A Real High in Amsterdam Over 42 Kilometers

The reason for it all...the bling.

So close to a personal record! The Amsterdam Marathon, despite not scoring my best time to date, was one of the more entertaining marathons I’ve ever run.

I decided way back in February to run Amsterdam this year, with some 16,000 runners taking part. After running Lyon years ago and feeling totally alone out on the course, I only want to run marathons surrounded by hordes of people. It’s a lot easier to feel motivated when you have thousands of runners chasing you from behind. 

After some spotty training that began as I was moving my life to London, I still felt ready. Amsterdam brought out the sun at Olympic Stadium on Sunday as we gathered at the starting line. As the invited and elite runners took off, a rush of energy came over me (as did the urge to pee once last time) as I took off with the other runners.

It’s always a little emotional starting a marathon. The culmination of months of preparation is this one race, this once chance to do my best. The emotions give way to the nearly debilitating realization that you can’t stop for the next few hours.

Spotted at Olympic Stadium...
The Amsterdam route was a quirky one – as you’d expect from Amsterdam. After ducking through the Rijksmuseum followed by a few kilometers of uneventful road running, we headed to the Amstel River where the urban landscape gave way to a pastoral Dutch wonderland. The smell of manure, a giant windmill, sheep in the distance – it was right out of a 19th century painting. 

“It’s just a lovely sight, isn’t it?” another runner asked as he ran by me. It was. It really was.

Then there was the acrobat hovering a hundred feet over the water on a power jet hover board, spinning around and dancing on the river – less pastoral, but still delightful. There was the pair of goats head butting, struggling to earn the top spot on the log in their pen. Then there was the best sign of all during the race, tied to a wooden post. It read, simply, “Run like Donald wants to grab your pussy.” Topical, Amsterdam, very topical.

Autumn in Amsterdam...

By the time we left the river, the energy started to wain and we crept up towards the 30km stretch. The end was in sight, but my pace started to drop. The stress of keeping my feet moving, the slight wave of nausea, and the thirst caused by the autumn sun all discouraged me, but as we rolled back into the city, I kicked the pace up for the final stretch.

I did the math in my head and realized I could potentially beat my PR, but my feet wouldn’t move any faster as they throbbed, begging to stop. I spent too much energy thinking and I should have just run. Finally I saw the entrance to the Olympic Stadium and the tears welled up a bit, as they always do, and I sprinted towards the finish line, about 1 hour and 44 minutes after the first Kenyan runner crossed it. He set a new course record, to boot. That’s pretty humbling.

Let the pain begin...

Pleased with my 3:49:18 finish time, just seconds behind last year’s Berlin Marathon, I’m not winning any prizes. Still, I’m happy that the Dutch race proves that the German race wasn’t a fluke. Next year’s goal is to knock a good ten minutes off this time. Ambitious? Well no one ever won a race without a little ambition. 

Now the only question is where to run next fall…