Dodentocht Symbol

The "Death March" of Bornem, Belgium

The story of five Americans' struggle to finish

The Dodentocht ("Death March") is a yearly 100 kilometer hike starting from Bornem, Belgium. Participants have 24 hours to finish. Half of the people who start never make it to the end. Those who do are grimacing with pain from the multiple blisters on each foot or the knees that just do not want to work anymore.

Why would someone want to put themselves through such misery? The satisfaction of completing such a daunting challenge is the reason for most. This web site documents the story of five Americans who sought out that challenge on 15 August, 1997.

The participants

from left to right
Michael Kamprath, Monica Wilcox, Lori Merlak, Lonny Merlak, Mick Wilcox


When we arrived in Bornem, Belgium, we still had about 3 hours until the walk began. We first scoped out the area, then some of us tried to catch a few minutes of sleep while others tried in vain to prepare their feet for the walk.

Prior to actually starting the walk, we all had to register. The cost to participate was BEF 650, while you could optionally pre-purchase a meal at the 50 km midpoint for another BEF 200. Upon registering, you were issued a "start card" which would be used to track your progress and eventually prove that you indeed do the 100 km walk.

There was about 5200 people who started the Dodentocht. The start of the race was in the middle of Bornem. The participants were "paraded" down the main street while many more onlookers watched.

The race started at 2100 on 15 August 1997. So soon after we started, our hiking was in the dark. This wasn't too much of a problem as most of our paths were lighted.

There were a few stops along the way. At these stops, we got to rest, drink water, and eat some small snacks provided by the Dodentocht organizers. Also, at these stops our control badge was either stamped or scanned into a computer which then registered our time.

Halfway through the march there was a special rest area where breakfast was served and most people took a prolonged break. Some people even sought medical attention for the blisters starting to form on their feet.

Finally, upon finishing nearly 23 hours later, we were presented with a flower and a small medal commemorating our walk.


Later, we sought out some much deserved rest at a nearby hotel. We ate dinner, washed up, and treated our blistered feet.


The Official Dodentocht Web Page

The International Federation of Popular Sports (IVV)
Volksmarching in Germany
Volksnarching in America

Created by Michael F. Kamprath,