I can hardly believe I’ve done it – I’ve completed my second marathon! I am so incredibly proud of myself! And yes Bev, thank you for pointing this out – I have earned it.
The weekend building up to the marathon was very pleasant. Christopher and I met up with Anneli in Leiden, where we were collected by Bernadette, President of WIMA NL and our host for the weekend. We spent a very relaxed Friday evening chatting away about running and motorbike riding until bedtime. Saturday was spent in the same way and we headed in to the centre of Leiden for a stroll and to collect our race packs. Leiden is beautiful and we truly enjoyed ourselves. In the evening, we feasted on pasta, reminisced about WIMA rallies we had taken part in and talked about the joys of motorbike riding. The race started 10.30 Sunday morning so we could be rather relaxed with time and did not need to get up excessively early in the morning either. Also, we benefitted from having Bernadette taking us in to the centre in her car.
My main concern leading up to the marathon had been the weather – the forecast was for rain and I feared that the stretches along the poulders in the countryside might be very cold. However, on race day the weather turned out to be perfect for running, cloudy with some occasional sprinkles and very light wind. It could not have been better. Although I brought a wind jacket with me and a buff, I never needed them.
The marathon route was very good. We started together with the half marathon and ran together for 11k before splitting off in different directions. Therefore, this first bit was rather crowded and, in contrast, the middle section of the marathon was a rather solitary run with the competitors quite spread out. This was not a problem at all since the locals in the area around Leiden put on a show for the marathon. There is a competition for the most supportive street along the route and some were going all out with a band and masquerade. In addition, outside every house and in every intersection there were people out cheering – and they cheered for everyone using the name printed on the bib. I must say they all did brilliantly in trying to pronounce my name. At the finish, by the bag collection, we were asked to vote for the most supportive street and for me there was a tie between the brass band and crowd support cheering me along all the way through the village making me feel like a winner somewhere at km 18, and the street with the church complete with nuns and angels singing and dancing for me as I ran along. When approaching Leiden for the last 5 kilometres, the marathon route joined with the 10k route and on my tired legs I joined the energetic runners who, with great leaps, were rushing towards the finish. The pavements were packed and people were having a party along the route cheering for all and everyone passing by. However, when they noticed my marathon-coloured bib they did call out encouragement especially for me, acknowledging I had come the longer route.
My GPS watch had died somewhere after 4h 15min and I had no real sense of time – apart from that I was doing well. I had started off a bit too quickly due to influence from the half marathon runners but I felt ok. I also knew that sooner or later my left leg would go numb and walking would be necessary. This happened at km 29, from then on I alternated and did stretches of walking to regain the feeling of my leg. When entering the route shared with the 10k runners, I was told I had to keep right walking to not be in their way – this pushed a button and I thought, hell no, I’m going to finish running and I did run the last 5k 🙂 After all, finishing with dignity was one of my main goals, along with a sub 5 hour time. I clocked 4h 59min 41sec, and this allowed me to stop and pose for pictures when passing Christopher and Bernadette just before crossing the finish line!
The slogan for the Leiden marathon is “All about you!” and I do think they have managed to make the runners feel special in all kinds of ways: the crowd support along the route cheering us along, the nice people at the drink tables asking how you feel and what you need, the marshals providing sponges, the Red Cross staff cycling along the route… After finishing and getting a medal we got Aquarius, my favourite sports drink, and then we got beer.
I really think I did everything right at this marathon: I managed my speed well, quite even times along the route even though I walked occasionally towards the end. My energy levels were rather good, at the drink tables they provided banana as well as water and energy drink, and this complemented my energy gels and bars well. Towards the latter part we even got Coca-Cola and buns. With my medical condition, hypothyroidism, it is important not to exhaust myself too much because that can put me in bed for days. I was therefore pleased to have managed so well. I have only been moderately tired after the race, my body aches of course but that was expected. Tonight, I’m intending to run the social run with the club – hopefully a little jog will loosen up the muscles a bit. On Sunday, I was a super woman, yesterday I was offered help to descend the stairs in the train station coming back from the airport. The contrasts in a runner’s life.
I end here with a feeling of great satisfaction, completing the marathon was my accomplishment and I’ve earned it. But more importantly, I managed to do so because of all of you who supported me and sponsored Motorcycle Outreach. I did not run just for myself, I ran for all of you and I ran for the people in the rural villages in Tanzania and Indonesia who will benefit from the donations received. Together we are making the world a better place!
The giving page is still up if you want to take a look or post a late but very welcome donation!
All photos: courtesy of Christopher Harry Calvert