I have heard about this race many years ago: the biggest Dutch running event with thousands of runners and even more supporters along the way, great atmosphere and interesting 10 mile course… No wonder that the start numbers were sold out 12 minutes after the online registration opened. Luckily we managed to ‘sneak in’ by combining pleasant and useful and joined a small charity project to run (and collect funds) for them.
This was all long before I got pregnant…
Saturday night: Here I am, the night before the race, feeding myself with spaghetti like crazy, feeling quite good but sadly realizing I have to do this on my own as V caught some stomach bug and looks like she will be spending the whole weekend hanging above the toilet.
Sunday 8 am: I am dressed in my (summer) running gear, drinking my coffee, eating cereals, watching the mercury in the outside thermometer – it keeps shrinking around 8 Celsius. It looks like it will start raining soon, too. The last quick look to the website of Dutch railways does not fill me with optimism either – the shortest railroad between Leiden and Amsterdam (where I have to be at the start) is closed for rail works all day today. I decided to take my bike to the station, just in case I need to quickly get to another station for an alternative route.
10 am: Finally I am in the train. It is packed with runners (recognizable by white plastic bags with numbered stickers that match their start number and running shoes hiding under the winter gear) and tourists (recognizable by huge question marks in their faces with: ‘People, where the hell are you all going??”), so finding a seat is out of the question but at least the train moves in the right direction.
11 am: Amsterdam Central Station, the first obstacle of the trip is behind me. Now digging a map from my plastic bag and trying to find the spot where our charity meets. Since the principal color of our logo is purple, I am happy to fix purple balloons with my right eye and walk towards them. Ehm, wrong charity (at this point, there are 4.000 charity runners around). Several minutes later I am on the spot, right on time for the group picture.
11.30: It is still dry and actually even sunny, the temperature raised to rather comfortable 13 degrees so I am undressing (wearing the charity T-shirt today rather than my own Team AprilRuns), stuffing my plastic bag and throwing it to a truck number 8 (they say I will find it later on 10 miles further, in Zaandam…). The queue in front of the toilets makes me want to pee again and again and again. Luckily I am not too shy to use the facilities of 2 pubs nearby.
11.45: I am quickly calling V to tell her we are moving towards the start corridor. She says “don’t rush, the fastest Kenyan guy has already finished”. The official race started at 10.59 and I will only find out later that there are 50.000 runners today starting practically continuously between 11 am and 3 pm (out of 20 start corridors)! Leonard Komon (‘the Kenyan guy’) finished at 44:48, highly disappointed as he stayed some 20 seconds behind Haile Gebrselassie’s world record.
11:50: Our charity group hears the gun shot from Ronald de Boer, a Dutch iconic ex soccer prof. Little do I care, I am pre-programmed to run so I run. The sun is shining, the crowd along the route is huge (later I hear it counts 250.000 people!), I hear music, drums, people clapping their hands and I feel good.
1st km: The first bit along the city centre (Prins Hendrikkade) quickly turns down to the Ij tunnel, about 1 km long tunnel under the river Ij. This is the biggest descend and ascend of the race (about 25 meters). The crowd speeds down to the dark mouth of the tunnel accompanied by African drummers who unpacked their huge drums in the middle. Half way through the tunnel some runners already stop running and walk. I keep my pace around 6 minutes per kilometer, smiling, enjoying, singing along. As we climb out of the tunnel (yes, in Holland the 25 m are qualified as climbing), I am happy with my pace. As of now, my GPS dependent Garmin is only useful for the time, not for the distance. Tunnels don’t do him good.
2nd km: Luckily there are markers on the road each kilometer. We are running through Amsterdam North now – many locals around the path, kids, music groups, BBQ parties, beer… oh no wait, I am here to race.
5th km: 30:48. As planned, I make a quick pause to drink and ‘feel’ my body and let it speak. I feel surprisingly good even though on paper, the first third of the race was too fast for me. I decide to keep the current pace till km 8 and see how it goes from there.
8th km: 49:19. There is a fruit station here. I grab 2 halves of a banana, walk for 10 seconds and still feel really good. Suddenly my Racing Me comes up with an idea: back in spring (while registering) I set a goal of running this race under 1:40, under 100 minutes. If I keep my current pace I could actually still make it. Hmmm, once the little worm of an idea crawls in my head, I am not to be stopped anymore.
10th km: (second 5 km bit ran in 30:58) I have to pee. Well – I ALWAYS have to pee when running so lets neglect the urge and plod on. I am checking my pace by singing along with the street musicians and/or with my mp3 player. All still going good, keeping my pace right around 6 min per km.
11th km: The weather is changing, it is getting colder and windier but what the hell – it is just 3 more miles to go. I will be warm in half an hour!
14th km: I have to admit, the last mile is getting longer. Luckily we are entering the city of Zaandam, the last bit will lead us through the city centre with yet another amazing crowd (although the picture does not show that many people).
16th km: I do not have any ambition to speed up, my legs would not allow me and even though I am racing, I am still very aware of the fact that I am carrying a little passenger with me. My breath is easy and regular, and yet I manage the third 5 km piece in 31 minutes. The cobble stones are okay today, my knee is holding excellent. We have to pass 2 bridges and then turn to the finish line on Peperstraat. I quickly check the time board. My mind is unable to do the maths but I have good hope I actually managed to stay within my time limit.
Finish: Happy and tired but not breathless or exhausted. It was a good race, I ran very flat splits (you hear me talking as if I were a professional, haha) and this all is rewarded by my Garmin showing 1:39:41. Later on, this very time will be confirmed online as well. I am halfway the 18th week of pregnancy and I just ran 10 miles under 100 minutes. And – the charity has collected some EUR 5.700 so far!
3 pm: Sitting in the train home, chewing on a banana, smiling and every now and then reaching towards the medal to check it is still hanging around my neck.
4 pm: Home sweet home, hugging V and finishing the bowl of pasta (I love leftovers from the fridge) and doing absolutely nothing for the rest of the day.