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ING Amsterdam Marathon 2004

 We set off from Bristol Airport on a plane (Easyjet with the B&Q uniforms is roughing it for some people but OK by me!) and eventually got off that plane in Schipol Airport after it taxied half way across Holland to the terminal. The first inconvenience was the long queues at passport control, but that was quickly forgotten by Claireís lost bag with full running kit, etc lost at the baggage caraousel. Claire took this in her stride and said that she would run in whatever after contacting Jane to bring essentials from home as she was flying out next day. However after a number of phone conversations, the bag was delivered back to the airport by someone who had mistakenly taken it as theirs. It was delivered to the apartment at 3 pm the next day.

 Our apartment was fabulous except for no heating, had hot water sometimes which was sorted out by Steve who devised a very complicated method of turning on all the hot water taps, then the shower and then saying sorted, babe! so that even the ladies (there were three I think!) could have a shower without any assistance. We had the fourth floor penthouse with balcony, whilst Lynette, Martin and the Kingdom mob slummed it on the third floor. This was OK except for the steep steps (four sets) which after the marathon proved to be agony.   

The first night in Amsterdam was taken up with playing pool in a local bar which was as we observed was the local distribution centre for drugs. The owner of the bar showed what he had got in stock with a grin on his face after Claire Spick asked him how big his stash was.  

Travelling in Amsterdam is very efficient and clean. The trains ran on time which we eventually sussed out why and why there is no need for a timetable. The times are displayed on each platform and change according to when the train comes in so when the train arrives it is on time!    

Claire Mccreery and I were the only two from the famous Bitton RR which ran the marathon this time (I believe there was a similar expedition around four years ago from Bitton). Race day was overcast with rain forecast, about 10 C and a wind blowing. Rain did not fall during the marathon, but the long sections that were exposed on both sides of the Amstel River proved to be cold. We went off first from the apartment after a morning of pre race nerves were we nearly killed each other. We were first off at 11 am and got yet another train that was on time. On the way to the changing area we had to past the menís outside portable loos which four could use at a time. Claire said that if they were adapted for female use she could have used them as she liked the fresh air when she carried out her evolutions.  

We lined up in the Olympic Stadium; off we went, crossed what we thought was the start line and started watches only to realise that was the finish line. Realising that there was now around a minute on our watches as we crossed the real start line we both decided not to fiddle about with resetting watches and got running. So every time I looked at the times I had to drop one minute, which actually made me feel good and philologically provided a boost.  

We were seen off by most of the other Bitton runners doing the 10k and half which was a great boost. The initial 7k was around a circuit which took us back to the stadium and around the running track. Then out through many streets and parks, into the country and back through the centre of Amsterdam. The first 21 km were fine, moving fine, a bit cold. Passed a couple of Plymouth Harriers which I chatted to, but otherwise nothing much to do but run! The route was flat throughout except for a couple of gentle inclines, but what was disconcerting was the number of tram tracks, speed bumps, curbs, and cobblestones along the route. 

At about 23k I caught site of the 3.15 hours Runners World pacesetters in front, so started to slowly (this took about 4k) pull up on them. I had calculated that this was were I wanted to be for a under 3.15 time, as I was about 3 minutes behind the official times sited at 21 kms, so was happy to tag along with this pace for a while. This proved dangerous as there was a big crowd of hangers on around the pacesetters, and there was fair amount of near misses with pavements, reefers, druggies and speed bumps. I kept with the pacesetters until the 37k mark where for some reason at a water stop every thing became disorganised, I lost my rhythm and the pacesetters pulled slightly away in front.    

Suddenly I became disheartened and any rhythm I had just drained away and for the next 3k it was very difficult. The last 2k however was fine as I was starting to think ahead to my next marathon and when I could inflict this pain again. But all was forgotten when I entered the Olympic stadium. This was probably one of the best moments of my running career; picture the scene, running around a superb Olympic track, loads of people cheering, a rock concert going on in the middle of the arena and the finish line in sight, all the fatigue, tired legs, and lost bags gone, I sprinted to the finish.  Claire came in shortly after looking as if she had just been walking the dog! 

Jane, Martin and Liz were was there at the end and gave Jamesís coat to me (thanks James) to wear as it got cold very quickly. Jane proved to be a real angel when she stuffed a mars bar in my mouth and coffee which was just fabulous and sorted me out.   

After the race both Claire and I discussed the race on the way back on yet another train which was on time and quickly realised that we must have ran different marathons. She ran around a long lake, saw goats and other animals in some of the parks we ran through and reckoned that there were nice blokes in running shorts which I never saw. I ran up and down the side of a river, saw a massive orange lion (ING logo) for about 3 k in front of me (No I was not smoking anything!) and saw lots of fit looking females running, which she reckons she did not see!

 The rest of time in Amsterdam was taken up with sight seeing, of particular interest was a popular bar called Teasers with scantily clad girlies selling beer, a fine combination and one which should be introduced here!. By the way we both did PB at 3.12 and 3.24, whilst Jane did a PB in the 10k and James just missed a PB in the half. The rest of the team all were pleased with their races, the whole Amsterdam experience and would recommend it to anybody, even runners. 

Now for boring the old London marathon (PS: will not be there! Did not get in) and all that hype about yet another marathon for the famous Bitton RR marathon runners to discuss endlessly!    

 Ron Shannon