After many hours of planning, a group of 13 made the short hop across the North Sea to Holland on Friday 16th October for the Amsterdam Half Marathon.
The excitement started to build on the Saturday morning with a visit to the Olympic Stadium, scene of the finish area for the event, to pick up the race numbers. The pickup was held alongside a great ‘Expo’, providing the opportunity to try out the latest running gear and get some great ideas for next year’s Striders trip – anyone for the Reggae Marathon in Jamaica?!
The rest of Saturday was spent chilling out in preparation for race day on Sunday. Some of the group took in a canal cruise – “when in Rome” – with others taking in some of the other ‘sights’ of Amsterdam before heading back to the hotel for a carb loading ‘Pasta Party’. When the food arrived it was great….unfortunately the wait for it took the shine off what otherwise would have been great preparation for the running to be undertaken the next day.
A grey, wet and cold Sunday morning greeted the group on Sunday. With the Half Marathon not starting until 13:20, it was a chilled out morning at the Hotel. In an added bonus to the weekend, the hotel was located directly next to the Marathon and Half Marathon route allowing us to view the front runners of the morning Marathon come through. They came through at an extraordinary speed – reaching the hotel at the 26km mark, but still absolutely flying down the course (winner clocked a time of 02:06:19)!
Onto the main event of the day, a short hop on the metro took the Striders group back to the Olympic Stadium for the start of the Half Marathon. Conditions had improved slightly to provide perfect running conditions – 10c, some drizzle and no wind – for the 8 members taking on the race. The 13.1 mile route was sure to be flat and offered PB potential for all involved.
The first couple of miles took the runners through streets that included tram lines, providing an interesting obstacle to overcome – slippery when wet! Miles 3-6 saw the participants run past the Striders hotel (no one took the option of dropping out here!) and through some rather dull industrial areas, although the DJ’s blasting out music from some converted camper vans provided some great motivation. Gradually the route headed into the central areas of Amsterdam, passing the Heineken Brewery and Rijksmuseum around mile 10, before heading into the stunning Vondelpark (Amsterdam’s equivalent to New York’s Central Park) for miles 11 and 12. The last mile had fantastic crowd support, leading the runners into the Olympic Stadium for the last 350 metres of the race on the athletics track.
Martin Brock was first Strider home, having a superb run to finish in 01:25:46. He was joined by Andy Robinson (01:29:25), James Wright (01:29:55), Dan Wilson (01:30:07), Julian Carr (01:46:40), Andrea Price (02:07:36), Dawn Richardson (02:09:52) and Natalie Hale (02:19:00).
A big thanks must go to the 3 supporters – Clare, Emma and Simon. They gave some fantastic encouragement, took great photos and provided excellent bag handling facilities!
Overall, the first Striders European trip was a huge success. The planning for potential 2016 trips is well underway, with a focus on events that will provide options for all levels of running ability. Details will be released in early November on the club website, Facebook and Twitter.