Firefighters and clowns have little in common – but both bring smiles to children’s faces. During this unconventional campaign, the two joined forces. The firefighters Ingo Kolhoff and Jörg Friedrich walked 50 kilometres in full gear, including self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBA), to draw attention to the island’s clinic clowns.
The Blue Helmets Club’s motto is “walking against cancer”. The name, inspired by the well-known TV series “Club der roten Bänder” (Red Bracelets Club), is befitting of the group’s blue painted helmets. Along with his club, Ingo Kolholl has been gathering donations for the good cause at charity walks for several years now. “When we talked about our athletic goals for 2020, we stumbled upon the Mega Walk in Mallorca.”
“At the start, our fellow runners were amazed by our ‘walking gear.”
In February, the two attempted the challenging Mega Walk at Port d’Alcúdia in the north-east of Mallorca along with over 700 athletes. The Mega Walk entails tackling 50 kilometres in 12 hours. With their firefighter gear, helmets, and SCBA, the firefighters carried around an extra 20 kilograms in weight, which was quickly noticed by the other participants. “At the start, our fellow runners were amazed by our ‘walking gear,’” explains Ingo Kolhoff.
Colleagues from the Alcúdia fire brigade provided the Germans with the SCBA for the walk. On top of their on-site organization, the two firefighters prepared for their adventure by training at home: “We prepped for this walk with extra strength and endurance training, because the route, with the difficult gear requirements, isn’t trivial for us.” Altogether, many factors needed to come together for the day of the walk. On top of solid, athletic fitness, well-fitting shoes were another significant factor. “We rely on solid, comfortable walking shoes for our planning,” says Ingo Kolhoff.
Training tips for the walk
At home, the firefighters prepared for the strain and gave their boots a stress test with many 20–30-kilometer walks. To strengthen the leg muscles, long bike trips were also a repeated part of their training. On top of all that, they jogged around ten kilometers two to three times a week.
The firefighters gathered new experiences as part of their daily preparation: “We covered many short and long paths by foot. We walked to shifts, work, or for short shopping trips. Every kilometer walked gets our bodies used to the strain and helps the environment, too.” The fitness aspect is just one factor, however. “We know from personal experience that for this type of walk, it’s 80% a mental thing. When your body says ‘I can’t go on’, your brain has to motivate you to want to keep going,” added Igno Kollhoff. In a team it’s easier, because the pair can motivate each other. “Even so, you should complete around 80% of the distance in one go at least once while training. For us, that was around 40 kilometers. If you’ve never done it before, it’s easy to overestimate yourself.”
“It must be possible!”
On the day of the walk, the charity walkers could find out if the training paid off in the end. In full firefighter gear, they headed along the coast and over the white sand beaches. “Though we were enjoying the seascape during the beginning stages, after 42 kilometers our shoulders and legs were extremely sore. The heat accumulation in the firefighter gear added to it,” says Ingo Kolhoff, describing his experience. But the thought of giving up so close to their goal wasn’t on the firefighters’ minds. “Only eight more kilometers – it must be possible, we thought.” After around 11 hours, the two participants from the Blue Helmets Club finally passed the finish line and were able breathe a sigh of relief upon having reached their goal.