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Speed skating through the Eleven Friesian cities




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Speed skating through the Eleven Friesian cities

Eleven City Tour / Elf Steden Tocht


One of the most famous winter attractions in the Netherlands

is the called the Elf Steden Tocht which means "Eleven City Tour" in English.

This is a kind of a Tour de France for ice skaters

who skate through eleven cities in the Dutch province of Friesland.

About 16,000 participants skate in this event every time it transpires.


The Friesian Flag


However, it does not happen every year

because the winters in the Netherlands

seem to be getting warmer and warmer.

It only occurs when the ice is thick enough

since it has to hold out for the duration of the race and

has to be able to hold the weight of 16,000 skaters.

This means that the ice has to be at least 15 centimetres thick

for the whole route. This route covers about 200 kilometres.

The Beginnings


The first "Elf Steden Tocht" was the idea of Willem ('Pim') Mulier,

the great pioneer of Dutch and Friesian sports.

His dream became a reality in 1909 when the Friesian Ice Society

organised the first eleven city marathon.

They planned this as a one time event.

However, a lawyer from one of the biggest cities in Friesland,

called M.E. Hepkema thought that this should be an ongoing event.

So in that same year of 1909, he and other fervent fans

created the Friesian Eleven City Association.

Their goal was to encourage ice sports in Friesland and

also the eleven city race whenever it was possible.

Mr Hepkema was the first Chairman of the first board.

The current board consists of 10 members.

There is plenty to do for the board even during the years

that there is no race.




The marathon traverses the eleven Friesian towns

over various lakes, ditches and canals. It crosses farms,

goes under many bridges and along city streets.

It starts in the capital city of Friesland and

goes through Sneek, IJlst, Sloten, Stavoren, Hindeloopen, Workum, Bolsward,

Harlingen, Franeker, Dokkum and then winds it way back

to Leeuwarden for the finish.


Of course there are many spectators

along the route to cheer on the racers.

They bravely bare the cold to support the race

but there are many more supporters who watch them on television.



Formally there were two races going on at the same time.

The competitive race and the non-competitive race.

Participants of both races have to be officially registered.


When the next race occurs there will also be separate races

for the men and the women. So then we will see the first women

receive prizes for winning the race.

Since there are more people who want to be in the race

than is allowed, the number of people who can actually participate

is limited to those who enrol in the FEC in Leeuwarden

in person and must be be:


* members of the “De Friesche Elf Steden” Association

with a right to start and who have complied

with their administrative obligations and

are in possession of a valid 11-city identity card;

* members of the “De Friesche Elf Steden” Association

with a chance to start and who have been successfully drawn by lot,

have complied with their administrative obligations and

also are in possession of a valid 11-city identity card.

Each member that is allowed to take part in the marathon

will obtain a special card to be stamped

at secret check points along the route, and a start certificate.


The starting times for the race skaters are 05.20

for the men and 05.35 for the women.

All of the race regulations are available

from the Friesian Eleven City Association.



Since the race does not have official financial supporters,

it is run by hundreds of volunteers.


Participants receive advice before the race

on skating equipment condition,

clothing and food during the race,

checkpoints and first aid stations.



All of the race participants who complete the marathon

within the assigned time and have collected all the stamps

will receive the 11-city cross.


The first eleven men and three women to complete

the route receive a medal.

Women's prizes are lower

because there are many fewer female participants than male.


The winner also receives the Pim Mulier prize, a large silver plate.

The fastest woman receives two prizes: a silver cup and a silver goblet.

Female and male winners receive a garland.

Both names are then engraved in the statue of the 11-city skater

that is situated in front of the FEC in Leeuwarden.


The prizes are awarded during a ceremony

in the same afternoon of the race in the FEC in Leeuwarden.

Afterwards the winners bathe in the glory of winning

such a challanging race of such difficult endurance.


The Eleven Cities Cross


Each participant who completes the marathon

within the prescribed time and has collected all the stamps

from the check points will receive the much coveted 11-city cross.


The cross, designed in 1909,

consists of a medal in the shape of a Maltese cross

with a circle in the centre.

This circle contains the Friesian coat of arms in enamel,

with the words 'De Friesche Elf Steden'.


Every year the Dutch populace waits with high expectation

for the possibility of yet another 11 Steden Tocht.



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Updated August 07, 2009

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