TCS Amsterdam Marathon 2014 - Citius, Altius, Fortius!

Before I share my exciting experience of running my first full marathon outside India, a little background to this story on how I made it so far.

Runner???  without injuries?? Naa....

Since May 2014, I had spent close to 2 months in rest and recovery from a stress injury on my calf that I had picked up during my Comrades training.  It was a disaster stuck at a wrong time.  I did not have adequate time to recover from the injury and I ended up not finishing my much anticipated Comrades.  I managed to run only till Drummond (the half way mark) before convincing myself to stop running.

There were lots of things learnt from the experience.  The experiences that I went through helped me discover some more aspects of running and me.  The experiments that I did has been taking my level of understanding towards running, confidence and the passion to the next level.  How can anyone learn without tasting failures? Not really a failure but a different result, as Tony Robbins says.

What has changed?

The last few months I focused on on building my core strength.  I was also constantly chatting to my inner self to 'take it easy' and also pay attention to 'one at a time'.  I have some simple changes to my running plan.  With the new plan, I run only 3 days a week and spend 2 or 3 days to cross train esp. elliptical and stationary bike, whole body circuit training, weights and a lot of flexibility building stretching moves.  The results are tremendous and I started seeing the changes within few months.

Were the results positive?

On 25, Aug 2014, I ran the Hyderabad Marathon in 4 hrs. 24 minutes (4 minutes faster than the last year) and just after 2 weeks followed by the Chennai Ultra Trail 50k in 6 hrs. 39 mins.  Even though both were not my personal best in terms of finish timings, it was evident from the fact that it took very few days for me to recover back to normal routine unlike 1-2 weeks earlier.  I also did not have any injuries.  It was certainly getting better.

How did I make to the Amsterdam marathon?

After the superb Chennai Ultra Trail marathon, I trained sincerely for the first edition of Bengaluru Marathon on 19-Oct-2014.  I had to miss the race due to an unplanned and a sudden business trip to Netherlands. Initially I was disappointed and the the reason was simple.  I had trained so well for the Bengaluru Marathon and was reluctant in letting it pass just like that.  

I got this wonderful idea of Googling for marathons in Netherlands and came across the Eindoven Marathon on 12-Oct (no way I could run since I was traveling) and TCS Amsterdam Marathon on the 19th (appeared to be my only hope).  I immediately visited their website for registration and also called the organizers for an entry.  The registrations were closed; disappointed again.   Thanks to a Facebook request that I had posted, within few minutes I got a reply from a runner who registered but couldn't run since she was traveling outside Netherlands.  As a matter of few hours my entry was confirmed soon after she had initiated a Bib Transfer from the TCS Amsterdam Marathon website.  It was so helpful.   What a lucky soul I was!  Thanks to the great heart who offered me her registration and did not accept my offer to pay the entry fee.

Expo - the day before the race:


The day before the marathon I took the NS train from Den Bosh and reached the expo near the Olympic Stadium, Amsterdam Zuid to collect the bib kit.  I was very happy to get my first caricature (funny huh!!) done through a digital artist (promoting the Brooks brand) who took just 10 minutes to make this picture with the help of his Samsung tab.  He was just amazing!! After roaming around the expo outlets I returned back to Den Bosh for a day long rest treating myself with some pastas, green salads and fruits.


The race day:

I got up at 5.00 am, got ready and took a taxi from Den Bosch to reach Utrecht first and took trains to reach the Olympic stadium at around 8.15 am.  I was not very certain about my pre-race meal since usually, in India, the races would start anywhere between 5-6 am.  This marathon was scheduled to start at 9.30.  Even though I had 2 bananas at around 6.00 am, I decided to pamper myself with a warm apple pie and a tall glass of black coffee.   It was really energizing.  I finished my usual routine of warm-up and stretches and entered the stadium.  




I took the stairs to go to public viewing area to view the stadium.  The atmosphere around and inside the stadium was electrifying. 




This was my 5th Full Marathon race and the 22nd organised race (the rest are 3 ultra and half marathons).  The race started from the Olympic Stadium and the beginning was very exciting; it took around 15 minutes of impatient waiting after the gun went off and also after the elite runners sprang from the start line, for my pen to start moving. The music was loud and playing the familiar-energizing-favorite Coldplay song ("I used to rule the world....") and loud cheers from people all around, the ambiance was fabulous.


There were 16,000 runners registered and it was like seeing another Comrades Marathon. Running through the Rijksmuseum (the famous passage which connects Amsterdam city center with the south of Amsterdam) and Vondelpark (the largest public park in Amsterdam) was exciting. The city streets was clumsy with runners spilling all over the places.  It was difficult for anyone to run and go past if started later. I really enjoyed the course especially the 10+ kms of running around the Amstel River. There were plenty of entertainment and music on the route, on the boat, and also there were two on a X-Jetpacks (beautifully showing off!! :)) ..it was fun seeing these guys hovering around the lake. 
 
The fuel stations were placed in every 5 kms with ample supplies of A&A energy drink, water, bananas and water sponges. The volunteers were simply fabulous, cheerful and helpful. The organizers were really thoughtful...they gave plastic wraps to keep all the runners from freezing out. It was really chilly at the finish line...

For me personally, this was a perfectly executed race with almost even pacing with negative split (I always dreamt about this), no bonking or simply never saw the wall and had no cramping - all my muscles were intact during my run. The overall fuel and hydration went well. I was depending on Gu gel every 45 mins and had bananas during the last 2 fuel stations.


I was very particular about maintaining a pace of 10 km/hr throughout the race . interestingly it was evident from my Garmin results (link.....) I ran 42.68 kms at an average of 6 pace in 4:15:49 (the official time is also same for 42.195 distance (link....). I'm slightly unconvinced that the course length was 500 meters longer as per my Garmin.

It was amazing and inspiring to find that there were 7990 runners ahead of me and I was finally placed at 7991 / 12197 and 1405 in my category.

I'm also happy that I'm inching closer to my dream of running a full marathon in sub 4:00:00 hours and I know I need to work lot.

The finish:

Finally, I was really ecstatic while entering the Olympic stadium...and when I read the Olympic motto written at the entrance ..which is "Citius, Altius, Fortius", which is Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger" - that instantly kicked the 'turbo mode' in me, pumping some additional adrenalin to my already super-charged body. I really dashed through the last few 100 meters inside the stadium (picked the outer most race track to go past hundreds of runners ahead of me near the finish line). Finally touched the finish line making it one of my best and strongest finishes.

The feeling at the finish line is something that I can not describe in a single word. I'm sure all runners can understand this. I know that my family was tracking my run and I already had the best wishes from my friends. Soon after collecting the medal, I called my wife, my son and daughter who were eagerly waiting to talk to me and congratulate.




I also found a nice summary video posted by the race organizers.



....wow what a race!!

Dutch weather and my experience:

During the last week, I was thinking about couple of interesting phrases representing the two-states of weather in Dutch.  I read this in a blog describing the Dutch weather aptly....“Mooi weertje, he?” (nice weather, ah?) or a more dramatic “Wat een hondeweer!” (what miserable dog’s weather!).  I also kept wondering how the weather could be a spoiler on the race day.

Adding to this, the race organizers had warned the runners for high temperature and also posted information on how to tackle high temperature (link....).  The average high temperature in Bangalore is 30 deg and the low is 19 deg with an average 65% humidity throughout the year (source: Wikipedia). It sounded really funny for any Indian like me to believe 20 deg is a high temperature but later realized the effect it had on my overall running performance. I don't think I could have run anywhere closer to this performance in India on the same day.

It was a bright sunny day to begin with but after at least 1 hr the temperature started dropping and it even started drizzling in packets.

No wonder the Dutch say it's hard to predict the weather in Netherlands. Huh!!!