Nijmegen, my home town figures prominently in my running imagination. It’s where I started running, it’s where my love of trails originates. One’s own kids are the most beautiful in the world, and one’s own home turf feels special by definition, so if I eulogize Nijmegen’s surroundings you’re allowed your doubts. Can’t blame you. My country may have lots going for it but spectacular nature, at least in a comparative perspective, is not one of them. Granted: the North Sea coast is quite something, broad, mostly empty wind-swept beaches, with a untamable force licking or pounding at the edges; makes me feel small and thoroughly cleans all sensory windows. But Nijmegen is not on the coast.
But let’s start with some city. The below is a bike ride from the university to close to the city centre. All very Dutch and very much my back yard: if at home I cycle this very very often.
Nijmegen isn’t Amsterdam, but it’s a lot older, actually the oldest city of the country, the location of a Roman legion guarding the frontier of the empire, nothing much of which can still be seen but those in the know can nevertheless find enough to satisfy a serious need for history. Also, the city is located on the major arm of the Rhine (which, for reasons beyond me, is called de Waal), a majestic piece of water that in the right time of year has kilometers of wild deserted river beaches that can be run, and a large swat of river foreland, largely protected area, again a terrific and one-of-its-kind (running) environment. We’ve got hills, remnants of the push moraines of the one before last glacial age. Plus lots more, like the heritage of the Catholic renaissance of the early 20th century and many former country estates. Surprisingly little can be found on youtube about all of this but the below gives a short impression of the some of the push moraines area (from the first – 2013 – edition of a run using the N70 nature trail as its course).
The reason for this post is to disclose my budding ambition to develop a trail route covering a max of this diversity. Trailrunning has finally hit it off in The Netherlands, but this is not part of it. No races, no fastest times, no compromises to ease the route finding for non-locals. The river beaches are most accessible at lowest water levels which means in summer; that’s also the time of most hours of daylight. The envisioned trail length is based on what is feasible for the non-competitive, ultrarunner in 15 hours of daylight, when one includes some time for eating and drinking, route finding and enjoying the surroundings: around 120-130km. For me, the design, exploration and research of this trail is going to be more important than the resulting route because it’s a journey shared with my friend Han and my brother Thomas.
The river beaches and foreland: