Small Spoiler Alert: we survived the Rotterdam Marathon, despite the surprising heat.
After I completed the training, my wife and I drove to London on Thursday to make the trip to the channel tunnel shorter on Friday.
Alex, our younger son, came to the flat and we left at about 8.30am – the drive out of London to the M25 was a bit of an unknown but worked well. Even the M25 behaved reasonably (for those who don’t know it, the M25 is, allegedly, a motorway encircling London – sadly, with road works, accidents and volume of traffic it often makes a passible impersonation of an orbital car park).
Having made good time to the tunnel we were put on an earlier crossing and then appear to have been sneaked on to the train before that. It was helpful as the drive to Rotterdam involved a few slow bits but we still arrived late afternoon (their time). We unpacked and went to the marathon Expo where we registered and collected our bibs.
The textbooks say stay off your feet on the day before a marathon but none of us had ever been to Rotterdam before so we spent much of Saturday wandering round a really lovely city. It doesn’t have the quaint old buildings of Amsterdam (the city was largely flattened in WWII) but has a really nice relaxed feel to it and it seems to be full of hospitable and charming people. There were also a number of runs for children and a ‘city run’ in the centre of the city – they were great to watch and contributed to the ‘running festival’ feel of the whole weekend.
I have to disagree with the second part of Michael Caine’s (excellent) line in Goldmember when he said “There are only two things I can’t stand in this world. People who are intolerant of other people’s cultures… and the Dutch”.
The Dutch are very nice people (my only complaint is that the indigenous Dutch are a bit too tall – reportedly the world’s tallest nation).
The weather had been forecast to be fairly cool – about 9℃ at the start and 13℃ at the finish (48 and 57℉) and that was how the weather was right up to Saturday. However, on Friday we’d started to receive messages from the organisers warning about very warm weather for the marathon itself on Sunday. Suddenly the temperature range had shifted to around 15℃ at the start and 20℃ at the finish (59 and 68℉). Not stupidly hot but way beyond anything we’d trained in.
After pasta for lunch and supper on Saturday we had a reasonably early night – I didn’t sleep particularly well (typical for the night before a marathon) but I was at least well rested by 7am when the alarm rang for breakfast, followed by another 45 minutes snooze before having to get up. The Marathon starts at a civilised 10am so we walked in to the city centre and found our starting pen very easily.
It was clear that the warm weather warnings were right and so we were pleased that we’d adjusted our clothing choices – I ran in lycra shorts and a fairly lightweight long sleeved running shirt (sleeves pushed up within a few miles).
Our wave was away by about 10.14 and I tucked in behind the 4 hour pacers (Alex went on ahead). The course is pretty flat – the ‘hills’ were really only the Erasmus Bridge (twice) and two underpasses – and I hit a fairly comfortable rhythm as the pacers did a great job taking us through the half way mark in exactly 2 hours.
The whole event was very well supported with good crowds all the way around and the usual array of bands and music. The whole event had a very good feel to it.
By just after half way I began to feel the pace a bit as that was a good 5 minutes faster than any half marathon distance I’d run throughout my training. The predictors available on the internet suggest that a 2:05 half marathon indicates a marathon of over 4:30 and although I hung on for another few kms I knew that I wasn’t going to run the second half in two hours in the increasing heat.
At around 28km (18 miles) the route went close to the finish area but then veered off for a loop towards the north east – that’s always a bit disheartening but I saw my wife just before that point which was really good and she was able to confirm that Alex was still running strongly about a kilometre ahead of me.
I never hit anything like ‘the wall’ – I had kept reasonably hydrated, had used the three gels I’d taken with me and and had made the most of the cooling sponges that were available – but it got harder from there. By 35km (c. 22 miles) I most certainly had a bit of the ‘running in treacle’ syndrome when the breathing is fine, none of the muscles hurt particularly but the legs simply don’t take you as fast as they did previously.
I resisted the temptation to walk (a surprising number were walking by now) and eventually everything improved and I felt reasonably good coming into the finish (but no, I did not manage anything resembling a sprint to the line). What I did manage in just a few hours was tan lines on my legs and arms – it was much warmer than expected.
So, I hit my C goal of a safe marathon, running all the way. I hit my B goal of going under 4:30 and managed a time of 4hours 11minutes which was inside my A goal of 4:15. In the male 60+ category I came 98th out of 326. I was inside the top half of finishers too.
More significantly, our son Alex ran sub 4 hours (a finely judged 3:58) – which was the most important goal of the whole weekend.
Apart from the usual transient twinges while running, I had relatively few problems (other than the distance and the heat) but the Achilles tendons were very unhappy as soon as I stopped running.
We met up and walked back to the hotel (as a cool down) and found a lovely little restaurant in a (happily nearby) back street alongside a canal where we sat outside for supper.
The knees were a little sore that night but by Monday morning both Alex and I were surprisingly mobile – and my Achilles’ were probably better than most mornings over the last 5 months, which is quite beyond me. I drove us back to London by mid afternoon, in cool weather (both in the UK and Holland) that would have been very suitable for running a marathon!
So, a really excellent experience and a thoroughly enjoyable long weekend. I’d certainly recommend the Rotterdam Marathon to anyone.
I’m sure I’ll reflect on it all over the next few days – in the meantime, remind me what I used to do before marathon training …