The annual 4Days Walking event in Marbella began on Thursday this week and more than 2,300 people from all over the world are taking part. It ends on Sunday. For many, this is their first time, and the excitement was palpable as they gathered in the Plaza del Mar to register.
The route on the first day was called Playa, because most of it is along the coast. “It’s something easy to start with. The others will be a bit harder,” coordinator María Kupers explained.
The aim of 4Days Walking is simple: “To have fun,” she said. “A lot of people go walking every day but doing it in such a large group, exchanging experiences and ending up with a party in the square makes this unique.”
It is also unique in the sense that Marbella is the only town in Spain to hold the event and one of the few in Europe to last for four days. “In the Netherlands a lot of towns do it, but in most of them it is shorter,” Kupers said.
Everyone walks at their own pace. Some set off as soon as they have registered, while others prefer to stop and have some breakfast in a café first. Participants can choose whether to do routes 10, 20 or 30 kilometres in length, and wear bracelets which are scanned at each checkpoint to ensure that they are doing it, and to time them on each stretch.
There are more Dutch participants than any others, followed by Spanish, but altogether people of 16 nationalities are doing the four-day walk. The average age is between 35 and 55, and there are more women than men. Most are from Europe. Marija, for example, who comes from Lithuania and is walking in a group of six. They toured Spain before coming to Marbella for the first time to take part in this event.
Some walkers are stylishly dressed, wearing matching tee-shirts with the logo of Marbella or showing where they are from. There were some amazing hats to be admired, and plenty of smiles and laughter as people commented on what others are wearing. And in this Tower of Babel of walking, Jiro Yoshio, 86, smiled as he watched the crowds intently. He is the only representative of Japan among the 2,300 participants. It is his first visit to Marbella, but he has walked in Barcelona on several occasions and what he likes most is that people are so friendly.
“You come to walk, but to meet people as well,” he said.