Slowing down – that’s what people often think of when making pilgrimages. This summer, Jessie Jager featured in Runner’s World and Women’s Health with a completely different experience. Jessie walked our 136 kilometer trail not in one or two weeks, but 16 hours. Yes, 16 hours! By running.
How meaningful that can be, she tells Women’s Health :
“A day like this is grueling, but also very impressive. Friends and family walked along, you experience everything very intensely because there are no distractions. There is only the path, you, and the lovely people who support you. It puts things in perspective. The start and end point of the Walk of Wisdom is at St. Steven’s Church, which towers far above the city. I had visualized what it would be like to finally see the tip of that tower, that kept me going. Once I saw it, I was overwhelmed with emotions. No matter how hard it is, there will always be a good moment, or a solution. That’s what I try to pass on to my children. I now know how far perseverance can take you. ”
Her pilgrimage was an ode to her inspirator Jaap, she writes.
“Forward and don’t falter!”
“That’s what Jack would say. 25 years ago, supreme joy and intense sadness were so close together.
I was almost 15 and was in 3 gymnasium of the Lorentz College in Arnhem when in 1994 the call came to sign up for the musical Bumper: a self-written production inspired by West Side Story. I jumped on, I wanted to get on that stage and I was going to audition! After rehearsing as a dancer for over a year, I was standing together with all the other, more than 100, participants receiving thunderous applause in the city theater of Arnhem. “Three evenings the great hall was destroyed!” Jaap said in his last speech. Jaap was the choreographer, the man behind the direction and the set. Outside the musical he was a gym teacher and owner of a ballet school. But above all, he was an inspiration to everyone. His creativity, decisiveness, perseverance, positivity and ability to bring out the best in people was a big example for me. He saw where there was nothing to see for others.
And then, 11 days after the red curtain was drawn and there was partying until the wee hours, suddenly the thump of Jaap’s death came. My world stood still, this was incomprehensible as a 15-year-old. The farewell was beautiful; once again an overcrowded hall and again as the last song Somewhere. Jaap would be in my heart forever and many times in my life I would find answers thinking, “That’s how Jaap would have done it.”
Then suddenly I saw a pole with a symbol
The years passed. I have now been working for more than 15 years in Nijmegen at a secondary school where I, as a production manager, make a major contribution to beautiful musicals. I have left the dance world behind me for a while. But I still like to move. Running through the woods and mountains is what I love to do. We are lucky that there are beautiful nature reserves around Arnhem and Nijmegen.
So is Berg en Dal. The forest I became acquainted with while running 3.5 years ago. I was taken in tow and pointed to the most beautiful paths and the most magical light when I suddenly saw a pole with a symbol on it. In a moment of bewilderment, I saw in that symbol the logo of Jaap’s ballet school. That was very special. While I feel so happy and energetic, it seems to me that Jaap is dancing around. The symbol on the pole turned out to be part of a pilgrimage route called the Walk of Wisdom. A 136 km long pilgrimage trail that starts at the St. Stevens Church in Nijmegen. You only have to follow the posts and you have all the time to think about life.
As my trail run ambitions developed,to walk this trip in one go does not seem to be a bridge too far anymore and I’m making plans in preparation. I will dedicate my Walk of Wisdom to Jaap, because in my experience he dances around there. I’ll be ready in a few weeks. I look forward to this day when I will have memories of the past 25 years around me on my longest journey ever. And when it’s heavy and tough I’ll think:
“Forward and don’t falter!” Jessie Jager