The last Elfstedentocht took place in 1997 and there have been a total of 15 Elfstedentochts since it's inception at the beginning on the 20th century. The most recent race hosted 306 of the fastest Dutchmen and women, plus 16, 372 other hearty skaters. The winner crossed the finish line in under seven hours. Marga Waanders, an economic official in the provincial government of Friesland, the northern province whose capital, Leeuwarden, is the start line for the race, describes locals as "down-to-earth." But, she says, "when the race is on, they go mad. It's the Mardi Gras of Friesland."