A team of Millais girls all 15 and 16 years of age took part in, and triumphantly completed, the 98th International Four Day Marches held in Nijmegen, Holland, walking 100 miles over four consecutive days.
The Four Day Marches or the ‘Walk of the World’ is the biggest walking event of its kind in the world, and attracts both military personnel and civilians globally.
The event started in 1909, with just 306 male participants. This year, the Four Days Marches took place from Tuesday July 15 to Friday July 18, going in and around Nijmegen.
The 43,000 participants walk a total of 75, 100 or 125 miles - dependant on age - across the four days, in order to receive the royally approved Four Days Marches Cross.
The Millais team of 28 trained rigorously to prepare for this event, covering a total of 250 miles in practise walks along the beautiful Goring, Shoreham, Brighton and Saltdean coastline, come rain or shine. Come the event itself, however, and all the training was worth it, as all the Millais team completed the 100 miles, succeeding where more than 3000 people failed to finish the four days.
Whilst in Holland, the girls were lined up at the starting line by 4.30 am. Hundreds of well-wishers were also up in the early hours to see all the walkers and the Millais team off. The girls, who stood out from the crowd wearing their bright pink Millais team polo shirts and known as the ‘Rose Meisjes’ (Pink Girls) in Holland, then sang, cheered, waved and clapped their way around the four days, soaking up the incredible atmosphere provided by their fellow walkers and more than 100,000 spectators who lined the route each day .
Megan Davey said: ”Nijmegen has been the best experience of my life. During that week I learned that not only can I walk 100 miles but I now believe that I can do anything I put my mind to. Nijmegen has been the biggest challenge of my life too and I am so proud to have been a part of an amazing team”.
Danielle Gill added: “Nijmegen was my favourite school trip. I’ve had the best time of my life experiencing such a huge challenge”.
She continued: “The best part of the walking was speaking with people from all over the world and giving out souvenirs to the countless children along the route each day. Overall it was the most memorable trip have ever had and I am definitely not hesitant about thinking of next year!”
Andy Skinner, Enrichment and Community Awareness Co-ordinator at the school, and the Millais Walking Team Leader, said: “This is the fifth year that I have taken a team of girls from Millais to participate in the International Four Days Marches in Nijmegen. As a team they are well known and have almost celebrity status with other teams and individuals wanting to walk with them and join in with the singing. In addition, between them they have raised thousands of pounds for charities.”
He added: “Besides the walking, the team attended the British and Commonwealth Military Cemetery at Jonkerboss just outside Nijmegen where a wreath was laid on behalf of the school and a family tribute at the grave of Lance Corporal Robert Gardiner, a relative of a former member of the Millais Team. In addition we had a visit to a Dutch family who each year invite the entire team to their home for Sunday lunch!
“There is no question that the girls all made a really good impression in Nijmegen and upheld the good name of Millais School in an international setting. They were wonderful ambassadors for the school and their Country and I am so proud of all of them. I have enjoyed walking with them and watching their confidence and self-belief grow throughout the whole experience. They are a credit to themselves and their families and they are fine examples of the very best of society’s young people”.
Report and pictures contributed by Millais School.