Amsterdam Marathon 2016
Amsterdam is beautiful. The people are friendly, the views are liberal, and the vibe is old city meets hipster chic and I just loved it. Obviously I was there to run it, not sightsee but I tried to do a little of both.
Amsterdam marathon was to be my second full 26.2 and I had been training towards my sub4. My training had gone really well and if you are a regular to this space you’ll know all about it. I’d got comfortable running 5ks with a pace starting with a 7, 10ks and halfs with an 8, and I just hoped I could hold out with the 9 minute mile for 26.2.
Amsterdam marathon starts and ends in the Olympic stadium. It’s such a cool start! Waiting in your pens the crowd is all sat in the stands, music blaring and people cheering. The atmosphere is just incredible. By the time you’re out of the stadium your buzzing with so much energy. Energy I kept having to pull back on to stop me speeding off in to the WALL!
The route winds you through the outskirts of the city in to the vondelpark, which is just beautiful and through the Rijks museum. At which point If you let out a woop or cheer the acoustics are insane!
For me this start was perfect my pace was great, I felt great and the atmosphere was just on fire. I was running with 2 friends and we were all at the same pace and tempo and I honestly settled in to the race on a high.
You then head out along the Amstel river and unfortunately for me this is where it all went a bit wrong. The views were beautiful, the river, the fields, the country side and windmills!! But the problem was you run about 7km down one side of it, delightful, beautiful amazing! To then cross and run the same distance up the other side. There is limited support here and by the time I was half way back up the other side I was over it, and longed for the historic sites, city and crowds!! It also may have had something to do with the fact I was desperate for the ladies!
I’ve never stopped for a bathroom break in a race before but at the half way point I had to make the call. This was a huge mental struggle for me, I knew if I stopped I was most likely saying goodbye to my sub 4 as I was so close to the wire on pace. ultimately I had no choice and I had to take a pee stop. With this though came the mental struggle, the battle with my mind that I would ultimately lose over the next 12 miles.
After my stop and giving up hope of plan A, I invoked plan B and tried to stay positive about it. My brain kicked in to well sub 4 has gone what’s the point mode and I really struggled to maintain any pace starting with a 9. The route also then goes in to a bit of an industrial section followed by an uninteresting residential stretch and although the crowds did their best to pep me back up I was deflated, and lethargic, and pain was setting in.
If anyone tells you running a marathon isn’t painful they are a liar. It’s recognising the differences between pain though that is the crazy beautiful thing about this distance. I knew the pain I was feeling was temporary, nothing serious and that I just had to keep moving forwards.
At the next water station I took an energy drink, took my self to a tree and stretched out my tight hips and sore calves. I put my headphones in and ramped up my emergency playlist to try and give my self the boost I needed. It was a tale of one step forward two steps back now, as my mind and body continued to have the same drawn out boring argument.
The course works it’s way back in to the city where the crowds pick up massively. The people of Amsterdam were incredible, and I loved the wild cheers and high 5s. I tried to focus on that as much as I could and not at my watch or my pace, and just get back in to the zone of Just do it. I picked up a little pace and lost my self in the moment for another stretch.
My head dropped again at 5 miles to go and I stepped to the side for my second pep talk. I was angry at myself for needing it, and it must have shown, as a lovely chap came to my rescue. He slapped me on the back and said come on in English followed by a long sentence in Dutch. I have no idea what he said but it sounded important, friendly and it lifted me enough to get back on the course.
At 3k the 4:15 pacers passed me and I had a little sob, they were on their negative split second half and maintaining a good pace. I kept with them for about 600m but I didn’t have the strength in my legs or my mind to push any harder.
As the 500m to go banner came in to my sights I broke down because I knew I’d done it. I looked to the sky and shook away my tears as I ran back in to a roaring stadium! Finishing strong, focussed, happy and doing myself proud.
It was not the perfect marathon for me but I crossed the line in 4:17, a massive reduction from 6 months ago. I have an awful lot to be proud of, an awful lot to reflect on, and an awful lot of hard work to do going forward.
This is where People ask is it worth it? Is it worth the pain, the disappointment, the training miles, the mental anguish, the time, the money, the judgment, the indescribable highs and the insanely trying lows… and all I can ever say is YES!
I have to say a huge congratulations to my two girls who ran an amazing 4:04 and 4:26! Your strength and determination as people is inspiring, your laughter is contagious, and your alcohol consumption is admirable 😉 I feel lucky to have experienced this with you!
I may still not consider myself a very good runner, but I’m in love with being on my feet. Whilst that continues I’ll be out there giving it everything I’ve got and that feels like a win!
I have some big goals for 2017, and some big races to run with even more fantastic folks.
Hopefully I’ll catch some more of you on courses around the country 🏃🏽♀️