The 48th edition of the Batavierenrace, the largest relay race in the world, was to be held on 1 and 2 May 2020. However, the battle against the spread of the coronavirus has led the government to ban all events until 1 June. The Batavierenrace attracts more than 12,000 students, so it goes without saying that we must comply. The race and celebrations afterwards have been annual highlights for almost 50 years; this is the first time the event has to be cancelled.
The first Batavierenrace in 1973 welcomed around 600 participating students. The Batavierenrace follows the route taken by the Batavieren (the ancient Germanic Batavi tribe) in 50 BC: on rafts down the Rhine from Nijmegen to Rotterdam. Due to issues with infrastructure, the route was altered the following year. Every year since 1974, the students have walked from Nijmegen - through Germany and the Achterhoek - to the University of Twente campus.
The number of race participants has grown steadily throughout the years. As a result, the Batavierenrace was listed in the Guinness Book of Records on 28 April 2012 as the world’s largest relay race, thanks to its 8509 participants. The race proved popular this year too, with more than 8400 people registering to take part. After the race, the biggest student party in the Benelux is usually held at the University of Twente campus, visited by an estimated 12,000 partygoers from the Netherlands and abroad.
Each team in the Batavierenrace is made up of 25 students, as the race consists of 25 stages: 16 men’s stages and 9 women’s stages. The race starts on Friday evening in Nijmegen and the teams walk via Germany and the Achterhoek, arriving in Enschede on Saturday afternoon. The race spans a total of 175 km. There is a special leader board for the fastest team from each university: the Topicus University Competition – with special Dutch Student Championship status. The participants must be enrolled at a University of Applied Sciences or a University, PhD students are also permitted. This way, the Batavierenrace remains a true student event.
This is the first time since the inception of the Batavierenrace that the relay race and subsequent party have been cancelled entirely. However, the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001 did mean the relay race had to be cancelled too. Foot and mouth disease occurs in biungulates such as cattle and pigs, and spreads easily through the air and through contact. Because the race runs alongside many meadows, the large group of participants was not allowed to walk the entire route. As such, the 29th edition consisted only of the party on the UT Campus.
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