Monday, 21 October 2019


I don’t remember when we signed up for Amsterdam, or even really why we signed up for Amsterdam – but we must have thought, at one of our many hugely unproductive ‘planning meetings’ that it was a good idea!  Initially all five of us had signed up for the half marathon, as some of us were already committed to a marathon just a week later, but one of our number had decided to bite the bullet and bag the bigger bit of bling on offer for the full marathon.  We booked flights and hotels, worked out the logistics of how we would get to the airport etc. and then pretty much forgot about the whole enterprise until about a week beforehand!  
JB, carb loading
I waved Husbando off at 4.30am on Friday morning as he and three friends made their way to the airport and happily went back to sleep for an hour, only to wake up with the worst headache ever!  I survived two whole lessons at school before admitting defeat, as I felt so sick, and coming home.  I was panicking about the fact I had an evening flight from Gatwick.  I could barely keep my eyes open as the light drilled into my head, how on Earth could I negotiate a train journey?  I went home, took a load of drugs and went to bed for a couple of hours.  Thankfully I woke up feeling a lot better, not 100% - in fact I still have a headache now (Monday lunchtime), so set off to the airport.
An uneventful journey and a very easy train journey into central Amsterdam saw me arriving just before last orders in the hotel bar.  A surprise ‘extra’ friend was waiting there too – he was over for the marathon and came to meet us in the evening before returning to his hotel.  

In our enthusiasm, whenever we’d booked this weekend, we had signed up for a 6k ‘city run’ on the Saturday morning.  On reviewing the information about the run we decided that a lie in would be better for us!  The city run was selling itself as a ‘fun’ activity, where we would run at a gentle pace in groups of 10-15 between various Amsterdam landmarks.  I’m not a fan of enforced fun plus, as we sat sipping complimentary champagne with our breakfast, it looked really cold and windy outside!  Much better to spend a lazy (ish) Saturday buying stuff at the expo, eating nice food and drinking cold beer!  
Sunday morning saw Monsieur Faffinage toddle off to the start of the full marathon (9.30am start) while four of us sat eating breakfast (no champagne today – we thought that would be silly).  The half marathon start time was 1.20pm – which put us all in a bit of a quandary about what to eat and when and had necessitated Husbando getting the hotel to agree to a very late checkout.  At the start we posed for photos, did a bit of a warm up, grumbled (I did anyway – I still had a headache and now felt a bit sick again) thanked whatever deity we cared to thank for the dry weather.  My target was to run sub 1.50 – I haven’t run that time since 2015.  A little bit of me hoped I might be able to get close to my PB (1:44).  JB ‘joked’ about running it in 1:43 – which is silly because I would need to run 7:50min/mile pace.  That is about my average parkrun pace!  
Can we get any closer to the start
It was crowded at the start, but we were in the first starting pen, so got over the line fairly quickly. I started ‘too fast.’  I kept telling myself to ‘slow down.’  I ran the first couple of miles with Husbando, JB meeting up with us just before the 5k marker at just under 24 minutes.  At around this time we started to overtake the occasional marathon runner.  Not an issue at this point, more of an issue was the sheer number of runners who had just enough speed to overtake and then immediately cut in front of us.  I may have sworn rather loudly at some of them…
We ran together (in our matching vests!) for a few miles, before Husbando pulled slightly ahead.  I said that I would like them to be waiting for me with a beer at the end.  JB wasn’t falling for it.  And I knew he wasn’t going to fall for it anytime soon.  If I dropped the pace (in an effort to get away from having to work so hard) he eased off too and then gradually picked up the pace so that we were back where we needed to be.  He is very good at this pacing lark, realising that trying to distract me with conversation would probably end up with me biting his head off!  He fetched my water at each water station (Eliud K couldn’t have asked for better) although this was rather ruined by my inability to drink from open cups while running – it was more of an exercise in repeatedly waterboarding myself!
The route was almost pancake flat, with a couple of gentle inclines going over bridges.  It wasn’t the most scenic race I’ve run, but running over the Amstel, past the Rijks museum and through the Vondelpark was really lovely, and there was plenty of music along the route.  As we got further along the route we encountered more and more marathoners and avoiding them became a bit of an issue – especially on the narrower parts of the route.   It had been announced that there were 250 British runners taking part – I think we saw all of them, including overtaking someone I knew who was doing the marathon. 
JB wasn’t letting up on the pace.  I was trying to do running maths in my head so knew I was on for my target of sub 1.50, but couldn’t get the maths straight in my head to work out if I was on for a PB.  I said at one point, ‘If I do 10 minute miles now I’ll get sub 1.50’ but I wasn’t allowed to ease off.  The fact that I couldn’t feel my right arm and my vision was a bit screwy (I may not have mentioned that to JB) wasn’t an excuse.  He set me a target of overtaking a woman in red shorts and a black top, and to be fair I was slowly gaining on her until I tried to scupper the whole deal by hitting a tram track at just the wrong angle, the angle that meant my right foot slid right away from underneath me as I pushed off resulting in me nearly hitting the floor!  This was at about 18k, but it shook my confidence and hurt a bit.

About a kilometre from the end we could hear the crowds in the Olympic Stadium.  Apparently.  Or so I am told!  I was too busy cursing and swearing to hear anything!  There was a 500m to go sign, I couldn’t believe it and it did seem a long way from there to the track – then there were signs every 25m from 175m down to the finish.  I pondered slowing down and soaking up the atmosphere – for a nanosecond – all I wanted to do was get over the line so I could stop running.    
Hanging out at the airport
As I ‘sprinted’ down the finishing straight the clock was ticking up – I saw 1.44 on the clock and knew I safely had a new PB, but still pushed on – crossing the line in a gun time of 1.44.15 – a second  inside my PB, but I hadn’t taken into account the time it took me to get across the start line and our chip time was 1.42.34!  I was overjoyed and exhausted.  I told JB I was never talking to him again, said a brief hello to Husbando (who had also clocked a PB of 1.41.49) and then sat down before I fell down by the barrier.   I told the first aider who dashed over to check on me (did I really look that bad?) that I just needed 5 minutes… he told me that I had 5 seconds – so, swearing under my breath, I got up and moved on! And started talking to JB again.  I’m fickle like that!  I couldn’t believe he’d got me a PB, let alone by well over a minute.  I couldn’t believe his generosity in giving up his run to pace an irascible old fart with a tendency to talk herself out of putting maximum effort into anything around a half marathon.  I just hope that he doesn’t expect me to run that fast up a mountain next week!
Finishing in the 1928 Olympic Stadium was fabulous.  Unbeknownst to us a friend was watching from the stands and managed to snap some photos of us collecting plastic sheets and looking as though ‘we were shopping for bedlinen at the market!’  After collecting our bags we had some chips while we waited for the final member of the gang to finish before dashing back to the hotel for the quickest set of post race showers ever and thence to the airport – transport in Amsterdam is wonderfully easy!  Duty free was purchased, drinks and food were consumed in the airport lounge and we were all safely home and tucked up in bed in plenty of time to get a good night’s sleep before work on Monday.

It was, in my opinion, a brilliant weekend, one of the best running related trips ever.  I am so lucky to have such a great bunch of friends and a Husbando who are all as mad as I am!  Where are we going next?  I sense another ‘planning meeting’ may be necessary…..


  1. I was never joking. I knew you could do at least 1:43. :-)

  2. What a shame that the organisation meant you got caught up with the back of the marathon runners - the same happened in the Birmingham Marathon, I was doing the mara and even tried to get runners out of the way of the sharp end of the half to no avail (while courteously running to the side for them myself, injuring myself by running in the gutter in the process). What a mess. I hope that what sounds like a pretty serious migraine has passed now, and very well done for your achievement notwithstanding that!