The plan to do this came, a it usually does, as a part of an elaborate weightloss plan. I feel I have to issue a warning at this point to anyone who is already a bread, cheese or apple pie fan - don't move here, or do but make sure you get your jaw wired before you arrive. I'm having a struggle to shift a couple of excess kilos that have crept on over the last two years. Well, I say I'm struggling to lose the weight, what I'm actually struggling with is learning to say 'no, thank you, I won't have a cheese toastie/extra slice of apple pie/handful of pepernoten (sinterklaas food, danger danger, deserves a whole post on it's own)'. So, once again I thought, yes, training for a 16.4km run will surely score me a few points in the battle of the bulge. Note, I have also attempted this in the past by taking part in 10km runs, 10 mile runs and even a triathlon, none of which really helped a great deal. This time I entered the run in January while still on the endorphin high from another sporting event. Then I just kind of forgot about it...
So race day arrived and I had only one vaguely painful 11km run under my belt, nervous? Pfft! Yes, very. I was running with some colleagues, all of whom seem to be discussing 'personal bests' and 'race strategy'. I was just excited about the running playlist I had put together for the event. In the end it was okay, at points even fun. I've never taken part in a run where the spectators got so into the spirit of the thing. All along the route people had set up sound systems blasting dance music, were handing out water, spraying those who needed it with a hose pipe (yours truly took full advantage) and generally just having a great laugh. Probably enjoying the fact that it wasn't them doing the running.
I could give you a blow by blow account, giving eye-watering detail about the moment I realised that my trainers were definitely a bit too small, but I'll let you off. Suffice to say that I ran all the way, no walking and no serious injuries. Already looking forward to next year!
Below I've listed some details of my favourite, or favourite-sounding events, some I've done, some I'd like to do. The Dutch take part whole-heartedly in these kind of group events and so all are bound to be good fun and of course, very well organised.
Dam tot Dam Loop: As above, this 10 English mile (16.4km) race is extremely well established and amazingly well organised. Taking place in September each year and attracting around 60,000 runners, I think it's a must in any Amsterdam runner's calendar. My one piece of advice is to ensure you take a good 'sitting down' break after running as the queues for the shuttle buses back to Amsterdam can mean a long standing wait. At least two people (one of them being me) had to deal with legs buckling under them, not the best ending to an otherwise brilliant day.
Egmond Halve Marathon: I love this run which takes place partially across the beach - not as brutal as it sounds as you're mainly running on wet, and therefore compacted, sand. It also tracks across the sand dunes, which allows you to enjoy some beautiful scenery, if not the hills. I have to admit I have done the quarter, rather than half marathon, and that's quite enough - I know and respect my limits (except when it comes to apple pie). It takes place in January so be prepared for some cold (-2C) weather running - I love it but many don't.
Color Run: Billed as 'The Happiest Race on Earth', the Color Run hit the Netherlands for the first time this year, in Amsterdam, Utrecht and Zwolle. I took part in the Utrecht run and was indeed an extremely happy, and messy, occasion (photo below).
Mud Masters: I have yet to try this obstacle run but from the photos is looks absolutely hilarious, if not completely exhausting. And any event where a 'finishing beer' is a part of your entry fee has got to be good. Registration has closed for this year, maybe next year I'll give it a go!
Amsterdam Marathon: The clue is in the title I guess, but there are a couple of other events for those, like me, who find a marathon just a bit too heavy going. There's a half marathon, an 8km and also a kids run, something for everyone. The run takes place through the city so you'll have plenty of beautiful sights to distract you from cramp/chest pains/your shoes being too small.
Zevenheuvelenloop (Seven Hills Run): For me one of the best things about running in the Netherlands is the lack of hills, but if you don't agree then maybe this is the run for you. This 15 kilometres road running race is held in Nijmegen, and reports from a brave friend is that the scenery alone is worth entering for. There are seven hills though. Seven.
Nike 'We own the night' 10km: This year was the first time this run has been held. It took place (as the name suggests) in the evening, starting from Amsterdam's Westerpark. Another really well organised event that I loved taking part in - I especially loved spotting the handsome Dutchie in the crowd cheering me on. Without being too cheesy, or attempting not to be, running with all women was actually weirdly empowering - you go girfriends! (oh yes I did). There was also a big old after party, which I didn't stay for this time. Maybe next year (girlfriend).