What is it about runners that makes us push ourselves to our limits and as I experienced this weekend, occasionally beyond.
Running big city marathons and having a weekend away in a capital city has become a treat that Phil and I have enjoyed together. Each marathon takes you to places in a city that you would never experience on your own and gives a focus to the trip.
This weekends destination was Amsterdam and I put the added pressure on myself of trying to run under 4 hours. As Phil wasn't 100% fit we decided to run together for the first time with him pacing me to my sub 4 (well that was the plan!)
We enjoyed the sights and sounds of Amsterdam on Saturday and took advantage of the hop on hop off bus and barge service to see the highlights of the city without putting too many miles on our legs. We ended the evening at the pasta party which took place in the Olympic stadium where the marathon was to start and finish and it was wonderful to sit in the stadium with friends watching the preparations as the sun went down.
Sunday morning arrived with the usual excitement but strangely no nerves. I started in the yellow pen and having lined up for the loos and given up on that idea, we waited with all the other yellow runners and saw the elite start on the big screen and clapped for a minute remembrance for the mayor we started moving forward. Everyone was moving onto the track and setting off towards the start line and as we got closer we realised that the barriers hadn't been moved and the only way into the track was over (this had also happened to me in Athens last year!) having little legs this wasn't the easiest manoeuvre for me but runners being the supportive bunch that they are there were several offers of help and I got over on the second attempt!
Before the marathon I had wondered how Phil and I would get on running together but I have to say that the first 20 miles were a pleasure! My legs felt great and we loved sharing the experience and chatting about everything we saw. The barge with a piano and folk singer floating along next to us as we ran along beside the river and the traditional windmill were particular high lights.
As the miles went on and the temperature rose I knew that I was beginning to struggle, by mile 23 we were starting to slow down and Phil kept reminding me of the pace we needed to achieve that sub four hour target but the more I tried the less my body seemed to respond. The water stations only had cups of water and isotonic drinks rather than bottles which made it harder to hydrate and with the clock ticking by and Phil plying me with energy gels I staggered through the last few miles and after what felt like an eternity the stadium came into sight and I knew we had just 300m to go to cross that finish line and all the pain would stop! All I could think about was a big bottle of water and I tried to push hard for a big sprint finish. In my head I was Mo Farah sprinting into the stadium and Phil tells me that I suddenly sped up in full sprinter mode but slowly sank towards the ground while doing a comedy walk. This, as Eddie put it was my Alistair Brownlee moment. I had nothing left but I was determined to finish and after convincing the official I was ok and with the support of Phil and the official I put one foot in front of the other and just kept moving forward towards that finish line. Several people came to check if I was ok and the support was amazing. The elite men were walking back from their medal ceremony around the track and gave me a nod and a clap. - little things at this point mean so much. As I walked I started feeling stronger and managed to speed up towards the end - 300m in 16 minutes but I had finished.
Initially I was disappointed with my race and gutted not to have achieved what I had set out to do. I felt that I had failed but having had time to reflect I can honestly say that I gave that race everything I had. I may not have run it in the time that I hoped for but I gave it my all and I can hold my head high. I still have that sub 4 to achieve so next year we will have to choose our next weekend away and with the right training I know that one day it will happen. - one day!