Race report: We Own The Night Amsterdam 2014

Running has felt very up and down since the marathon. I was absolutely loving it for about a month, but since my 10k PB at We Own The Night in London, it’s all gone a bit lacklustre.

So I went into this race with absolutely no expectations – I was in Amsterdam for the weekend to enjoy myself, I wasn’t going to hold back on what I ate, drank or did in favour of a better race. But this was a thoroughly enjoyable race (despite me being in a massive grump about my time afterwards and Charlie having to tell me off).

Myself, Charlie and Laureen were all running, with Laureen’s sister Alice also along as support. We knew very little about the race before we got there, the route map was in typically minimalist Nike style – with us knowing nothing about the layout of the city, it gave very little away.

We were also completely unaware that the race began at 22:30 until the day we arrived in the city. This was a bit annoying to start with, as I’d hoped to experience some Amsterdam nightlife, and such a late race was eating into this, but it was so hot during the day that a late start was appreciated.

After sitting down for dinner at pretty much the same time we were running the London race (that felt very odd!), we made our way out to the Olympic Stadium via bus. On the way we saw so many girls in their turquoise shirts travelling there by bike. I was very jealous of the ease and elegance of just jumping on a Dutch bike to go run a 10k.

As we got to the stadium, it completely clouded over and started to rain (I’d just bought some new sandals about 3 hours earlier as it was so hot. Typical). This did nothing to dampen the brilliant vibe in the stadium and we managed to easily while away the time before the race start by visiting the portaloos, playing around in the Vogue Nederland photo booth and having our picture taken by their photographer, finding our names on the WOTN wall and meeting up with the girls from Running Junkies.

In fact, we got a bit carried away, and before we knew it, pretty much everyone else was in their pens ready for the start. I’d told a very small sub-50 fib when picking up my wristband so I could be in the same pen as Charlie (who wasn’t telling any lies when she said she could run a sub-50). We jumped a fence to get into our pen, but accidentally found ourselves in the one for VIPs… in front of pen 1. OOPS!!

The atmosphere in the starting pens was the best I’ve ever experienced at a race. The DJ was awesome and the music was actually LOUD. I’m sure the time of the evening also helped, but we were RAVING at that start line and ready to GO! And then it all went silent, a bloke came on stage and wittered on in Dutch for a bit, before the DJ came back on and pretty much had to recreate the previous 15-20 minutes.

The race didn’t actually get going until nearly 23:00, by which time I have to admit, I was definitely in the ‘let’s just get this over with, shall we?’ mindset. I lost the other girls almost immediately, and didn’t have any music, Nike+ or Garmin with me (shocking, I know), so had no choice but to take in and enjoy what was going on around me.

I thought that running in London we have a lot of ‘street furniture’ to contend with. HELL NO. This course took in big bollards, wide bollards, and worst of all, shin height bollards. As well as steps, cobbles, low hanging trees and of course, bikes. Some parts were very dark and very uneven. There were street parts, but a large chunk of the course took place in Vondelpark.

Also along the course was a giant little up arch with music pumping and dancers (much more impactful that the light tunnels at the London race, I thought), quite a few cheering crowds (most drinking!) and topless guys on light up podiums (not sure that would’ve gone down in London…?!) I think 10k continues to be my favourite distance – long enough to earn a medal, not so long that it turns into a slog.

Finishing in the Olympic Stadium was pretty cool, we ran through and onto the track to be handed the usual coconut water, brown paper goody bag and necklace medal, designed by The Boyscouts.

Other than the annoyingly delayed start, I had a brilliant time at this race, and in Amsterdam. Obviously you have to get there and pay for accommodation, but this race was only €20 to enter – an absolute steal for an event like this. The flight over is super short (less than an hour) and pretty cheap, and I’m sure we could’ve got a better deal on a hotel if we’d booked a bit more in advance. Would I travel abroad for ‘just’ a 10k again? Absolutely!

Read Charlie’s absolutely brilliant race recap here too.

A weekend in pictures: running adventures in Amsterdam

Last weekend I spent a flying 48 hours in Amsterdam – for some running, obviously! More on that to come, but for now, some snaps of what we got up to…

Race report: North Norfolk half marathon

Everyone has races where time is important. We all have times where we train hard for a race, and are desperate to beat a PB or slip under an illusive but ultimately arbitrary milestone. And everyone has races where time could not matter less. This was one of those races. There were parts of it I really didn’t enjoy, like the heat (remember that one really hot Sunday we had a couple of weeks ago?!), the hills, running over sand, loose gravel and lumpy grass, but ultimately, none of that matters. I ran this race alongside my Dad and my brother, so I’m going to let them tell you how it went…

Kevin/Dad’s Race Report

NORTH NORFOLK HALF MARATHON – Sunday 18th May 2014 

I awoke early on the morning of the race with a mixture of feelings ranging from trepidation to concern with a very small amount of excitement, bordering on anticipation. Looking out of the window, the sun was already shining brightly. As forecast, it was going to be a nice, very warm day. Just what we needed!

Arriving at the start, it was noticeable that a large percentage of the participants were members of running clubs but I found it somewhat reassuring to note that there were a few competitors who actually appeared to be older than me. Or was that just wishful thinking resulting from unrealistic optimism?

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The training in the preceding weeks had not gone smoothly. A number of rest periods were needed to enable me to recover from calf injuries and, as a result, less than a third of the planned miles had been covered. It had become obvious that my warming-up routine was somewhat lacking, i.e. no stretching and very little in the way of warming-up before running. Over the last three weeks of the training, this had been rectified and, as a result, I had remained injury-free.

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We had thought about the tactics for the race and had come to the conclusion that discipline was required from the very beginning. It was important not to start too quickly. As we set off, I glanced at my brand new Garmin watch and pressed the button. We were away. I would look at that watch at least 500 times during the race (or so it seemed). As we set off, a quick look over the shoulder revealed a few runners behind us, but not many. It dawned on me that I was actually running with my son and daughter.

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It soon became evident that, due to the ever-increasing temperature, our planned times per mile would not be achieved. Thankfully, there were watering stations every two miles or so and full use was made of these. A number of runners were feeling the effects of the heat at a fairly early stage. They were walking, possibly having started too quickly. The route took us along the coastal path and then through the centre of Wells which was rather crowded. We had planned to run together but agreed that if any of us felt able to go quicker, they should do so. Over the last three miles, it was obvious that Marcus had more fuel in the tank and he soon disappeared into the distance. Melissa soldiered on with great determination despite suffering from the heat and running with an injured knee.

After about 10.5 miles, we received a welcome boost as Alison, Hollie and Freddie were waiting to cheer us on. I think they had been there for quite a while, enjoying a snooze in the sun. The final two miles of the race were uphill and on the roughest terrain but finally Holkham Hall came into sight, just as I overtook Sydney the “dog”. He had been blatantly cheating by carrying his head! A quick look at the watch revealed less than a mile to go but, rather frustratingly, the course went past the finish and away from it, before doubling back in a loop. As the finishing line was crossed, the button was pressed and a time of 2 hours, 38 minutes and 53 seconds showed – a personal best! (First ever half marathon).

Freddie the real dog...

Freddie the real dog…

...and Sydney the not-so-real dog

…and Sydney the not-so-real dog

It was an absolute joy running with my son and daughter. Dare I say it? I am already looking forward to doing it again.

Dad at the finish line!

Dad at the finish line!

Marcus/little bro’s Race Report

The North Norfolk half marathon was my first proper run. I have always played sport, predominantly football and cricket, and have therefore stayed (fairly!) active. This run however felt another step up. Looking at the weather forecast on the days running up to the race, it looked as though it was going to be a hot and sunny day! And as Sunday arrived, it didn’t disappoint. I had gone for a last pre-race run on the Friday prior to the Sunday in very warm temperatures. This may have been a bad idea! I struggled, and in turn casted doubts on my ability to run the half marathon.

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When it came to race day, I was running with my sister and father. We took it easy for the first half of the race. I think we all felt pretty good. For me anyway, surprisingly good. It was very hot and on differing terrain. With it being such a hot day, hydration was paramount. The organisers had numerous water stations along the route. I think originally we had been given every 3 mile stop offs as our water stations. Thankfully they turned out to be much more frequent!

So we carried on until 2 miles to go. At this point I increased my speed slightly, as I still felt ok. Again, against what I had expected! Overall I found the run enjoyable, and as I finished, after thinking about what I was going to get from the fish and chip shop, my thoughts went straight to planning my next race.

Marcus at the finish line!

Marcus at the finish line!

Can you believe they have both finished saying they want to do it again?! *proud face*

And I’ll leave you with a few more shots that make it a proud AND a happy face…

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Running has taken over my life

Sounds like a pretty obvious statement, right? Especially for someone who writes a running blog and whose Twitter bio starts ‘Mostly just running’.

But it wasn’t until last week, when I found the photo below, that I realised how much it’s become the case.

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I’ve been a runner for four years. I can say this with certainty, because it wasn’t a gradual process. I never ran, not really even at school. Then one day, I signed up to my first race, and I ran. I pretty much became a runner overnight. Simple.

That photo up there is my medal rack as it was after We Own The Night in 2013. Just five. Now, one year and one week later, this is what it looks like.

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I’ve gone a bit crazy, huh? But like I said, I genuinely hadn’t realised quite how much. In the last year I’ve run a marathon, four half marathons and countless other shorter races. But running is the least important thing. People, experiences, travel, friends, support. That’s why running has taken over my life.

Race report: We Own The Night 2014 (aka the most perfect day of food and fitness)

The weekend kicked off early on Saturday morning, with a trip to Southwark parkrun. This is technically now my ‘home’ parkrun, as it is the closest to me, but I am also in fairly easy Overground distance of Highbury Fields, Hilly Fields and maybe even Crystal Palace too (but am yet to venture there). I decided to walk the relatively short distance over the river and along Jamaica Road to Southwark park to meet up with Charlie and Laureen who had also volunteered.

Charlie’s photo

Steph, ever the parkrun tourist, joined us from SW London as she edges to within touching distance of her 50 tshirt (just checked – she’s on 48!) I was given barcode scanning (it took me a while to get the ‘knack’ of it and at one point quite a queue had built up!), Charlie on finisher tokens and Laureen was marshalling out on the course. It was a really miserable, cold and wet morning, but it was great fun and we headed for brunch on the promise that we’d all be back soon.

Brunch was at Village East over on Bermondsey Street. Fairly quickly I recognised a lot of similarities to The Riding House Café on Great Titchfield Street (where I went for a ‘nice’ lunch with my mum a few months ago) which were in no way a coincidence as a quick Google search told me they are part of the same company, along with The Garrison, also on Bermondsey Street.

I had the bacon sandwich with avocado and chilli jam (£7) with a side of oh-so-creamy scrambled eggs (£2). Avocado is always a winner for me, and I do like a menu to make a bit of an effort wih staple brunch items such as sandwiches or a full English. Speaking of which, Charlie had the Village veggie breakfast (£10) which was one of the most inventive non-meat breakfasts I’ve come across with halloumi, egg, mushroom, tomato, quinoa, chilli and carrot. (As a side note, the Bill’s vegetarian breakfast (£7.95) is pretty ace on this front too.)

Laureen’s photo

After this, we decided we wanted brunch pudding, so headed to Del Aziz. All of us have been there before, and we decided on a pot of fresh mint tea and three cakes to share between the four of us. We went for baked cheesecake, banana and walnut cake and apple and walnut tart. I am LOVING apple tarts at the moment! The cake was massive, the tea delicious and we spent almost three hours lounging on the sofas in the corner. Devine.

Charlie’s photo

Finally, I get to the race report part. I went home, had a cake-induced nap and woke up grouchy with the rain lashing down against my window. Going to run around Victoria Park was the last thing I wanted to do. Nevertheless, soon I was stood freezing at the start line, and instead of a plan to take it easy, Charlie had somehow got me and Harry to agree to try (for as long as we could) to go sub-50. Umm, what?!

Charlie’s photo

We were the closest to the start of a race that I’ve even been, so we were off very quickly. We settled into a 8:45 pace for the first two miles, with me and/or Harry saying “I could slow down” at fairly regular intervals. We passed the awesome Cheer Dem at 4k, and despite speeding up after coming through the cheers, it become obvious by around halfway that sub-50 was off the cards.

Photo by Ash Narod

Did this mean Charlie let us step off the gas? HELL NO. She was the ultimate cheerleader and pacer all in one, tearing her way through the crowds and for most of it I literally felt like I was clinging on. It was super congested by the second lap, but somehow we managed to gain speed. Round two of Cheer Dem was even better than the first, and boosted us to a fastest final mile of 8:07. This was followed by the final few hundred metres at a pace of 7:30!

Unfortunately neither Charlie or Harry beat their PBs, but their fantastic pacing, dragging, chat and encouragement helped me take almost 3 minutes off mine (which still stood from WOTN last year), coming in at 53:15. I am absolutely chuffed with that time, and it has given me the confidence to think that one day, I might be able to conquer sub-50 (Charlie’s definitely got it in the bag).

After the race, we found a few of the TNR girls (in the tent handing out free Prosecco, natch) and we headed to Shoreditch for Pad Thai. A perfect end to a perfect day.

Charlie's photos

Charlie’s photos

Despite being really dubious beforehand and really not wanting to run at the time, this was a really, really good race. It’s come on LOADS since last year (bigger race village, speedier bag drop, more starting waves, less windy and narrow course) and I had a really great time. I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending people sign up. For me to have broken my PB at this race two years running it must be doing something right, eh?!