After weeks of waiting (and not preparing), it was go time on the Amsterdam Marathon!
On Saturday, after a quick haircut at a great barber I found, I met Catherine at Run2Day, where Catherine gifted me a pair of compression socks for the upcoming ordeal. Following that, Andrew picked us up and we drove to the olympic park for packet pick-up. The queue was fairly long, but once in the main hall, it was fairly quick and painless to get the race numbers and the t-shirts (included in the €70 starting fee for marathon runners, optional for the shorter distances).
Following that, it was home for pasta! Carbs, carbs and more carbs! I debated at length what to wear, obviously wearing the actual race shirt wasn’t allowed, as per here. The next morning I got up at 6 for a hearty helping of porridge, before snoozing for another hour and drinking plenty of fluids. Then we made sure we had packed everything I needed, including all the energy gels and a bottle of water in my bum bag.
Off to the metro we went to meet Andrew. The closer to the start, and naturally the busier the metro got, until it was heaving with people in brightly coloured running gear. Andrew and I agree that women by far have a better selection of cool leggings when it comes to running gear! Interesting patterns, cool colour schemes and so on. Neither of us particularly want pink running clothes, but a bit more variety in the men’s section would be cool.
We began queueing to enter the starting blocks, until we figured out we could skip the queue if we went around the side. I admit that was cheeky, but the queue really was going nowhere. Eventually in the stadium, we didn’t hear the start, but all of a sudden it was time to go! Around the stadium we went and out on our way!
The first few kilometres were fined as we steadily cruised through Amsterdam. At kilometre 11 I caught sight of Tashi, who was marshalling. Unfortunately, just as we ran towards him, someone asked him a question and stood in front of him with her umbrella. So as I ran past I tapped him on the shoulder. I don’t know what I did, but I managed to trip myself up. Thankfully, I trained in Judo when I was younger, so instinctively rolling when I fall comes naturally. However, I managed to hit my head on the road, hard, and bruised my shoulder pretty badly. I couldn’t quite roll perfectly because of the water bottle tied around my waist, but I managed to get back up in one smooth action, pick up the energy gel I dropped and get on with the business of running. As I told Andrew, on the upside, my legs weren’t the most painful thing anymore!
The following few kilometres went by without particular hiccup. A little tired towards the halfway mark, we thought we might have gone out a little too fast.
We continued and got progressively more tired. That’s when strange stuff started happening. Including having bursts of energy followed by moments of utter devastating fatigue. But the weirdest ones were emotions. At one point I said to Andrew, “it’s very strange but I really feel like crying right now”, to which he answered “dude me too!”
The last 15 kilometres got pretty tough. It was blatantly clear that our sub-4hr goal was long gone. At this point the mere thought of eating more energy gel repulsed me. So I managed to choke down some water, chunks of banana and the odd energy drink at aid stations.
Unfortunately by this point Andrew had opted to visit the medic to have his knee checked out, so we were no longer running together. My pace crashed, I was cold, and was loosing the will to keep going. Only the problem was, I didn’t have my transport card nor the key to my house, they were both st the finish line with Catherine! So the choice was made for me, I had to go on!
With about 10km to go I saw Matthijs cycling along. What a relief to see a familiar face. Don’t get me wrong, the support along the way was tremendous! With my name on my race bib several people were encouraging me including the one English girl who told me to “smash it Benjamin, smash it!” And people holding up signs such as “smile if you’re not wearing any underpants”, which even though I was, made me grin anyway.
Eventually both Matt and Helen were lining the course at various intervals to take pictures and shout encouragement! And this made me smile. And it’s hard to feel miserable when you’re smiling.
When the 4:30 pace group caught up with me I managed to dig deep and hold on to them. Right behind the pacer was a little old lady, hunchbacked who had obviously spent the entire race glued to the pacing team. Big respect. Though I admit, if she could finish then I sure as hell could (she still beat me, there’s no space for ego in this sport). I managed to hold on to the group until the last kilometre or so, when I just let them go and hobbled to the finish. The last 500 metres seemed endless.
As I crossed back into the stadium with half a lap of the track to go, I was very much on the brink of tears, but the elation at having dragged myself through it buoyed my spirits and had me grinning like some disturbed maniac. Until I finally crossed the line, 4 hours 33 minutes after setting off. I initially thought there was something wrong with me, I couldn’t swallow my water, but it was just the lump in my throat.
I filtered through to get my medal and found myself in a queue where some grumpy old woman was just giving them to people, so I changed queue in favour of the one where a much prettier lady was actually putting them around our necks (and actually smiling, it’s the small things in life). I got my plastic sheet to wrap around my shoulders and hobbled out of the stadium, where I was given a tiny bottle of iso-drink (yuck), a cup of water and half a banana (stingy). I walked thorough the crowd to the point where I’d arranged to meet Catherine. And from then on, a quick change of clothes, had my medal engraved, caught up with Matt and Helen and Andrew, hydrated and then ate chips, croquet, and had a beer.
Would I do it again? Ask me in 6 months….