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TCS Amsterdam Marathon
Sunday 19th October 2014
Christof Schwiening

Having failed to find any cheap flights, Kevin, my wife, eldest daughter and I set off in our van at 4am on Saturday to drive to Amsterdam. The journey was uneventful and we picked-up our numbers at just after midday, The weather was already unseasonably warm - peaking at 22 degrees C by early afternoon with a gentle breeze. It was certainly not looking like good weather for running fast. The organizers had already sent out the 'emergency' warning letter about dealing with the heat and easing back on expectations for a fast race. Anthea wanted to head into Amsterdam but, I was less than enthusiastic - I rather like resting the day before a marathon. Anyway, by early evening we were in Amsterdam near the Rijksmuseum at a Cafe - in T-shirts. It was lively with lots of people out and a disco playing on the grass - but, mainly it was hot.
On Sunday I was up at five and engaged myself with the usual preparations - the day before we had spotted some likely parking close to the start and so by 7am, with everything now going to plan, I was making my way towards the stadium. The atmosphere was friendly and I got chatting to some Dutch guys who had done a dune marathon the week before along the coast. Katie Sherwood had warned me about the loo queues so I used my early arrival wisely! I then met-up with Kevin and Peter Stevens. Peter was going to try and run something like a 2:50 - a tough ask since already by 9am the sun was blazing in a cloudless sky and the temperature was up at 17 degrees. We filed in to the stadium and I headed into the 2:40-3:00 hour pen. Once in there I found that there were no toilets. The organizers had neglected to arrange for any exit from the pen to the surrounding area. So, I had to resort to belly rolling over the barriers to get to the loos....back in the pen I met-up with Emillio Cosimo - a runner from Glasgow that I had followed on Strava. We had a chat and then about 10 mins before the start he discovered that his Garmin had frozen completely. He tried a soft-reset to no avail. Since my Garmins have been generally unreliable I know all of the different resets that are available. So, after a hard reset we were both set. The gun went off and the race began. The typical surge forward started and we crossed the line at a sensibly slow pace before immediately grinding back to a halt. A load of very slow runners had somehow managed to make there way to the front of the fastest pen....the result, even after an extreme effort was a 4:40 first km. The pen behind us was held back and released about 2 mins after us - by which time the slow runners were clear of the stadium exit pinch-point. It was a very poor bit of organization.
I will gloss over the first half of my marathon. It was slow for various reasons that are probably not necessary to go into (although my Strava account tells it pretty straight - http://www.strava.com/activities/209567533). After halfway, despite the rising temperatures and blowy conditions I began running as planned. I think it ended-up being a 4 min negative split with the second-half being my fastest ever half marathon time. I didn't make my target but I did chat to some friendly people on route - a few that had dropped off sub-3 pace and others who were being wildly optimistic at the start. I think I overtook well over 1,000 runners in the second half and I don't think anyone over took me. It was nice to be feeling at my best just when almost everyone else was struggling. So, another marathon finished - sure, it was a PB but it hardly did justice to the big block of training I had done. Such is life - sometimes things come together and sometimes you just have to dig back in and prepare for another attempt. The drive back limited my post race celebrations to a 'medium' beer with a local friend by the Night Watch. It was all very friendly and pleasant - but, unfortunately the organization and course does not match that of either London or Berlin - or even Prague. The lack of a blue line and the general disorder at the drinks stops made things altogether more difficult that they should have been. Of course, had the weather been cooler and stiller and my guts and feet better behaved the result may have been different - but, the organizers still have some way to go to make the event as fast as it could be for the club runner.

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