It was an early Saturday morning start for David Buffham, Paul Holborow and I to catch the 9:15am flight to Amsterdam. Many other runners accompanied us on the flight including four Heaton Harriers and perhaps 30 Tyne Bridge Harriers clad in orange tour tops for their annual club outing!
The Amsterdam running festival has an 8km event as well as half marathon and marathon – most people from TBH were doing the half marathon with a few opting for the full 26.2m experience!! We arrived in Amsterdam, checked into our hotel then walked to the expo to collect our numbers and t-shirts for the following day. The rest of the afternoon and evening were spent relaxing, watching the odd bit of rugby and generally preparing for the race.
After a restless nights sleep, Paul and I met for breakfast at 7:15am, as our marathon was due to start at 9:30am in the Olympic Stadium. There were many runners milling around, looking far more at ease than Paul & I, however, we psyched ourselves up and talked through our strategy over our runners breakfast. We were slightly surprised that David didn’t appear to wave us off, however, since his half marathon didn’t start until 1:20pm he had opted for a leisurely late breakfast in his suite in preparation for the half marathon. So now the nerves really did start to kick in as we walked to the start and prepared ourselves for the next 4 hours effort.
The start area within the Olympic Stadium was fantastic, there were a lot of supporters already and the atmosphere was fully charged. At 9:30am prompt, the race began with the elites heading out of the stadium and onto the streets of Amsterdam. By the time Paul and I actually crossed the start line, the elites had completed over 2 miles, however, our start was quite slow with the first 3 miles covered a couple of minutes slower than we had intended due to the restraints of the course. This was probably not a bad thing – as they say, “if you think you’re running too slow at the start of a marathon, you’re probably still running too fast”! And so we settled into the race. The miles actually flew by and pretty much before we knew it we had completed the first 9 miles within the city and headed out onto a 7 mile loop along the Amstel River, passing some beautiful houses and several windmills! We had a good spell at this stage and whilst Paul was getting far more shout outs than I (the Dutch have difficulty pronouncing Elliott I believe), spirits remained high and our pace was good.
At 16 miles we returned to the city. We started to count down parkruns at this stage – 15km’s to go meant only 3 parkruns so how difficult could that be? We were still passing the majority of runners but ‘banter’ was non-existent by this stage and ‘diggin in’ was the order of the day!
Only two more parkruns to go…
I recall getting a big lift as we caught up the 3:45 pace group and subsequently passing them although I can’t remember where this was.
I also recall that at the 3-hour point we had 5 miles to go and so our main target of breaking 4 hours was virtually certain barring a major disaster.
And so we plodded on…..one more parkrun to go!
As we approached the final stages, the atmosphere intensified and the crowd noise grew – I actually got quite a few shout outs at this stage – the occasional “come on Elliott (they had learnt to pronounce my name by now)” but more “come on Ponteland” in recognition of my club vest. This gave me a huge lift and I felt really good as I approached the stadium.
A bit like in the Great North Run, there was a 500m to go sign but unlike the GNR it didn’t seem to get further away! I passed this point and then headed back into the stadium I had left earlier that day. It was a huge sense of relief and euphoria as I completed the last 200m on the track and tried (and no doubt failed) to initiate a sprint finish and look presentable for the photos. And so it was over with both Paul and I achieving personal best times – Paul smashing his Rome Marathon time from earlier in the year by a huge 40 minutes. We were both exhausted but elated and delighted with our achievement.
As we were finishing, David was just starting his half marathon. This race followed pretty much the same course as the marathon but without the out and back section along the Amstel River. David had run a solid GNR of 1:43, then an excellent Great Cumbrian Run a fortnight ago of 1:40 and so was hoping to complete his 3rd and quickest Half Marathon in 5 weeks. His efforts were rewarded with a fantastic time of 1:37:50 beating his all time PB and achieving the honour of being first Ponteland Runner home in the race.
Amsterdam is a great venue for a potential club trip, with various race options, easy flights from Newcastle and scenic flat courses!
We certainly had great weekend with the bonus of PB’s all round!!