How to prepare for Dodentocht?

Hello all, long time reader, new user.

I was a Cadet in the ATC from 2009 to 2016 and during my 7 years I completed Nijmegen (and the pre-requisite marches e.g. RAFWARMA). I was offered the opportunity to partake in the Dodentocht walk but declined at the time.

Since lockdown has meant I’ve become quite sedentary I now have my sights on getting active again and hopefully completing Dodentocht walk later this year.

I would really appreciate it if there were any Dodentocht veterans who could provide some tips and training advice. I will be taking part as a civilian rather than as part of any military/cadet team.

Before the new year I had been building my stamina up again and can now easily walk 25km without any issues as a baseline fitness (but certain I could walk 40km still). I have created a planned training schedule; walking fortnightly, starting at 25km and increasing by 5km with each walk until around 70km. It is also my plan to take part in the classic training events a team training for Nijmegen would do e.g. RAFWARMA, Waendel as they would happen throughout the year.

Hello @Nucleotide,

Welcome to ACC, good to see another mad long distance walker join in.

I’ll share my 2 cents having completed the Dodentocht 4 times (similarly around 2008 - 2012). Actually hoping to make it out there again this year.

Rightly (or wrongly) I didn’t do any extra training ontop of my wings fairly frequent Nijmegan training walks. I certainly didn’t practice walking up to 70km, but I guess that depends what sort of time you want to achieve.

My best was 16hr 44m (and the worst was 23hr 35min - I fell asleep at one of the checkpoints :see_no_evil:)

Normally I would try and walk through until either the 40km/50km without stopping at any of the rest areas, simply picking up the snack, refilling water and continuing.

Fortunately you don’t need to pack too much as you can pay to have a hot meal at the middle. Bring snacks and glucose tablets, tape up your feet (if that’s your normal procedure) plug in your music and walk.

It certainly doesn’t have the same atmosphere as Nijmegan, but its fun, from arriving in town setting up your campbed in the sports hall or tent at the scout campsite through to receiving your pineapple!

Enjoy, if I think of anything ill reply, similarly if you have any other questions ill try to help.

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As above, just get out and walk.

Make sure you shoes/boots/trainers are very comfortable and get the miles in in them before you go, however unlike a friend of mine out there - make sure there are enough miles left in them to actually do the walk (his sole gave out at about 68km). I found it easier than Nijmegen as there is no going to sleep and getting up again - but I definitely suggest slugging it out to the “breakfast” halfway point. The year I did it, I didn’t stop at all until then (around 55km) which get the back of the walk broken during the cooler night and morning hours. I then rested at an appropriate point around 70km, 80km and a quick rest at 95km so I was fresh to receive my pineapple.

Have some entertainment - especially if you are going to be walking some it alone. Eventually you will hit a wall and having some music you can stick in to get you past that point may help. If you are training in the UK, I wouldn’t suggest it on any roads where there is no pavement as you will want both ears for listening out for traffic, but if you are off-road or on a pavement no drama.

Work out what works for you food/energy wise. I carried powered Lucozade drink in a couple of small ziplock bags (fun at the airport) and an empty water bottle so when I wanted it I could just fill up the bottle along the route so I wasn’t carrying an excess of water.

Before I started I drank a fizzy Lucozade to get me going and I carried energy tablets, although I seem to remember giving out more of these than I every ate myself.

Don’t be afraid to have an alcoholic beverage when training long distances - I regularly walk between 25-42kms and I always find a nice shandy or a schnapps relaxes the muscles and generally makes it more enjoyable. “Serious” walkers may baulk at the idea, but my collection of medals is quite extensive and it’s never done me any harm.

I always thought there was a reason that the 40km and 50km rest stops were at breweries :sweat_smile:

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If my memory serves it was the “free samples” of Duvel that were the worst. 8.5%

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Thanks for the response! Maybe see you out there then!

You would have hoped someone would’ve woken you up when you’d fallen asleep at the checkpoint :’)

Do you find the checkpoints are relatively busy or can you be in and out quite quickly after refilling water etc?

Would you recommend taking a camel back or just a couple bottles of water you’d refill?

When you say setting up he campbed/tent, do you mean before/after the event if you are staying in Bornem? Maybe I’m a bit naive but I had the idea of booking a hotel room/Airbnb for the day before and after.

Finally, I have the registration opening date on my calendar (mid March IIRC). How quickly do the 13,000 places get taken? Just wanted to know whether I need to be at my computer, refreshing the page, concert ticket style.

Would you recommend only listening to music once you’ve hit this wall? I have been given the advice before to only listen to music after reaching the 50km point, as a sort of reward.

My training routes so far have been a mix of residential streets to canal paths to wooded areas. Trying to get a variety of terrain. It is my plan to go walk around Rutland Waters (with and without the peninsula) once the days get a little longer.

Someone did eventually, obviously I needed the rest! Bit it was hard to get the momentum going again after that as my muscles had started to sieze

Never had too long of a wait to pick up any snacks or refill water, longest wait would have been for the meal at the 50km rest stop

Camelbak, but thats mainly due to ease to get a drink, less faffing than trying to get a bottle of water out of my day sack.

Historically, I’ve gone out on the Wednesday, and come home on the Sunday, normally by the Eurostar, fairly easy to get to Bornem from Bruxelles-Midi, IIRC its 2 changes on the local rail.

They is a scout campsite (bring your own tent) or you can set up a Camp Bed (they have some to rent) in the local sports-hall, i personally prefer the Sports-Hall, both certainly more affordable than Air BnB!

Accommodation Dodentocht

Its certainly not that bad, certainly made some last minute decisions to go, normally registrations close in May/June. You used to be able to register there the day before the walk, but I think its pre-registration only now

O and take a spare t-shirt to change into around the 75/80km point… you’ll feel like a new person!

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Thank you everyone for the responses so far. What is the general consensus on wearing trainers vs walking boots?

I’ve seen people wearing both types in pictures. I started training in trainers but then went and bought some walking boots from Blacks in a closing down sale.

Also would you recommend wearing shorts or walking trousers, or change as the weather gets warmer/colder? I imagine it gets cold at night but since most of the day the sun is up, I imagine it’s relatively warm for the majority) assuming it doesn’t rain).

Definitely more spoilt for choice not having to wear DPMs and Black Boots.

To be honest my first foray into wearing walking shoes instead of boots lead me to bin them after day 1 at Nijmegen where they shredded my feet (despite a lot of walking in) and thankfully having taken my boots with me. However these days I have alt-berg defenders for if I am carrying weight (the ankle support) or in uniform, and a very good pair of walking shoes which I will wear for anything up to 30km. Over 30km I still prefer my boots. Hiking boots as appose to military boots are designed more to roll over stones and uneven ground whereas military boots tend to be more designed to flex for tabbing etc (but that’s a generalisation now and there are a good few suitable for both)

BUT it is personal preference. Train in what you intend to walk in on the day. I have a good friend who walks nijmegen in sandals - puts generous amount of vaseline on his feet then cracks on. Crazy stuff, but also a hard Bstrd who used to be a member of 22 Regt.

I’ve only ever done it in boots, I’d echo @juliet_mike’s sentiments above, fortunately overall the paths on the Dodentocht are all pretty much paved, maybe the occasional bit of cobblestone.