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Severe cold spell turns Dutch skating enthusiasts feverish everywhere

Winter of 2012 raises hopes for Eleven Cities Race

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

The run-up to the elusive Eleven Cities Race is nearly every time full of suspense and not a little bit of drama. And as unpredictable as the weather, some realists will say. After all, the number of times that this mother of all outdoor marathon skating races was held, likely is easily outpaced by the number of times it was collectively ruled to be a no-go by the organizers.

A terrific public relations scenario for the Province of Friesland, home to the Eleven Cities that major in the race, attention turns to this Frisian event whenever weather forecasts alert people to an impending cold spell with staying power. As the world shrank with the ascent of radio, television and now the internet as well, more people are monitoring the run-up as ever before. The Dutch at home are watching the Frisians warming up and the Dutch abroad and speed skating enthusiasts everywhere watch from a distance things unfold.

By February 6 commentators already were pegging the marathon date on the 15th, even before the district leaders along the 200-kilometre route had met. Without a doubt, there are enthusiasts abroad who already are planning to join the race from the sidelines by being there in person. Ah, the Dutch get feverish when everyone shivers. Itís called skate fever. The ice bug.

The Eleven Cities Race, the actual number of towns with a city charter in Friesland, has been held off and on for about 250 years, but it was not until 1909 that skating enthusiasts organized officially. The anniversary of the Elfstedentocht, its Dutch name, held in 2009, may lead folks today to think that speed skating is a fairly recent phenomenon. It is not. It is just more professionally run and prepared for massive attention.

To obtain the entire 3-page illustrated article on the this very interesting subject, request a copy of the February 10, 2012 issue of The Windmill Herald (as long as supply lasts).