The day finally came: 7 months in planning, 6 months and another half marathon in training, the decision to do the half instead of the full, a plane trip, a visit to the 1928 Olympic stadium, a day to adjust to the time, and here it was…the Amsterdam Half Marathon!
The weather forecast was for perfect running weather…for the marathoners who left at 9:30am. See those blue skies as they were coming into the stadium to finish?
Our start time – 1:30pm. The weather forecast…rain starting midway into the run with thunderstorms near the end. But it was also going to be warm, in the mid 60’sF (15-17C). All my plans for clothing for after the race changed. Thank goodness my nephew was there as support and could carry a bag of dry clothes stuffed into a trash bag to keep them warm. But no post-race Birkenstocks and compression socks, water sandals would have to do.
We got into the starting corral and the skies were grey. But I was very happy, Amsterdam is a beautiful city and the Dutch are so well organized, this was going to be great.
Surprisingly, we got off a few minutes late (perhaps the Dutch were not so efficient after all?). I felt great, but was running fast, too fast, a 28 minute 5K. I needed to slow it down. By 10K I was on a better pace, still faster than I had planned, though.
Then the water/energy drink/banana/sponge stations started, they were great! I never felt so comfortably fueled up. I also had my almond-date chews that I made and brought with me. Those are still my best mid run munchies.
We ran a good bit in the new sections of town before turning to stay in the old city. We ran past homes where people had set up their own water stations for us. This was when I remembered an article I read in Runners World about how it makes a water volunteer’s day if you ask them to throw the cup of water at you. So, I did this just to see what would happen. She grinned ear to ear and jumped up and down in excitement. I guess I made her day! Try it next time.
I was still having fun. I was enjoying all the little kids who eagerly handed out water or wanted hand slaps. But then came the 15km section and the mood swings started. I hated running, I didn’t know why I was doing this, the good feeling at the end would not be worth how not-fun this was. The rain hadn’t come yet, I was actually hot. I slowed way down. I was really getting bummed.
Two things kept me going forward, well three, no, four: 1 – it really was beautiful; 2 – they had our names on our bibs, so people started cheering me on by name – absolute strangers would say “Go, Andrea, you can do it!” – that really was wonderful, and energizing; 3 -Mahmood was there waiting for me, I couldn’t let him down; and 4 – I really wanted to finish in the Olympic stadium.
I passed the 18K marker and there were only 3K left to go. 3K, that’s less than 2 miles; I could do that any day. Suddenly my speed picked back up and I was enjoying myself again. We ran through a beautiful park…Note the sponge helping to keep me cool…
Then it was just a short 1K to the stadium and the sprint to the finish. It may sound corny, but it really was amazingly cool to run in under those rings and finish the run with a loop on an Olympic track.
My goal was 2:12. My time was 2:12:53…I did it!
They met us with medals and a plastic blanket…and an unbelievable traffic jam of runners trying to exit the stadium (I guess Dutch efficiency only apples to trains and trams). It took 2 hours to run 21K, but another 1/2 hour to get outside the stadium to where the energy drinks, water and bananas were waiting. No chocolate milk (that made me a little sad, but you can’t have everything)
The rain never came, no thunderstorms. But that night, I was highly doubtful I would do another half marathon. A 15K, maybe, since I committed to a friend that I would run it with her, but why on earth would I ever run another 21.1K (13.1miles)?! I need to take a break from running.
The next day, my legs did not want to straighten out, my hamstrings were so tight. But I did a lot of waking and eventually they loosened up. By that night I was planning a run for the next morning.
Hold on, I was what?! Yes, I was planning to go for a run through town to explore the Jewish Quarter and loosen up my legs. And I was looking forward to it – that is the crazy part. It would be a slow run, but it would be a normal half hour run. I made a few unplanned turns down interesting streets, got my self good and lost, asked directions, and kept on running. I must have really lost my mind, because not only did I do it, I really enjoyed it. But then again, how could you not enjoy running when this is what you see?
I will be taking a break from running training for a couple of months. For now, I need to focus on my core and upper body. It is time to get in shape for cross-country skiing… just in case we get some snow.
Then, who knows, there are some interesting looking races next year…