Training starts for 2018 Nijmegen Marches

Canadian soldiers marching in the 2017 Nijmegen Marches
Nijmegen teams are selected to represent all three CAF Environments (Army, Navy, Air Force), with representation across Canada, and with Regular Force and Reserve Force. Photo: Master Corporal Charles A. Stephen

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By Ryan Melanson – Trident

On March 28, 2018, Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members set off from Point Pleasant Park in Halifax, N.S. on a 10 km march. This marks the beginning of training for CAF members hoping to participate in the 2018 edition of the Nijmegen Marches, an annual, international, four-day test of endurance in the Netherlands.

Distances are set to ramp up and by early June, those still in the running will be marching back-to-back 40 km days through Halifax and Dartmouth to prove their mettle.

“This is one of the most amazing opportunities you can get in your career, but it’s going to be hard work and it’s a very competitive process to be chosen,” said Sub-Lieutenant Jamie Conrod, who led the 2017 team and is serving as an interim team leader until a successor is selected for this year. The final MARLANT team will be made up of 11 members, including one team leader, a 2IC, and a medic, leaving eight free spots for other members.

The event consists of four consecutive days of 40 km marches in and around the Dutch city of Nijmegen. What began in 1916 as a military exercise for the country’s armed forces, has grown to attract as many as 6 000 military personnel and 40 000 civilians from 50 countries each year.

Uniformed marchers are required to complete the 160 km course carrying 10 kg of dry weight, and though they march a different route than civilians, overlapping sections allow the marchers to cross paths and meet other groups along the way.

The marches can be physically grueling, and sore, battered feet are to be expected, but the experience isn’t just about the physical test, SLt Conrod said. “It’s a lot more than just four days in the Netherlands. It’s about the people you meet, the teamwork, the camaraderie and the perseverance, and about representing yourself and your country.”

The minimum standard requires a total of 500 km carried in training marches, along with an optimistic attitude, friendly and social interactions with teammates, and the ability to pass periodic foot inspections. Beyond that, attendance and dedication to training days, overall physical fitness, interpersonal skills, and whether the member has attended Nijmegen in the past are all considered in making the final selections.

Timeline for Nijmegen 2018

  • March 26 – Beginning of training
  • June 5 – End of training phase, beginning of team tryouts
  • June 11 – Announcement of final team members
  • June 15 – Beginning of mandatory marching with final team
  • July 12 to 23 – Op NIJMEGEN deployment
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