My Amsterdam Half Marathon
I’d been looking forward to racing the Amsterdam half marathon for several months now, as it would be my first race since sustaining a stress fracture in my knee five months earlier in May. The injury had taken the best part of three months to heal, by which time most of my fitness had gone, so going into the race my expectations were low, although the course is flat and my training for the previous two months had been good, so I knew a good time was still possible.
The start of the half marathon course is on the Stadionweg, a wide, straight road right in the heart of Amsterdam. I’d managed to secure a position maybe just 5 rows back from the starting line, and so I had a clean start at the gun without having to wait for thousands of people in front to cross the start line. The start wouldn’t be out of place at a proper cross-country race: it’s all pushing, shoving, elbows and jostling for position for the first 500 metres or so. Eventually the pack thins out but the noise doesn’t - the atmosphere in those first few kilometres is electric, there are crowds cheering and holding banners, shouting encouragement, and live music and bands playing at each kilometre marker.
I’d managed to get caught up in the excitement of it all, and not having a specific goal in mind thanks to the injury, I’d just decided to go out and enjoy myself. After I’d gone through the first 5k in 17:47 however, I realised I would have to slow down or risk blowing up later in the race. After managing my pace more sensibly I went through 10k in 36:42 and the 10 mile mark in exactly 1 hour. With 5k to go, I suddenly realised that a PB was on the cards, if I had enough left in the tank after going out stupidly fast an hour earlier.
While the course was still flat, I was starting to hurt. I was running into the wind now and also having to contend with the stragglers from the marathon which had started earlier in the day. Trying to dodge runners at bottlenecks and water stations was costing precious seconds and my pace was slipping with each kilometre. With two kilometres to go, running through the scenic Vondelpark, I realised I was just off pace for the PB so I started the kick. The final 200 metres of the race is held on the track of the Olympic Stadium, by which time I knew I’d done it and could enjoy the last few seconds of the race. My final time was 1:19:31, a 16 second PB - and I was pleased to finish 65th out of over 15 000 runners.