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There are many reasons to pick Amsterdam

by Tim Heming
Monday 27th October 2014

Race report: Tim Heming tells us why we shouldn't overlook the TCS Amsterdam Marathon

TCS Amsterdam Marathon 2014

The last of the autumn marathons. Not quite, but sandwiched somewhere between the behemoths of Berlin, Chicago and next stop New York, falls Amsterdam, not a World Marathon Major, but the next best thing.

It’s flat, of course, this is Holland, has sizeable fields, (over 12,000 marathon finishers, another 14,000 in the half-marathon, plus almost 5,000 in the 8km race) and a pack of swarming east Africans at the front chasing a meaningful payday, the watermark of any bigger budget race.

It has an iconic finish too, rivalling London’s Mall, Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate or New York’s Central Park, with half a lap of the 1928 Olympic stadium. And, the prerequisite of every big city race nowadays, withstanding Boston and its historic hills, and New York and its bridge climbs, it’s a fast course.

If you’re following the traditional pattern of spring and autumn marathon goals and training programmes, there are many reasons to pick Amsterdam.

It doesn't sell out in a trice, yet still affords the big city feel. It fits the bill for marathon tourism; less than an hour’s flight from London; the airport 15 minutes from the race venue, which in turn takes less than 20 minutes to reach central Amsterdam. Trains, trams, taxis and sit-up-and-beg bikes all offer easy options to explore and the locals speak better English than you do and are graciously forgiving of a minimalist grasp of Dutch.

It’s also famously relaxed, although pre-race thoughts are probably best concentrated on a decent halfway split than post-race spliff.

TCS Amsterdam Marathon 2014

Photos: Run247's Paul Shanley with Tim Heming

Registration on Friday or Saturday is straightforward at the complex next to the stadium, with all the usual vendours trying to flog last-minute must-haves to nervous-looking first-timers and race morning starts gently enough with the marathoners off first at 9:30am milling around outside.

It becomes a little fraught when trying to herd runners to the start, the funnel proving too narrow for hoards of anxious participants starting to think they will not only miss joining the right corral but the starting gun altogether. Eventually it sorts itself out, yet the importance of being in the correct pen quickly becomes evident as the twisting start leaves those too far back surging to be on pace.

Once on to the streets, the course quickly heads towards and through the delightful Vondelpark and under the gates of the Rijksmuseum before a long out and back section alongside the Amstel river and the halfway point. It’s this stretch where the wind has a chance to whip in and if angling for a time is the best place to try and seek shelter in a group.

From here it becomes less scenic with the hard yards through the industrial estates, before heading back past the museums and retracing the steps through Vondelpark, exiting with just a mile to the stadium and the finish.

It’s a functional rather than fascinating course, unlike say New York or London which have a  host of key landmarks, but the stadium finish, giving a perfect chance for friends and family to see you cross the line, is a definite highlight.  

The congestion at the start does need addressing, and the aid stations, although marshalled with care as so many marathons are, only provided liquid in cups, which made it difficult to consume and busier than needed as runners grabbed for more than one vessel.

A return visit wouldn’t be ruled out, but with Berlin, Chicago, Frankfurt, and New York all big ticket options it may just have to wait a few years.  

One unique facet was it did leave me with Bitter Balls  - or Bitterballen to use the correct term. But before I’m implored to use more vaseline, I should point out it’s a deep-fried Dutch delicacy made from a thick roux of veal, beef broth and butter. In other words, perfect recovery food.

TCS Amsterdam Marathon 2014

Find out more about the TSC Amsterdam Marathon at www.tcsamsterdammarathon.nl/en/

Tim finished the marathon in an impressive time of where he ran a fantastic time of 2:51:20 - Click here for full results


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