Arena Boys Hit Amsterdam

Pretty much our first experience of Amsterdam was the taxi driver from the airport to the expo telling us that he was a drug smuggler back in the day… but on to the running part. We arrived at the expo and had a look around, but the general consensus amongst us (me, Jim Watson, Kevin Martin, Mark O’Gara and Mark’s friend Sean) was that it was quite a poor expo compared to some of the others out there, including Brighton.

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On the morning of the Marathon we met in the reception area of the Hotel at around 7:30am before making our way across the City to the Olympic Stadium. The queues to get in the stadium were quite long and after a detour through the queues, thankfully, we arrived at our starting pens with 5 – 10 minutes to spare.

The weather forecast throughout the week was pretty much true to form on race morning: 18 – 20 degrees and 90+% humidity.

Just before the start, I took a caffeine berry gel and an scap. Both of these were going to be crucial throughout the Marathon. The plan was to take a gel every 30 minutes up until 2 hours (I will do up until 2:30 next time), an scap every 45 minutes, a couple of shot bloks in the last 30(ish) minutes and some water and energy drink at every station.

Km 1 – 6:49 minute mile pace. Many people clearly started in the wrong pen and were going backwards at an alarming rate. This annoyed me slightly, as every second was possibly going to be of the essence. Despite the weaving and being held up by those going backwards, I was pretty much where I wanted to be and Jim, Kev and Mark were all in close proximity.

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Due to the temperature and humidity, I was sweating a bit early on, which I often do when it’s warm. The next 4kms were 6:40, 6:44, 6:44 and 6:40 respectively, so that was the first 5k done in 21:26, which turned out to be my slowest 5k of the race. As the early kms passed, I was feeling comfortable. 10k – 42:26 (21:00). I think it was at some point during the second 5k that Jim and I lost touch with Mark and Kevin mainly due to the crowds.

The kms were effortlessly going by, but thankfully, Jim would occasionally reel me in, as I unintentionally picked up the pace. This part of the race was an out and back along the Amstel river where there was quite a strong head / swirling wind. 15k – 1:03:27 (21:01), 20k – 1:24:40 (21:13), halfway – 1:29:14, 25k – 1:45:29 (20:49). At this point, Jim and I were regularly overtaking people and perhaps that partly explains why the 25k and 30k splits, were the quickest of the race – 30k – 2:06:26 (20:57). It was at this point that Jim advised me to keep going and that he was going to drop off due to his recent back problem.

Thankfully, I was in the zone and my first 5k without Jim was on a par with all those that had gone before – 35k – 2:27:33 (21:07). Up until this point, I had felt comfortable. However, this was about to change albeit ever so slightly because most of the last 7+k were into a strengthening headwind. I decided to keep up the effort / put a little more effort in to keep the pace around the mid 6:50s.

40k – 2:48:55 (21:22). I went through 41k mark on the course and my Garmin showed 2:51:?? I calculated that unless I ran a near 9 minute mile, the sub-3 was mine and for the first time I allowed myself to believe it was possible, although many around me believed it was possible months or weeks ago and I thank those people for the faith / confidence in me.

My garmin beeped to signal 42k and at this point I told myself to pick up the pace a little, without sprinting, until the finish. I entered the Olympic Stadium with just under 300m to go and my average pace for the current km was 6:25, which was the quickest I had been. This pleased me at the end of a Marathon. I went through the finish line and shortly after had a subtle clenched fist moment to myself. My official time was 2:58:18

I waited in the finish area for Jim, Kevin, Mark and Sean. Jim came through shortly after and was pleased with his run and time considering the recent injury. Next to finish was Mark who was slightly confused with his time considering how training had gone and good he had felt in the lead up. Next in was Kevin – there was no hiding his disappointment, but to be disappointed with a sub-3:10 marathon shows how talented he is and how far he has come. Last in, but by no means least was Sean.

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We headed back to the hotel to freshen up and head into town. The others treated themselves to some well-deserved beers while I stuck to the soft drinks. The overall census was that a great time was had in Amsterdam.”

Gary McKivett