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The Elfstedentocht, Dutch for "Eleven cities tour" is a race for people on ice skates. The race takes place on canals in Friesland in the north of the Netherlands. The route of the race goes through eleven towns and is nearly 200 kilometers long. It can only be held in winters when it is very cold indeed.
The race starts and finishes in Leeuwarden, the capital town of Friesland. The route goes through all eleven places in Friesland which are officially called "towns". The race has been held 15 times. The first year it took place was 1909. The most recent race was on 4 January 1997. The ice on the canals has to be at least 15 cm thick for the race to take place. It is a very tough race indeed, although some years the race has been tougher than others, depending on the weather conditions. 1963 was a terribly cold winter. That year only one in 100 people who took part managed to finish the race.
Medals are given to the first 11 men and the first 5 women.