“Flat pancake, I’m going to destroy you”. It was with these very unlike-me words that I welcomed Rotterdam this morning as I opened our hotel room curtains. And, thanks to 18 months of fairly arduous training… I BLOODY DID IT! After the somewhat galling end to the Berlin Marathon, I finally got under 3 hours and by quite a good margin too!
The town clearly prides itself on its marathon and it puts on a very impressive show. Unlike in most races where it feels like supporters are there to watch their friends (which is totally fair enough), it really felt like the entire city had come out here to watch the event itself and cheer everyone on, whether they knew them or not. I think the furthest I went without seeing a supporter was about 50 metres and I’m not exaggerating much to say that I must have had over 100 people shouting “Come on Simon” at some point. Maybe Simon is a funny name in Dutch and I got picked out for comedy value!
The crowd was quite often 3 or 4 people deep, even in the depths of the suburbs. In town, it was even better: it really felt like every living soul in town came out to provide support. Really, wow, and thank you to those who came out!
Anyway, back to the start. Having experienced “technical issues” in Berlin for my last marathon, I thought I’d go for the snazzy look of sporting two watches for this race on the off-chance it broke again. Some say I look sexy. Some say creepy. Tomato, to-mah-to etc… I also forgot to put Vaseline under my armpits which annoyed me. I was wondering whether I could swipe some off another man’s armpit in my starting pen but decided that maybe that would be considered creepy.
As another side note, I’m not sure which specie poos the least frequently in the animal kingdom but I’m quite sure the Dutch are up there with them. If the organisers deserve criticism for one thing, it really is their lack of foresight at the fact that roughly 1 toilet/500 runners isn’t enough (also, making people pay for the loos at the expo is pretty cheeky. I know it’s in the World Trade Centre and they have an ‘entrepreneurial’ mindset there but come on…). Maybe it’s just that the Dutch have nerves of steel, bladders of steel or and sphincters of steel (or all three) but this was poor planning. It took 30 minutes of queuing for the 1 loo in my starting pen and I only got out of it 2 minutes before the start. There were still about 10 people behind me so hopefully they had Dutch genes and could hold it in for a few more hours…
Having had to queue for so long, I was now at the back of my starting pen. It was a little annoying at the time as everyone seemed to have gone off very slowly but, in hindsight, it was a blessing as it forced me to slow down a little AND I DID. I maintained a steady pace for pretty much the whole race until the last 5km which is unheard of for me. I was aiming for 4min/km and hit the 15km mark in 1h, 0 minutes and…0 seconds (how’s that for pacing!) and the 30km in 2h01! Maybe all these coaches are on to something when they say not to speed off…
The course itself is, let’s be honest, not hugely exciting. The most exciting/famous monument you go past is the Cube Houses twice, after 30km and 41km, and that’s pretty much it. However, the course really it as flat as a (perfectly made) pancake and, for someone like me who despises any incline of more than 0.0001%, that was amazing. The starting ‘boulevard’ was a little narrow (one person got tripped up which was far from ideal with 10,000 people coming behind but he got up in time) and it wasn’t until about 3km in, once we’d crossed the Erasmus Bridge that we comfortably spaced out.
From there, we went southwards into the suburbs and then along a few canal paths. And, regardless of which random spot we were in, locals had come out to cheer everyone on. It was actually quite emotional seeing people be so nice but I decided it was not a good time for a ball to form in my throat so downed some water and focused on putting one step in front of another.
Talking of the water, I wasn’t initially very happy with the fact they served cups, not bottles. However, they’ve patented a thick sponge with two small slits (see photo) which allows you to carry it without spilling or slowing you down when you run. A nice idea and I hope other races invest in this.
As time went by, I was expecting to start slowing down but I just seemed to keep going. I even sped up to sub-4min/km around the 25km mark! We crossed the Erasmus Bridge one last time around then and headed eastwards to … more suburbs.
The wind starting picking up around then which, while it definitely slowed everyone down a fair bit, was cooling and appreciated. At 35km, as we circled the Kralingse Plas, the lake and park where the Rotterdam Marathon has its roots, I got a burst of speed when I saw a message on the electronic message board (another great idea) that “Bubbles and Squeak were chasing me to the end” (our cats)! After that, I slowed a little but didn’t care too much as I knew I would break the 3 hour barrier at long last.
After one small sprint down the finish straight, I crossed the line in 2h53.49, a PB by almost 7 minutes. I made sure to savour crossing the line as I realised this time might not be beaten for a long time, if at all.
In the other weekend’s races, Ed braved torrential rains on Saturday to get his PB in the Mini-marathon (1/10th of marathon) and Pippa got another 10km PB for the 1/4 Marathon (what next? 1/3rd marathon? 7/9th marathon?). All in all, a pretty good weekend of running! 🙂
Finally, I would like to apologise to the fellow passengers on BA flight 4458 for stinking the plane out on the way home: our hotel thought it was acceptable to charge 50 euros to delay our check out by 2 hours which we weren’t going to pay so it’s probably fair to say we didn’t smell of roses on the flight home. Unless said roses had been decaying for a few weeks I guess. Sorry guys…
Final time: 2h53.49 (339th/11,879)