Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Racereport 2011-14: Amsterdam Half-Marathon


I felt a bit awkward. This heated looking dutch chap was walking straight towards me. In his left hand a stop-watch, in the other hand a gun. In best possible gangster style he was waving the weapon to make some space for himself beside the start line.

"5 minutes to go" was the message through the massive loud speakers. It felt a bit like an execution. But the worst part was only to come - the race.

Instead of pressing my stop watch I was pressing my ears to protect them from the blast that was supposed to come in a couple of seconds. This dutch Al Capone raised the pistol just slightly beside my head and pressed the trigger shortly afterwards. I tried to flee as fast as possible, away from that doggy creature.

After a busy week with work and a stomach niggles I saw myself yet at another start line. This time in Amsterdam as the main event, the marathon, also hosted a 8 km and a half marathon race. I have a thing for dutch road races and Amsterdam in general - one of the best cities in the world also when you not into drink and drugs.

The "Halve Marathon" was supposed to be the first test and marker in my Florence Marathon build-up. Training in the last couple of weeks was solid. No niggles as a daily stretching routines pays of big time.

Just about as I tried to sharpen up in the week prior to the race I catched a mean stomach bug which didn’t allow me to run the hard session in the way I wanted them to be.

Anyway. Raceday was there and Amsterdam city produced a great vibe around the races. As I went for my wake-up run early in the morning I watched the elite field flying through Vondelpark at the 3 kilometre mark. My mate Mark Kenneally was shooting for the Olympic qualification. And as I was stretching beside the road I saw him flying by. He came in within the Irish A-Standard in a time of 2:13.55. I’m very delighted for him. First Irish man in the marathon team for London. What a blast!

My start was soon to come and after the usual 20 minute routine I went back to the hotel for food and a little nap.

When I arrived at the Olympic stadium a couple of hours later the place was very busy with the first marathoners coming in and around 12.000 runners ready to line up for half the distance.

My goal was to get a sub 1:18 half-marathon in. The splits were clearly marked out in my head. The gun sounded and off I went. For the first kilometre I did not check my watch as I tried to find my rhythm.

Shortly after the start I found a nice little group with the 3:40/k pace i was aiming for. All could have been so nice and relaxed. Not so when the first women passed our group and everyone instantly thought of an attack against their manly hood. Even I was under that impression as I saw the small and skinny Japanese girl Megumi Kinukawa (Japanese high school and junior record holder for the 10,000 meters) moving past us.

We instantly picked up the pace. It all felt OK but I should have learned it by now that this comes back to me. As we were travelling on and gained space between us and the women we also raised the speed barrier which was too high for me.

A couple of kilometres later Megumi passed me out at the 16 kilometre mark and the guy on the leading bike ironically said to me "And here she is again!". Not long though. Off she went and was seen next as I was crossing the finish line in the Olympic stadium after 1:18:55.

My 5k splits of 17:37, 18:26 and 18:51 give away how i messed up the pacing - not great at all.

During my way to the changing tents i was stopped by several italian runners who were more than exited by my model of the brand new Brooks PureConnect. After some discussions with the lads i jogged back to the hotel and was then asked by a bunch of spaniards on a review on those shoes. They do not only look great - they actually are. A truly great minimal shoe for longer road races. Review to come... 

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