above : Offical Centurions Toast Master Andy Bignold and Frans Leitjens
Toast to the Society given by Frans Leitjens C.949, Assistant Secretary C.V.N
Fellow Centurions, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,
I am very proud to be able to address you on this momentous occasion on behalf of the Centurion Association the Netherlands.
When Piet and Gerrit allowed me to do most of the talking, I must admit I was at a loss for words. How to address a room full of such extraordinary people?
But in the past I was always inspired by a story by another Centurion, Rev. David Christie-Murray, Centurion 155: Every man's Everest. He describes how normal people aspire to do extraordinary things and that, since not everybody can climb Everest, walking 100 miles in 24 hours is every mans Everest.On the 11th of May 1911, when 14 Centurions founded the Brotherhood Of Centurions, climbing Everest was still 42 years away: in fact Hillary and Tenzing weren’t even born. Yet, there were already people heading for a far more illustrious goal, on their way to Brighton, Skegness or London. And although thousands of people have managed to climb the world’s highest mountain, to this date only 1080 persons have managed to walk 100 miles within 24 hours during a race walking event in the United Kingdom. This is an average of 11 people per year.
In 1959 one of those ordinary people was a Dutchman named Lieuwe Schol, who became the first Dutch Centurion in 20 hours 42 minutes and 35 seconds. Within seven years the number of Dutch Centurions had risen so fast that the Dutch were requested by the Brotherhood to start their own Centurion Vereniging Nederland (Centurion Association the Netherlands). In 1973 several Dutch walkers handed out the first Continental Centurion titles, soon to be followed by Centurion events in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia. Hundreds of walkers have since reached the finish line in Coburg, Schiedam or Minneapolis, only to hear those dreaded words: “congratulations, now you can travel to England for the real thing”.
I doubt James Edwin Fowler-Dixon, sitting in the Ship and Turtle pub here in London all those years ago could have foreseen such an international movement of athletes. But I dare say he would have been proud to see this room full of walkers from all over the world: competitors, but also friends. He would have been equally proud to see that we are joined by friends, family members and other volunteers, for it is this group of people who have also made our accomplishments possible. Or, as the volunteers medal for the Nijmegen Four Days Marches reads: “your dedication made us persevere.”
On behalf of Centurion Vereniging Nederland I congratulate our Brotherhood Of Centurions with it’s 100th birthday. I will not test your good taste by singing some Dutch birthday songs: if you want to hear me sing, watch me go by at three in the morning with during our next 24 hours event. For now I will only thank you for your enthusiasm every time we meet, for your care during those long dark hours in London, Colchester or Newmarket and above all for your friendship over the past 45 years. And I hope the Brotherhood Of Centurions and our friendship will last at least another 100 years.
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