I can’t believe it came around so fast. I think it’s probably because a lot has been going on since I started the four month training plan – I’ve changed jobs, celebrated birthdays and anniversaries and even got another job on a temporary basis. I’ve booked holidays to Edinburgh and York, visited and had visitors. I’ve also eaten the world’s best lasagne and drunk some delicious beer.
I’ve gotten up at ridiculous o’clock to run stupid miles before parkrun. I’ve had good runs and bad runs (some bad runs in the ‘other’ sense, that’s for sure). I’ve managed a parkrun PB and I’ve done a 10k race as part of the training. I’ve weathered a three week cold which left me grumpy and nervous that I was too far behind to catch up. I’ve registered for Paris and managed to get Mr Charming signed up too. I have been so lucky. I am supported by such an amazing bunch of people, from the running buddies who kept me company and made me routes to family and friends who listen while I explain that I can’t go out and get drunk because I had x miles to do the next day. Most of all, thank you to Mr Charming. Not content with supporting in the cold and wet for the last four years while I flit around the world doing races, he is now pushing himself and joining in. I don’t mean to brag, but he got a sub 2 for his second half marathon. That is pretty amazing indeed.
After countless races, I don’t get nervous before them anymore. Well, not really. I get excited and anticipatory, but I don’t tend to worry that I’m not going to sleep or eat well or anything.
So, we had a massive flight from Norwich to Amsterdam – a whole 30 minutes! It was luxurious to be able to get a taxi the short distance and then hop on the plane. I almost grumbled that I didn’t have time to read my book properly. Okay, might have done a small grumble.
We landed in Schipol and then set off towards our airbnb’d apartment that we were sharing with friends for the weekend.
We found it without wandering around too much of the Vondelpark, hoorah. The apartment was beautiful, although there were too many stairs for us marathoners! I love airbnbing in a different country because you generally get a better feel for what’s a typical house in that locality.
We went to the Van Gogh museum on Friday after landing about lunchtime. We were in the museumplein district so it was within easy walking distance. It was great – I would recommend booking in advance as the queues were pretty long and it was drizzling a bit too. Thank you to the lovely person who advised me to book!
On Saturday we went to the expo to pick up our numbers and buy some ridiculously brilliant orange slipper clogs from the race sponsor, Mizuno. They sold a lot of clogs that day, that’s for sure. I also got suckered into buying a super expensive but lovely and cosy Mizuno hoodie. Woops.
After a bit of wandering and a bit of sitting, we went to Mazzo for pizza and pasta. If you’re going to Amsterdam, I’d recommend it. It’s beautiful and the food was pretty good too.
We got a reasonably early night after deciding that we’d try and get a tram to the start. Amsterdam transport shuts down for race day so be warned, you’ll need to make sure you know how you’re getting there in advance.
I woke up at about 6am and had breakfast of porridge and a couple of slices of toast with butter and jam, with a coffee. I’d had a protein shake the night before. We got ready and left about 7.30, to get to the start for 8.15. It always takes longer than you think to do stuff on race day, so plan for getting into the baggage queue, toilet queue etc. It’s a good idea to get to a race an hour before the start, especially if it’s a big city race.
Just before I left I realised that Mother Nature/Sod’s Law/Scientific cycles* had conspired against me for this marathon, and I was going to have to run it with a uniquely female er, visitor. I hope that’s not too obtuse, without spelling it out!
We got to the start, which was heaving with people. Bag drop is not in numbers, you just walk up to a queue and they’ll give you a corresponding sticker and put it on your bib. It’s a good idea but it seemed like unnecessary organisation to me. What happened if the sticker fell off? I can’t remember my name at the end of any race, let alone an arbitrary number on a sticker I’d seen five hours before. My sticker did not fall off, thankfully.
There was a bottleneck to get into the stadium and we didn’t get in until about 9:20 after queueing from around 9am, so it’s worth getting in earlier than planned if you want time in the pens to warm up and go for a last minute wee. It started to rain very gently – enough to get the pavement wet and definitely nowhere near Stockholm’s downpour!
It’s worth saying at this point that in terms of running, I was feeling more confident than I’ve ever been. I got a parkrun PB on Saturday, completely unexpectedly. I did a 6.66 mile run on Wednesday that called for 2 miles at MP (around 9:30min/mil), and I struggled to keep slower than 9:15. One of the miles was 8:42min/mil!
We were soon off, with the requisite fanfare of Black Eyed Peas’ “Tonight’s going to be a good night” (I have no idea why they always play that at races. It’s a good beat but it is slightly annoying). There was a bit of a bottleneck at the start as we went out of the stadium and turned left.
The miles ticked by and I knew it was a good run because I kept miscalculating the km markers – I thought we had more miles to go than we did!
The aid stations were regular and well signposted, offering water, AA Lemon drink, bananas and sponges at them all. Some of them had AA gels as well.
As you can see, the first 16 miles ticked along nicely. My heartrate was floating above 150, even dropping down to about 130 as I relaxed and enjoyed the run. There were plenty of fellow BCRCers on the course supporting and running, so it was lovely to spot people along the way.
When it got to around mile 15, there’s a bit of a gap where I had the first wave of cramps which stopped me dead. I felt nauseated and could only double over in an effort to relieve them. From then, I was able to run for a couple of minutes at a time before stopping again to breathe through them. I begged some paracetamol from the paramedics and talked to as many people around me as I could. Even at mile 20 I was entirely fine, and hadn’t even got out of breath yet. The problem was, as soon as I started to run, my inner organs mounted their own fearsome protest against dealing with outside force as well as internal. You can see in the second half where I picked up a friend, around 4 miles from the finish. She was struggling with hip pain and together we pulled each other round. I remember looking at my watch as 3:59 ticked on by to 4:00, and being rueful and disappointed and frustrated.
Despite all of this, before I knew it we were going through the Vondelpark on the way to the stadium. I loved the finish – going in on the right hand side and passing the finishers coming out the other way on the left, resplendent in their medals and majestic in their plastic sheets. Watching from the stands was even better, like some unfathomable cycle of life.
I finished in 4:38. My tenth marathon. I have such mixed feelings about it – I almost want to forget it as it was so terrible. I felt so frustrated and annoyed at such a betrayal by my own body. On the other hand, it shows how far I’ve come as it’s still better than my first marathon and I felt so amazing afterwards, I was able to bounce up and down the stairs (much to the non amusement of my roommates) and I thoroughly enjoyed the race itself despite the rain and the bottlenecks. It was a great weekend with excellent people. I’m also pleased that the P&D seems to be working for me. High mileage looks like a good idea – so long as I rest properly on rest days and make sure I keep up with my vitamin C.
Roll on Paris 2016! In the meantime, I have St Neot’s half marathon and Adnams Southwold 10k. Hopefully I’m going to have Cambridge half in February as part of the Spring Campaign – if I get in!
*delete where appropriate