The Elfstedentocht organising committee De Friesche Elfsteden
thinks the translation of its own tour should be Friesian Eleven Cities Ice Skating Marathon,
although Friesian clearly should be Frisian.
The tour is almost 200 kilometers long. Friesland's capital Leeuwarden is
the start and finish location. The skaters follow this exact route through
and back to Leeuwarden.
In the cities and on some secret locations checkpoints are arranged. The
competition and tour skaters (which are divided in many groups because of
their huge numbers: 16,000 participants) have to show their stamping card
here, which is then stamped by hand. A participant only receives his/her
Elfstedenkruisje (Eleven Cities Cross) if his/her card has all of the stamps and the participant arrives back in Leeuwarden on time. Every
Elfstedentocht edition the Dutch television spectators fully enjoy watching
the first skater arriving at one minute past midnight: 200 terrible
kilometers of skating and no reward.
Hundreds of thousands of spectators face the cold and encourage the
skaters along the route. Since 1909, the climate has allowed only 15 tours
to be held. These are all the glorious winners:
- 1909: M. Hoekstra (from Warmenhuizen) 13 hours 50 minutes
- 1912: C. de Koning (Arnhem) 11.40
- 1917: C. de Koning (Arnhem) 9.53
- 1929: K. Leemburg (Leeuwarden) 11.09
- 1933: A. de Vries (Dronrijp) and S. Castelein (Wartena) 9.53
- 1940: P. Keijzer (De Lier), A. Adema (Franeker), C. Jongert (Alkmaar), D.
van der Duim (Warga), S. Westra (Warmenhuizen) 11.30
- 1941: A. Adema (Franeker) 9.19
- 1942: S. de Groot (Weidum) 8.44
- 1947: J. van der Hoorn (Ter Aar) 10.51
- 1954: Jeen van den Berg (Nij Beets) 7.35
- 1956: No first prize awarded
- 1963: Reinier Paping (Ommen) 10.59
- 1985: Evert van Benthem (St. Jansklooster) 6.47
- 1986: Evert van Benthem (St. Jansklooster) 6.55
- 1997: Henk Angenent (Alphen a/d Rijn) 6.49
In 1940, the five skaters that were in front, made a deal known as the Pact van Dokkum (The Dokkum Pact), named after the last city before Leeuwarden. The five agreed there that they would not sprint for victory in the very heavy snowfall, but pass the finish line together. It wasn't until February 2001 that one of the five told another story. Piet Keijzer claimed the victory after 61 years: "The others were Frisian. We did sprint in the snow storm and I won. But the organisation refused to celebrate a win of someone outside of Friesland. That is why we were all put on first place".