Amsterdam Marathon 2019
By Ian Roche
It all started early in 2019 when Derek O’Keeffe and myself agreed that we would plan for Amsterdam in 2019. Both of us had done it before and enjoyed it so figured that we would go back for seconds. There are a few nice things to note with the Amsterdam Marathon:
• Easy to get to from Cork. Direct flight out on a Saturday 6am and returned on the Monday 9pm.
• Cheap flights, approx. €80 if booked early.
• Nice flat course.
• Has a Half and 10k for people not interested in the Marathon (Note: cannot switch from Marathon to Half)
• No qualifying or lottery, just log on and book a number.
• A week before Dublin so can train with people doing Dublin.
• My favourite – it starts and ends in the Olympic stadium.
Like all good students Derek and myself started to train over the Spring and get the miles in (mine much slower than Derek’s!!). Summer holidays came and went and started to ramp up the training. Things were going well till a ping on my left knee outside Silversprings meant trouble. Off to John Flynn for some urgent physio and wasn’t bad enough to stop but no track and no high mileage.
In the meantime I met Derek and he had a chipped ankle and torn ligaments. He allegedly fell off a step by the Mercy but I think he was concentrating on keeping his pink runners clean and he threw himself off the step to avoid a puddle, we will never know.
Things started looking up for both of us in August and September but time ran out for Derek and he chose to train for a fast Half instead. I had already entered the Full and booked flights so was going anyway.
Getting to Amsterdam is remarkably easy from Cork. Direct flight Sat at 6am and there before 9 local time. Derek tried an alternate route going out the night before as it is a very early start to make a 6AM flight.
At the airport it’s possible to get a 3 day pass for all trams/trains within Amsterdam so worth it if you plan to sightsee a bit. We had booked a place not far from the start line out by Vondelpark. We used https://www.amsterdamstay.com/ which seemed to be a local Airbnb type setup. The owners were great and left us drop bags at 11AM so we avoided dragging them around the Expo. The Expo was within a mile and you pass the Stadium. It is usually possible to go in and look around the Stadium.
The bag drop was unusual in that you can go to any desk and they tag your number with a sticker. No need to find the table that matches your bib number. The start was slow to get in to the Stadium as I left it a bit late to get there. Plan to be there at least 1 hour ahead of the start.
The track inside the stadium is segmented into colours based on planned time. I was in the 2nd wave and made my way to that pen. The elites were off ,then the fasties, then me. I was at the back of the pen due to my late arrival. Within the first kilometre we hit an issue. Roadworks narrowed the course so much that we were stopped dead on the road. People all around were freaking out but it opened up fine after that spot. Actually mailed the organisers to ask how this happened and they assured me it would be looked at for next year.
The first 5 miles snaked around the city and I found it hard to get a rhythm. By roughly mile 10 I hit the Amstel river and it started to get easier. Pushed on to the half way mark which is a turn back towards the City and next thing I was at 20 miles. Mile 22 to 24 seemed to be a drag, all along the same canal for a few miles. I did see four 6 foot tall Duracell Bunnies so had to give one a high 5 to make sure they were real!!
The end of the Amsterdam race is fantastic. It’s actually downhill slightly and with about 250m to go you enter the stadium through the tunnel. It felt like being John Treacy in the Olympics (but just a little slower). A short half lap of the track and job done. Made it in just over 3:20 which was a PB so happy days.
Meanwhile, the Half started from a different spot but also ended in the same stadium. I waited around to see how Derek would get on. The Half overlapped the end of the Marathon a little. I think it was close to the 5 hour mark runners. The first few in the Half came through like cheetahs with a cyclist in front flat out. I didn’t have to wait long for Derek who came blazing through so fast that I missed him and got a photo of his back!! He came through in a fast time of 1:16 which was a PB.
Last but not least we realised that Richie was also in town the same weekend. He figured he would take on the Half after being out at the Amsterdam Dance festival (which looked amazing) the previous evening. Brave man. He came home in a respectable 1:43.
To end the day we retired to the rooftop garden and drank our own weight in liquid carbohydrate. I would highly recommend the race but get to the Stadium early on race day and be at the barrier of your area first to go!