Amsterdam 2014 A Review
Walks, Bars, Sight Seeing, & More Walks.
So way back in the Spring, after I had completed the Brighton Marathon and Lloyd Richardson had completed the Paris Marathon, both popping our marathon cherries, we decided within a matter of days that we needed a new adventure – Amsterdam was mentioned and within 10 minutes it was booked.
So what was the attraction? Well it was flat, no ballot, and you are able to fly from Southend Airport – did I mention it was flat?
So, we booked the flights with Easyjet, which were around £60, hotel which was around £75 and the entry which was around £50 I seem to recall. Adding up to less than I had spent in Brighton, and the flight was only 40 minutes.
The flight was quite inspiring in itself. I was sat next to a young lady called Mary Flinders from USA who was running her third marathon in three weeks after completing Dublin, Munich and now Amsterdam – amazing. What was even more incredible was that her husband was at home in Japan (US Marine on tour) looking after their 6 kids!! How did she manage to persuade him that she was going away for such a long time to run – I get it in the neck for one weekend! I checked her time for Amsterdam – 3:57. Incredible achievement!
Early start on the Saturday, and after 16-18 weeks of solid training, both and Lloyd were talking about our goals and how we were going to smash it! We were ready.
Getting from the Airport to the hotel was easy, the train and tram systems were great and aided by the fact that Lloyd had gone into Scout Leader mode, and had written down every possible route. We travelled to the Hotel, dropped off our luggage and headed to the Expo to pick up our race numbers. The expo in itself was nothing special, with the usual stands and shoe manufacturers offering their latest wares that promise you will run faster and jump higher than ever before. We spent enough time there, and we decided we had seen it all and went off to have some lunch before heading back to the hotel – I was needing a sleep from the early start. Bagles, superfood smoothies, and green tea was the order of the day. Food picture duly taken and posted within the Flyers Facebook page, which some members had mistaken for some illegal substance from the “other” delights of Amsterdam. I can assure you, both Lloyd and I were in “the zone” determined that this marathon would be the one where we showed the world we had arrived and were to be taken as serious marathon runners.
The evening was spent with Darren & Wendy Chaplin who were out supporting the Pitsea RC gang and celebrating their anniversary. The ritual of pre race pasta, was for us, taking place in “Rembrandtplein” which is a party square, hosting shops and cafes galore, most of which are called “Smokey’s” or “Grass Haven” – you can guess, or at least smell what was being sold and consumed by many English tourists. After our dinner, Lloyd told me he knew the way we could walk back to the Station so we could catch the train back to our hotel, which I was quite pleased to say was through the famous red light district. I was not so pleased it was the gay quarter as it was not really what I hoping to see. Althought very colorful. We wandered (surprisingly slowly) through and eventually found our way to Central Station (via the more traditional red light district) and back to the hotel for an early night.
The night was somewhat tainted by the news that West Ham had won in the afternoon and were up to 4th place in the league – I was devastated, Lloyd on the other hand (an Upton Park season ticket holder) was delighted and told me that Carlton Cole was the future of English football – with that ringing in my ears, we went off to our separate rooms, I began to drift off planning my perfect race as I fell asleep.
So it was here. All this work, all the sacrifices, was for this moment. The stadium, (where the Olympics were held in 1928) was pretty special albeit not as inspiring as some of the modern stadia of the world. We made our way in amongst the 1000’s of other runners and the usual pumping of music, and people stretching, was the sights which greeted us. We by this time, had met with Pitsea RC members, Steve Ray, Louise Kingsley, Tim Shea and Nigel Pointer – of course they are Flyers too, but naturally were sporting their club colours. So this was it, we moved into a start pens, full of nervous energy.
The race began with the elites going off at their usual blistering pace, it took some 12-15 mins before we finally made our way to the start line, but sure enough I was running my second marathon. The course started off winding through the streets of Amsterdam and was to my relief very flat, I was so obsessed in maintaining my pace I hardly noticed the sights or the streets I was running in.
The route continued to be flat apart from one slight incline which was from an underpass. I was flying along, felt strong, time was just about perfect, and ran through the 13mile marker bang on schedule. Then came mile 16 – the wheels fell off. I was devastated. I was thinking of the people watching me on the app back home who knew how badly I wanted to break 4 hours – it was slipping through my fingers with every passing agony filled mile. First I saw the 4hr pacers go past, then at mile 21 the 4:15 pacers cruised past – I was gutted! I was not in a good place and finished remarkably within 1 second of my previous time set at Brighton of 4:26.
I met up with the Pitsea RC team and Lloyd who all recalled how they did, and they did well. None more so than Lloyd who ran an incredible 3:40.
I was genuinely pleased for him, and as always the true gentleman listened to me for several hours banging on how disappointed I was, and general talk of woe is me. A legend amongst men.
Everyone from the Pitsea RC team was incredibly supportive as I think it was pretty clear how disappointed I was. That being said, at that time, no words made any difference to me, despite it being a PB albeit only by the most slender of margins.
We returned to our hotel to have a shower, food and to check in to see how the rest of Flyers got on at the inaugural Chelmsford Marathon, and those at the LOSS 10K – good results all round.
Again Lloyd kept his joy withheld as I once more recalled every chapter of my tale of woe over a beer and the worlds biggest sandwich. He did remind me though of the West Ham win – today was not my day. We finished the day meeting up once more the Darren and Wendy and after a couple of beers I had relaxed and managed to laugh at myself. I commented to Lloyd as we walked down to the bar, “I do feel OK considering I just done a marathon” where he retorted “what do you expect you walked most it” Touche! Lloyd Touche!
We said our goodbyes and made our way to the Train Station and ultimately to the Airport for our impending flights home. This did lead to Lloyd saying a train was due any moment and sure enough I was running up the steps to a train due not for another hour! That put a smile on our faces despite the obvious pain it caused and summed up a great weekend with even better company. To add, we decided against buying a ticket and ended up sitting in first class on the train. We then started to watch the ticket inspector coming down the train removing people one by one from 1st Class. Moving like a dark cloud towards where we were sat, we started to formulate a plan – Lloyd’s idea was to pretend we were Russian to try to get out of it, but the train stopped at a station just before she had reached us and the Ticket Inspector got off, not without throwing a smile our way as if to say “I do know, but today you get lucky fellas.” (In Dutch naturally). Maybe she saw the pain of my marathon etched on my face and took pity!
Would I recommend Amsterdam Marathon? Absolutely, it’s not huge, and there is isn’t a goody bag but dont let this put you off a great European Marathon.
This wonderful, vibrant city is full of colour and curiosity that would bring a smile to any broken runner – and to one or two good ones too.