Amsterdam Half-Marathon – Sunday 21st October 2012

31 Oct

It started off as a half-hearted “goal for 2012” – to run a half-marathon. As a general rule, I’m not very good at sports and have absolutely no motivation to do any form of exercise unless forced to, hence the idea of entering a race seemed like a good idea at the time. I had never run more than 5km (ever!) or run for more than 30 mins total in a week. Let’s face it, I was unfit and seriously doubting whether I could do it. By June 2012 I had done nothing towards this so-called “goal for 2012” and my hubby (having just completed the Geneva Half-Marathon in May) was loudly reminding me of this and urging me to choose a race to sign-up for. And so after trawling the internet and after much procrastination and whinging and attempts to scrub the goal off my list we decided on Amsterdam in October (flat course + 4 months to train = perfect). It was also unofficially decided that my super supportive hubby would be my coach, as he was now the expert after one race! I used (roughly) the FIRST half-marathon training plan (as used by my coach in preparation for his half-marathon) which involved 3 training sessions per week (intervals, speed/tempo run and long run). I found it quite tough at the start but achievable as my fitness and speed improved. Each week, I surprised myself with how well I was doing, how far I was running and how big my calf muscles were getting (thanks Dad!). My long runs started at 8km, then 10km, then 12km, 14km and 16km, until finally one week came and there on the plan it said “20km”. We don’t usually run together but for this long run I had my coach with me (thankfully) as I’m sure I would have given up half way if he wasn’t. I made it (of course), and as I lay half-comatose on the couch drinking a banana smoothie, it was the first time I had thought “this is doable”. Yes! I upgraded my shoes (thanks to blister-causing old runners) to Saucony Triumph 9 – in black and blue – which were my life saver throughout the last 6 weeks of training, especially on the long runs. And 2 weeks before the race I invested in a Garmin 110 HRM/GPS running watch – in pink – after using Sam’s Garmin 210 HRM/GPS watch during training.

After 4 months of gruelling training and preparation it was finally here, my very first half-marathon race weekend.

We arrived in Amsterdam on Saturday morning under cloudy and rainy skies, and joined the queue at the tourist information office for a city map and our bus tickets. We dumped our bags at our “quaint” hotel and set off in search of the Marathon Expo where we would collect our race packs. I was disappointed when I was handed an envelope that contained only my race number; what, no freebies?? Sam at least got a t-shirt – the perks of signing-up for the full marathon I suppose. We had also signed up for the “Pasta Party” and were in the 4.30pm group, so that’s where we headed next. Pasta, salad and yogurt were on the menu. We piled our plates high with energy building carbohydrates and as we shovel our forks into our mouths we happily chat to a British couple who will be running the marathon together (awww!), their 9th in total! Amazing! It was 6pm, we had finished dinner, so it was time to head back to the hotel for a good night sleep.

I haven’t commented on the hotel yet, so bear with me as I try to do it some justice. For those that have been to Holland before, may understand the inner workings of these narrow buildings and small hotels. I, on the other hand, was in for a great surprise. Our room was on the third floor. There was no lift, but that’s fine, we are always happy to take the stairs. That is, of course, until you need a harness and pulley system to mount the stairs. I certainly gave my dear husband a thing or two to laugh about as he witnessed my awkward attempt to carry my suitcase up and down this very steep staircase. The hotel was very charming, the bed was comfortable and the breakfast was sufficient.

The marathon was due to start at 9.30am and the half-marathon at 1.30pm. After a bowl of cereal and some toast I kissed Sam goodbye and wished him a good race as he trotted off to the start line. It was a chilly 10 degrees so I stayed at the hotel, turned on the TV and scanned images of the marathon to see if I could spot Sam in the crowd – no such luck. At 12noon I made my way to the Marathon Expo, cheering on the marathoners as they ran to the finish line. I joined the queue at the porta-potty for one last pit-stop (thank goodness for tissues stuffed in my shorts) before stripping down to my shorts and t-shirt, all the while contemplating whether to quickly change into my pants or not. I decided on the shorts (based on what the majority of the ‘sporty’ people were wearing), handed my bag in at the bag-check, scoffed down a banana and headed to the start line. I was to start at 1.53pm in the 2h10m+ group (aka the ‘slow’ group). When registering for the race, I had estimated 2h15m as my finish time so it was a big blow to my ego to be in the last group to set off. In the weeks leading up to the race I had managed a sub-2hour 20km run but I never imagined that I could run the full 21.1km in under 2 hours (although it was secretly my new goal!).

Eeeek! Standing at the start line I’m excited, scared, and cold all at the same time. There are so many runners (about 13,000 for the half-marathon), so many spectators and I think I heard a band somewhere as well. I try to squeeze my way to the front of my section and hope for the best. I’m off like a rocket, weaving in and out of people (which I would continue to do for the whole 21.1km), all the while remembering the small piece of advice from my friend Lys about making sure that I pass all the slow people, the fat people and those shorter than me (I added that last one in myself), and the fact that she ran a half-marathon in 1h57m (a time to beat!). I loved all the crowds, especially the high-fives from some kids, and bands along the way. I stopped for a quick drink at the 5km, 9km, 13km and 17km drink stations and was sure I spilled more down the front of me than I drank. The first 16km seemed to fly by. I downed my power-gel at this point and passed the 2h pace-maker. Yes! With a new surge of energy and after a quick self-pep-talk I powered to the finish and crossed the line in 1h55m (placing me 6,240 out of 12,743 or top 50% – achieving another secret goal of mine)! Happy Days! I quickly make my way to our meeting point and after a massive hug I share my good news. With a finish time of 3h43m for his first full marathon, it would seem that we both smashed it in Amsterdam!

Next race: l’Escalade (4.8km), Geneva, December 2012

Next big race: Half-Marathon, Geneva, May 2013

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One Response to “Amsterdam Half-Marathon – Sunday 21st October 2012”

  1. Sam November 6, 2012 at 15:49 #

    Awesome job, great result!

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