I had heard so many friends I have in Europe talk about this Marathon for years now so earlier in the spring I finally decided I would sign up and it would be my fall marathon.
I was in peak fitness and getting ready to start training for the marathon after I returned home from Bali but I ended up getting very ill with Dengue Fever. To spare the story you can read about it HERE.
I was sidelined and not able to start training until about mid-July and it was only a couple runs a week at 2-3 miles. I was weak and had lost all my strength. I decided I will still go for the marathon and it would be celebrating a finish line versus any kind of finish time.
Flash Forward to Amsterdam, I was as trained as I could be in just three months and simply ready to have a good time!
I swapped back and forth between three outfits because I couldn’t decide what to wear!!! I put on leggings and a sports bra and even my shoes but then decided I really should wear shorts because I get really hot running and it was going to be a sunny and warm day. So I switched to the shorts but then had to switch bra tops and unpin my bib from the first bra top and then I realized I couldn’t pin it on the second one so I started looking at some IG friends who run in bras only, to see how they did their bibs and ended up with it on my shorts! HA! Worlds longest run-on sentence right there folks!
So, with my purplish lipstick on I headed out in an uber to save my legs from walking 2 miles and got to Olympic Stadium. I headed to a meeting spot my friend Sarah and I had decided on the night before. Now Sarah and my story is a fun one. She saw a picture of me on the Run It Fast page that was repost on Instagram and started following me. Then when I was coming to Amsterdam reached out so we ended up meeting for brunch the day before the race! You know how in life you just “click” with some people … We had the “click”. She is a mom of 4 boys, an incredible free spirited ultra runner from Chicago who is now living here with her family and loves coffee as much as me! I love connecting with people and I’m certain there is an even larger picture for our meeting here in Amsterdam that will play out in the many years of friendship to come.
Sarah and I hung out inside until it was time to head into the stadium to start. I noticed really fast that it was organized chaos. We were all shoving in but in such a respectful and orderly way! HAHA! And I noticed quickly the difference in security measures from the Chicago Marathon or other US marathons. As in much MUCH less security. There were accents and languages from around the globe being spoken and it was just incredible being part of such a global event. The stadium was spectacular and full of spectators screaming and cheering. The energy was through the roofs of excitement. We lined up and said our goodbyes knowing we would lose touch soon.
The Journey of 26.2 Miles
I flipped my music on and got started. I was in HEAVEN! I was running all through AMSTERDAM! There were so many spectators and people cheering so I turned down my music to hear them at the same time. We ran through Vondel Park and through the city. It was the most beautiful day out. Warm but shaded through the park and city portions and I was feeling SO good! I kept such a steady pace and felt strong.
Around mile 11ish? It was all in km so I am not sure the exact mileage as I didn’t wear a watch, we turned onto a long road into the country. There were windmills and cows, horses and adorable children to high five, rolling hills and a beautiful canal we were following. There were those water powered flyboards waving and cheering for us all along the canal and people on boats singing to us with microphones! I was admiring all the beautiful homes and quaint cottages. Imagining what life would look like if that is where I lived. It was SO entertaining and I was still flying and feeling good!
About mile 14, still out in the countryside, I stopped at an aid station to drink water because I still haven’t mastered the art of running and drinking yet! And all the sudden I had a massive wave of nausea hit me. I had heard about runners getting this for various reasons but I had never experienced it. And it wouldn’t go away and started making me a bit lightheaded. So I just walked a bit longer and drank a bit more.
Now here is what I have learned in endurance sports. There WILL be highs and lows during each race. There will be miles you have to fight through and some will come easier for you. And this is all natural and OK and EVERYone experiences this. What I know for sure is that they all will pass….the lows and the highs. So ride the highs and embrace the lows…knowing they are short lived and won’t last forever. Good analogy in life too, right? I knew in my heart and mind what I needed to do and it was just to back off a bit and let my body hydrate up more, take in some food and then rally. Because our body always does if we are patient with it.
So I fought from about miles 15-20 off and on the nausea. I kept it slower and just kept putting one foot in front of the other. If you can run, run. If you need to slow down, slow down. If you need to walk, walk. Just keep moving forward. I made sure to high five every single person I could and smile at all the people cheering for us during these miles. I find that giving away gratitude when we aren’t feeling well in a race, helps to forget what we are experiencing.
I enjoyed the scenery as much as possible and then suddenly around mile 20 my body rallied and I was almost instantaneously better and full of life! So I started flying again. I felt strong and happy and knew I would end the last 10k on a high note! We headed back into the city, which was nice to get a bit more shade.
At 36k I knew I would see my friend Marlous from Instagram. She had a cheering section and we had been friends for years over social media. I saw her and she saw me and started screaming and ran up to me and swooped me up, off the ground, into the best hug I ever had at a race!!! We snapped a few pictures and before I knew it she slapped my ass and said you get it done girl!!!! And I flew off on fire! That support just kicked me into high gear and I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face. I fought back tears remember just how MUCH having someone to hug or see mid-race really does mean. I was SO happy and GRATEFUL for that hug and interaction.
We headed back into the park and it was lined with people. So many people calling out your name and commenting on my braids. I was energized for the last three miles. Don’t get me wrong I was hurting. I kept thinking why do I hurt SO DAMN BAD … and then I would look around and see it in other people’s faces and remind myself … because you are running a damn marathon. THAT is why you are hurting AND you are on the finishing stretch! Ha! It is supposed to hurt!
When we came close to the finish I slowed down a bit. Not because I wasn’t feeling good but because I have learned that sprinting to the finish is FUN but slowing down just a bit to really take in the crowds, the experience, the sights, the finish line sign and all the people and energy of the finish line is pretty spectacular.
I began to run up to Olympic Stadium. I heard the music blasting, the roar of the crowds and felt the insane energy. All the sudden every ache and pain in my legs and body was gone. I was smiling. I was THERE.
Just 150 meters. I run the track and pass the 100 meters sign. I turn the track corner and everyone is smiling and screaming. I smile at them. I look into their eyes. I pass the 50 meters. Now it is me and the Finish Line sign. I run to the end of a race. A race that I almost believed unfathomable just three months prior. As I stepped across the Finish Line the emotions take over. Tears streaming down my face. I slow my pace and begin to walk. One foot in front of the other. I did it. I really freaking did it. I finished the race.
I walked up to get my medal and hugged the person who gave it to me. I am a “touch” person and I wanted to hug someone so the guy seemed like a good choice. I got my heating foil thingy (what the heck are those called anyways!!!) and headed out of the stadium. Right before I walked out I did a complete spin. I soaked in the crowds, the smells, the people, the sights and the energy of that spectacular place once more. And then with a smile on my face I walked through the tunnel and back into the world.
After the Race
My friend Sarah and I had decided on a plan to possibly meet up after the race. I would head back to the café we met at in the morning because I would have wifi and she was going to get her phone from gear check and then message me. As I walked up to the Café I saw her walking by and we hugged and were smiley and giggly girls that were SO excited to have just RUN Amsterdam! I was still a sweaty mess and needed to just SIT DOWN for a few minutes so we headed inside and I plopped my tired body on the first open ground I could find. Ha! We caught up and swapped race stories. We snapped some pictures once I was able to get my ass back up again and headed to the bathrooms before we parted ways. As we were walking there were two young boys (I couldn’t tell where from by the language) and one had a skimpy towel on because he had just showered. You could definitely see part of his bum through the towel. His friend was playing around with him and I believe saw us behind them because he grabbed the towel from his friend and his bare ass was exposed to us. The friend “fought” to get the towel back as they playfully went into the locker room. Sarah and I laughed to each other because this was just Europe and boys will be boys at any age and in any country.
We walked outside and then hugged good-bye. I knew in my heart it was more of a “see you next time” and smiled as I walked off because the Universe brought me another like-minded friend from a far away place and it made me happy. PS … She honestly doesn’t look like she just ran a freaking marathon HUH! I mean who has hair that looks that beautiful after 26.2 miles!!!!!!! BABE!
I decided to go sit and drink a bit more before my two mile walk home so I got on wifi and messaged some friends who had been tracking me even in the late hours of their night. I post a picture about the race and then headed off. As I was making the trek home I got stopped a handful of times by people. One guy told me his goal was to just keep up with the long braided girl! Another girl said she was cheering for me and loved my outfit. Apparently a bright green trucker hat, bright colored minimal clothing and braids to your waist draws attention HAHA! When I got close to home I stopped at my favorite sandwich place here, Toast Brothers. Two guys had the same idea and we got to talking. They said they remembered passing me at mile 22. I laughed and said I was sure everyone was passing me by then! We swapped race stories and then parted ways. I got my sandwich and headed home to collapse in a pile of cheesy warm toasted goodness.
I felt achieved that evening. How can you not when you accomplish something that you had set out to do. The marathon changes you. Each one you learn a little more about yourself. I was emotional that evening thinking of my journey. I know I have done much larger distances than 26.2. Much more grueling distances for that matter. BUT and a big fat freaking BUT … It is all relative. Where you are at in the ebbs and flows of life. I think I had forgot just how hard the marathon actually is. It is a grueling race and completion is such an achievement. Any distance of race. Any distance period. None is more significant than the other and you can learn something from everything you do. I found some new strength during this marathon. That inner drive that says you are a wild ass mother fucker and DON’T EVER GIVE UP. Yah…that is exactly what I discovered.
I am thankful for this experience. I found myself again. To be honest, I lost myself the past few months and got an intense life ass-kicking. This was my opportunity to fight back and say NO. I win life. I will not be beat down. I will ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS win the race. There may be lows but I am more powerful and tough than the lows. There will be highs and I will have humility in the highs because I KNOW what rock bottom feels like and what the inevitable lows feel like. I understand each serves a purpose. And often the lows serve a greater purpose. They teach us. We learn what we are made of. We learn to persevere and are humbled to the inner core of our spirit. We take less for granted. We LIVE life more fully and LOVE more whole-heartedly. That is what this race taught me. That no matter what … I will find JOY in the journey and I will win the race.
For those that care about times … 4:56 … Not my best and not my worst. But I did tell Sarah before the race my ONLY goal was sub-4:59 because that was exactly how long my playlist ended up being. Ha!