For most people, going to Amsterdam for a birthday weekend away would mean drinks, food and relaxing. That doesn’t happen when your stupid enough to marry a runner. Chris thought it would be a great idea to sign me up to Amsterdam marathon for my 30th birthday present and make it really memorable, he has a lot more faith in me than I do.
Bricking it would be a complete understatement of how nervous I was on race day morning. I had Chris being his annoyingly perky race day self bouncing around and telling me I’ll be fine and a mile and a half walk from the hotel to the start of the race to carry on freaking out. Turning up at an Olympic stadium surrounded by a couple of thousand people really doesn’t help settle your nerves, thank god for all the portaloos outside the stadium. We found Cath and Pete not long after we arrived then made our way into the stadium, still petrified at this point, I got a kiss and a hug off Chris then we went to our waiting areas and waited anxiously for it to all start. I had Cath and Pete trying to chill me out a bit saying it will be fine and I was trying to remind myself that I know I’m capable of at least 18 miles so even if I have to walk after that I should be able to do it.
The starting gun went and the elites set off, followed by the other stupidly fast idiots who can somehow run this thing in 3 hours. It only took ten minutes between the starting gun going off and our coral crossing the start line and then it got very real very fast. I knew I wanted to try and aim for 4 hours hours so all I had to for was 9 minute miles but that’s a lot easier to maintain when not surrounded by daft amounts of runners from around 110 countries. The first 3 miles were spent trying to avoid being tripped up by people cutting across without warning, some serious bottle necking on corners and not breaking an ankle running over tram lines. I had some wonderful man crack his elbow into my arm so hard my Garmin paused because it thought I fell but luckily I noticed and started it again (though may as well have not bothered as it rebelled later on). I was feeling pretty comfortable for a bit from mile 5, there were fewer runners trying to take me out and my legs felt pretty happy but I was very aware of how warm it was getting and how few clouds there were. I hate running when its hot, I avoid the sun at most costs even when just out and about and I have stupid running vest shaped sunburn now to back up why I hate running in heat. I was getting to the point where your trying to spot a portaloo or a bush just so you can pee before you get desperate and run the risk of wetting yourself, because no one really wants that to happen, and resources were few and far between. Luckily around mile 8 at the refueling station I saw my chance but this is where things started to go a bit tits up.
I managed to pee during a race and keep my dignity but my Garmin decided to go screw you. Looking at the screen and there was a lovely little black square covering the centre of the face and nothing was playing. It wouldn’t reset, turn off or even beep annoyingly at me, bollocks was the overwhelming train of thought. I knew I was going to have to run blind and try and use my best judgement as to what pace I was doing. I took a risk and started the Strava on my phone just so I could have a record of my run but I knew it would drain battery so may not last the distance. I had to rely on the race markers that were laid out but I always run in miles trying to gauge things in kilometres was a bit odd. I made sure I took my blocks at regular intervals and started having the banana at the rest stops. I managed to find some English runners after spotting them laughing at me calling a french runner a knob for nearly tripping me up and they were kind enough to let me know I was still on pace for 4 hours. My brain was starting to think this could happen but then my leg had other ideas.
Just after the half way point my usual issue cropped up, the right side of my hip and backside started to go tight and I knew this was going to go downhill fast. Arguing with myself I knew this was going to turn into a walk/ run race and I really didn’t want that to happen. We were starting on the longest out and back section of the course down the canal, very little shade and hot sun sun and soooo hard. I spent the next few miles alternating between slowing my pace, stopping to stretch, having to walk and arguing with my leg that it was a git who I wasn’t happy with. I told myself if I could get to 35k without dying I could finish this and at 32k I came very close to having a bit of a break down. I was walking again as my right thigh was just cramping up and all around my knee was spasming. I tried ringing Chris figuring he would have finished but his phone was still off so I just text him to let him know I was in a bad way. Hobbling along trying my best not to cry and having complete strangers cheer you on while passing runners patted me on the back for encouragement was very surreal. I was in a beautiful city on a gorgeous day and if I wasn’t in so much pain running a stupid marathon I would have been very happy but I just wanted to lie down on the floor and have someone bring me ice cream.
I managed to tell myself off enough to start shuffling again as I passed the 33k marker but I was very aware that this was the hardest 10k I would ever run, everything in me wanted to stop but as Chris likes to point out I’m a stubborn git and I had come too far to quit. It was a shuffle/ jog/ walk race from this point but I knew I had to do it, I couldn’t sit on the floor and cry in front of this many strangers it would definitely end up being filmed. I got past the Duracell bunny cheering us on with 5k to then I found another broken runner who helped get me to the end. A lovely girl called Kaitlin was talking to a dutch guy about how she had injured her hamstring around the 28k mark and had been told not to carry on but she had trained too hard not to finish. She was asking if this guy would run with her so I turned round and said i would get her to the finish. It was odd being as broken as I was and telling this girl I would get her round the last of a marathon seeing as I had never done one before. She was so grateful and we kept chatting to distract ourselves from the pain while counting down the markers. She kept apologizing for needing to walk as we reached Vondel park but I told her she was getting me round as much as I was getting her round. We were happily calling the other runners gits that had finished and were walking eating ice cream and we were both cursing our partners who were both capable of sub 3:30 marathons. She was so perky even in agony and she made that last bit bearable. We were both saying that it doesn’t matter if were not running were moving forward and that’s all that matters. I’ve never been do happy to have someone shout out that there’s only 800m left to go. I may have squealed at the sight of the stadium and I’m pretty sure that’s going to be the only picture of me during the race where I look happy. We both hobbled into the stadium and onto the running track with a feeling of pure relief that we could stop in just a few feet. We both got our asses over that finish line! I had Chris come straight over and give me a massive hug, and I held it together and didn’t cry, then me and my running buddy gave each other a hug and thanks for getting each other through it.
Everything from my hips down was in agony. I could barely walk and just wanted to lie down but I did it. Chris and Cath were telling me how proud they were and all I could do was be angry with myself. I knew I was capable of better and was just going over all the what if’s in my head. I’m still doing it now. I know when I stop feeling annoyed with myself I will probably be proud of myself but I think the leg pain and sunburn will have gone before that happens. The main positive I’m taking from this run is that I managed to cover the distance even though I wanted to give up and I managed to help another runner finish something she trained so hard for.
Well done Katie – apologies it took a couple of weeks to publish!