already half past eleven! “Oh God”, I said. ...> Quickly we got off that dyke and on to the canal again. And well, there before us, 200 metres long, lay a stretch of ice as smooth as a mirror. There the wind came from a different direction, no snow had been blown on to the ice there. So, the final 200 metres we could actually skate to the finish”. photo's: GS and his group reach the finish as the last ones at about 23.45 hours. (left, with cigarette, doctor Wiemer) Queen Juliana and princess Beatrix at the finish