It was time to head abroad after a two year spell of UK based marathons to complete the 2014 "season" and Amsterdam seemed a good choice. The city also hosted the Olympic Games in 1928, which is another reason for me to visit anywhere!  I was accompanied by my sister, Ange, bro-in-law, Paul and friend, Lesley.  Lesley and I enjoyed our stay with accommodation on a boat just on the edge of the city centre - compact and bijou!

The Marathon starts and finishes in the Olympic Stadium and registration was next to the venue too, giving an opportunity for a look round the venue.  Amsterdam's 1928 games were the first to have an Olympic Flame and cauldron and also the first time females participated in the Olympics.  It would also be the second marathon I ran which finished inside an Olympic Stadium - the first being Stockholm in 2005.  As an Olympic enthusiast I was happy whatever my time might end up as!

Amsterdam Marathon
Lesley and  I travelled over on the morning and were going to meet Ange & Paul but they were delayed due to the trams not running as expected due to the event. However, we did meet other friends I knew from my running club - Liz Gray, running the Marathon too, along with Steve Hadley & Mandy Ritchie, who were running the Half Marathon and Gill & Paul Evans who were spectating as Paul is injured. Those not running in the marathon headed into the stadium to watch the start whilst Liz and I disappeared into the stadium centre.  This gave them the view point of the start as well as the urinals!  (And Lesley thought it amusing to take a picture of mine using the aforementioned facilities - not shared here!)

The start was a bit chaotic - with 14,000 odd marathon runners piled in it took over ten minutes for me to start.  We crossed the line and did a half lap of the athletics track before exiting the stadium and heading north and up to Vondelpark. The route was packed along the first few kilometres as the sun had come out and it looked likely to be warmer than expected.  1km in and my Garmin (stopwatch for those unaware!) hadn't started or reset itself.  Once I'd got it to start again I had wasn't sure how far into the route we were and so my mileage bleeps were all out of sequence.  I happened to have restarted it at 1km it turned out when I noted my distance at the 5km point but could only estimate I'd lost around 4:40mins of time.
I was maintaining a good pace to start.  We headed out the park and through the middle of Rijksmuseum to loop back round to run past the stadium again.  Ange & Paul had now arrived but almost missed me as I ran past.  As we then turned back to head back out and towards the Amstel river, I saw Liz going the other way, around 3km behind me but had taken another ten minutes to start after I had!  

At 14km approx you hit the bank of the Amstel heading south.  As we did so, we could see the elite runners coming northbound around 25km's into the run - that's nearly 7 miles in front and I wasn't even halfway! I found the block paved path along most of the river not the easiest for running on for so long, but there was a supply of supporters scattered along the route and it was well lined when we turned to head back north, as well as supporters on boats along this stretch. I passed through half way estimating my time as around 1:46/7 at this stage. (Once I'd remembered I had nearly 5 minutes to add to my Garmin time!)
The Olympic Stadium where the Marathon starts and finishes.
Lesley & Ange supporting with the Union Flag
Top: With Steve, Liz and Mandy from Beverley AC
Right: Clive in the Jersey War Tunnels

Lucas gets ready to start


Coming through 30km

We headed away from the river at 26km's, where I had dropped my pace somewhat too.  But I kept going as I expected to see the support team anywhere from 26-30km's in.  That said, the support all the way was great and plenty of other Brit's about who gave me big cheers as I was in my Union Flag shorts, plus it got comments from the array of other nationalities on route.  With 89 nations represented it was also fun spotting them as I ran - seeing Chile, Peru, Brazil as well as Aruba amongst many others. As I passed through the 30km marker Ange and Lesley were nearby and just after the drinks station, Paul was ready and waiting with his camera.  

It was moral support that I had needed and I carried on through to 32km as we then turned west and into a headwind just as it started to try and rain.  It had cooled down (unusual in the latter half of a marathon) and the wind was noticeable as the road widened and became a bit more exposed along the canal side and over the Amstel again.  We even had some "hills".  This included an underpass - the only actually noticeable ascent on the route.  With three miles (5km) to go I thought I was Ok to break 4 hours, until I realised that I had forgotten the 4:40 in my maths. By the time I re-entered Vondelpark as the rain started to come down heavier I was gonna be cutting it close to beat the 4 hour mark unless I suddenly ran like I did the first 3 miles!  

I pushed on and enjoyed the increasing crowds as we entered the final kilometre down to the Stadium and decided to up my pace as we ran the final 200metres around the track to the thousands supporting us.  However, I couldn't spot a Union flag waving - had Ange et al not seen me or had they not arrived? I crossed the line but had missed the 4 hour mark by around a minute, unless my estimate was wrong.  In fact, it turned out I was wrong but by another 40 seconds with my time being 4:01:40.  Nonetheless I'd finished marathon number 37!  I also spotted the Union Flag waving as I collected my medal - they'd been in the corner that I couldn't really see as I finished!  

We met up outside and I was surprised I didn't seem to ache as much as I expected.  After my usual post race Mars Bar and fluids, we started to head off to a cafe when we were intersected by a couple who had been talking to us at the Tram stop on the Friday evening.  They asked how I had done and vice versa - it being his first marathon.  He had beaten 4 hours and was very pleased.  It was great that they spotted us too as they'd been very helpful giving us info on the tram when we'd spoken to them.

Lesley, Lucas, Ange & Paul just after the finish

It had been a good day, with the rain not proving to be too bad after all (It stopped again before I finished) and I was grateful for the support from Lesley, Ange & Paul.  Well done to Liz on her marathon and Steve and Mandy on the Half Marathon, which started not long before I finished.  It ends the year's marathons but I will still be collecting in any last money for this year's three charities - ParalympicsGB, Sport Relief and Tree of Hope.  Many thanks to everyone for their ongoing support!

Somewhere Lucas is about to cross the finish line!

With Martin at the finish