Rotterdam Marathon 2015 race report by Martin Mcloughlan
I like to read race reports so I thought I’d write one, I like reports that give you an idea of the ‘whole event’ so that’s what I’ve tried to do here, I apologise for the length and I hope you enjoy it.
Having run the 2013 Rotterdam marathon – my first – on the back of wholly inadequate training and a hip injury that prevented me running for 6 weeks before the race (apart from Lincoln 10k 2 weeks before where I aggravated the injury – 41:20 Pb tho 🙂 ) I hoped this year – my second marathon – would be a much more controlled and enjoyable affair. In 2013 I ran 4:07 and the last 10k was a real survival shuffle – walking may have been as quick and more efficient.
The Rotterdam Marathon is a great event for us here in North Lincs. I left work at 4:45 on Friday and drove with our kid Shaun and the Grouties (Matt’s a fellow Lincsquader) over the bridge to Hull. By 6.15 we were doing some last minute carb loading at the buffet on the P&O Pride of Hull / Rotterdam. After 2 beers – honestly (apart from Shaun who was on the wagon for 6 weeks before the race) and a Jordan Spieth putting master class on the Augusta National, we retired to our cabin for a reasonably early night. A poor night’s sleep was had by all apart from Darth Vader on the bunk below me.
The ship wide breakfast call at 06:00 came as a relief as the Dark Lord woke and returned to his alter ego – our Kid. Scrambled eggs on toast with side of mushrooms and a cup of coffee brought me into the Land of the living. After docking and a 35 min bus trip from Europort into central Rotterdam we walked into the Rotterdam World Trade centre to register. The race is an IAAF Gold race and plenty of the people at the expo looked lean and mean. Registration was straightforward and simple, everyone in Holland seems to speak excellent English (which is handy – my Dutch is non-existent) we grabbed our t’s then browsed the various stalls and stands as we exited. After a spot of lunch in a nearby cafe (and a naughty Amstel in Melief Bender – I blame Matt for this) we headed to our hotel, the Bilderberg Park. We chose this hotel because it’s in the city centre and a short walk from the bag drop off and race start / finish. The other reason we chose this hotel is that it’s not the Hotel Flores where we stayed in 2013. When we booked the Flores we should’ve taken heed of the 1 review we could find for it :
Good – pros bath tubes (sic), cons smell.
After another straight forward check-in it was up to the top floor for me and Shaun with a great view over downtown Rotterdam. We had an early pasta/risotto dinner at an Italian restaurant then got an early night. Fortunately Shaun accepted that he had an alter ego when sleeping and made every effort not to roll onto his back making for a much better night – until our neighbours rolled in at around 4:30, caned, talking at the top of their voices and loudly closing all the doors and cupboards they could find. I managed to get back to sleep until the alarm woke me at 6:45. Breakfast in the hotel was pretty decent, I had muesli followed by scrambled eggs, but there were plenty of continental options as well as bacon, sausage and beans if you fancied going more English.
We left at 09:00 for the bag drop, it was chilly but the sun was just clearing the buildings and you could tell things were going to heat up quite a bit. The forecast had been for clear skies and temps of 17 C or so, fortunately the fierce wind of the previous day had subsided. Bags dropped off, Shaun and Matt headed for start wave 3, Steve and his Dutch friend made their way to start wave 1, leaving me on me Jack in wave 2. It’s quite busy in and around the starting pens so elbows are needed at times to make progress. Once in the pen the close proximity of so many people meant you didn’t get too cold. As the race time of 10:00 approached the traditional singing of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ began, with 2 helicopters buzzing overhead and 14000 people singing it really makes for quite an atmosphere even if, like me, you’re a United fan.
The boom of the canon at 10:00 signalled the start of the Elite race followed quickly after by wave 1. Our pen was situated next to a giant screen so we could spend the next 10 minutes watching the Kenyans and Ethiopians leave everyone else trailing in their wake. The noise of the helicopters diminished as they followed the elite race and the nerves began a little for the first time. You’ve heard the old saying? If you can still see the helicopters you’re going too fast. After our 10 min ‘hold’ the wave 2 canon went and we moved slowly forward till we hit the timing mat at the start line … here we go then.
Needless to say it’s pretty crowded in the first few kilometres, I had my Garmin set to give me 1 k splits (I like to confirm my pace with the watch), the first 2 ks were over the 5 min/k pace I wanted to maintain but not by too much so I wasn’t too worried. I wanted to run an evenly paced race, if I try clever things like negative splits I always get it wrong. From the get go the crowds are amazing, running through grandstands at the start on Coolsingel you are introduced to the amazing Dutch support and this continues through the whole course. The 1st 2Ks to and over the Erasmusbrug Bridge are lined with people on either side shouting and cheering interspersed with live music from bands. That’s another great feature of the support, live performances along the course from Jazz to Reggae, Ska to percussion bands, DJ’s spinning some mad beats to brass ensembles, it truly is amazing.
The crowds thin a little as you approach the Feyenoord football stadium at about 5K, my K splits were 5.28,5.07,4.45,4.51,5.00.
It was at this point I saw a Union Flag on the back of a maroon jersey and thought I’d say hello. Paul Richards of the Sandwell Valley RC became my running buddy for the next 15K or so. Paul’s a great bloke who runs a lot and I mean a lot of marathons, we chatted about this event and what we wanted to achieve, we both had the same goals – The time needed to start with a ‘3’ and ideally be below 3:45. We both agreed we expected to fade in the latter stages. We continued along at a nice ~5mins/k chatting, Paul told me he was doing Boston next week and London the week after !! Sometime later this year he’ll be running the Potteries marathon his 200th 26er – it was also his first.
10 K came in an ideal 50.14 minutes spot on target, with splits of 4.54,4.44,4.52,5.02,5.04. Shortly after the 10K marker the course deviated from that we’d run in 2013, we picked up a path by a canal which was dead straight and flat for about 3.5K. The path was a little narrow meaning we had to jump onto the grass a few times to get around larger groups. Paul and I continued to chat, he told me about some of the great achievements of some of the runners from his club, the one to stick in my mind was his friend who only a few years earlier and been a similarly paced runner to me but in short order had seriously improved to 2:50 runner, when I say this to myself I wonder if I mis-heard Paul but I’m pretty sure that’s what he said. I of course regaled Paul with the amazing achievements of great and good of Lincsquad.
15 K and I still felt fine, chatting really does help pass the miles, the 15 K marker was on a street called Slinge – great name. I had been sticking to my plan of sipping water from my bottle every K, taking a torq gel every 5K and drinking water at every aid station. Having been de-hydrated in too many runs, rides and triathlons I was determined to keep drinking especially as the temperature had really climbed – toward the high teens – and I was beginning to sweat quite a lot. My splits for 10 – 15 K were 5.02,5.09,5.00,5.00,5.03 – still on target.
We chatted to a couple of other Brits, Loretta the partially sighted runner from Wales and a Metros (from darn sarf) runner who steamed past tugging us along too quickly for a few hundred yds. We quickly realised this, wished him well and let him disappear at what looked like 4.30min/K pace. Shortly after 20K we made a tight right turn back towards the city centre, the crowds had really massed again still with live music acts keeping us entertained. As we made the turn I expected to see Paul on my shoulder but didn’t, I glanced around but couldn’t see him, it was pretty busy at this point and I assumed he’d gone ahead. I looked up the road among the bobbing heads but couldn’t see him, I was disappointed, I’d enjoyed his company – I mentally wished him well and looked to settle back in to my own rhythm. 15 – 20 K splits 5.05,4.56,5.02,5.01,5.00
20- 30 K passed more slowly, I’d settled in behind Luis Rojas of Spain who’d been there or there abouts since the beginning. The half came in 1:46 which was about what I’d hoped for, allowing for the drop off toward the end I was still on course for a sub 3:45, closer to 3:30 if I could maintain the 5m ks or as close to 5m Ks as possible. Senor Rojas stuck a couple of 4:45’s in at 22K I went with him, ‘he’s upping his game’ I thought, but I still felt good so continued to follow him. By 24k I realised for the first time I wasn’t as comfortable as I had been, here we go I thought …… bad times are coming, those 2 quick ks were being paid for pretty much straight away and I still had 18 left, this is what it’s all really about I told myself, knuckle down and remember the 3 key things, form, form and form. Around 26 K you re-cross the Erasmusbrug back to the north side of the city, it was on this bridge I noticed the wind had really picked up, enough to make you bend slightly into it. I saw the shadow of a runner sheltering to my right, the wind was really quite strong now and I thought sod this, quickly manoeuvring myself around another a runner I managed to position myself in the erstwhile sheltered one’s lea – the sheltered became the shelter. Over the bridge and into downtown Rotterdam I made the decision to let Senor Rojas go, whilst not admitting defeat it did feel a little like something inside had given, was the fickle flicker of desire about to expire? I stayed strong to 30k though, managing to keep close to the magical 5m Ks. I’d promised myself a salt tablet at 30K hoping this would give me a pick up, my splits for this 10 were 5.05,4.46,4.47,5.00,5.06,5.05,5.05,5.09,5.08,5.13
30 – 35
At 30k I went for my salt tablet, I’d been thinking about it for 5k, I had a right job finding it. It was it the pouch on my bottle but I couldn’t find it for ages, eventually I located it and popped it. Right, nowt else to target except the end of the race, I felt like seven kinds of you know what, let the salt kick in…. The 31st k was slow largely down to the ‘where’s the frickin salt tab’ episode but I can’t lie, I knew the course from here and I knew it’d been terrible from here last time, I was at a low point. The park around the Kralingse Plas was the next goal. The dark underpass with the insane drummers (I heard this section described as Hell… can’t see or hear a thing) led on to the happy hardcore disco section with it 120 bpm choons and loads of people having a right laugh, shortly after this you pass beneath the cube houses, an incredible piece of architecture. The next K and a half you pass runners coming back in about 3k from home in the opposite direction, it might’ve been a bit more demoralising but for the look on some of the faces, they were heading for a sub 3 hour marathon and they looked every inch of the 39k they’d covered. I hit the park, it’s really nice but I didn’t really notice, I barely noticed the dude who’d pulled up in his VW transporter, unloaded his decks and was doing a crazy dance to some mad euro beat. There’s an aid station at about 32k, I drank water and energy drink and told myself I’d walk through the next aid station. I was in a pretty bad place but on reviewing my splits I hadn’t totally collapsed 5.58,5.26,5.16,5.16,5.19
35 – Finish
In our vernacular, I weren’t feeling good. Long straights where you can see your future hurt. It’s odd, you can’t really say what hurts, well you can ….. Your quads, your calves, your feet, but these things are not the things stopping you from going faster, it’s something inside, where runners better than me are able to push on. Combining what Steve would say into one phrase:
Enter the Pain Cave, at the back there’s the Hurt Box. Inside you’ll find a suit, a pill and a can of drink. Zip up the Man Suit, swallow the Suck It Up Pill and wash it down with the Can Of Hard.
Steve’s an ultra runner and knows these things, his best friend is pain, that way he’s never alone.
I knew I was seriously slowing so I made the decision to stop looking at my watch, it was survival now ….without collapsing entirely as I had in 2013. The Ks ticked by ever so slowly but eventually I reached the next water station. I walked whilst I drank. Back on to it and running again you pass some really nice properties, the support here was amazing, you weren’t allowed to walk. Anyone who did had their named chanted (it’s on your dossard) until they started running again. At last I saw the lake and knew I was 5k from home, if only I could’ve raised another parkrun 20 minuter. ‘One foot in front of the other and keep the turnover up’ . A left hander brings you back to the point where we’d seen the sub 3.00 finishers earlier and you can see the poor souls with 10k or so left. The last aid station is at about 40k, I walked again, drinking as I went. As I approached the end of the station I felt a tap on my shoulder and heard a soft Solihull accent – ‘Awright mate, let’s get gowing’. It was Paul, and a finely timed boost to my effort it was. I went to the finish forgetting about my aches and pains and this time felt well enough to enjoy the finish, 3:41.
Splits 5.19,5.52,5.38,5.56,5.57,5.46,6.20 (struggling desperately at the aid station),5.29 and 2.29 for the last bit. I saw Paul after the finish, he described how he’d hit the deck after going over on his ankle, hence his disappearance, no damage tho he said, he was still going to Boston.
On reflection I’m well pleased with the time, a PB, but you always think ‘if only I’d slowed a little here and a pushed a little there’. The reality is the time reflects the training I’ve done and my fitness levels.
The others ? Shaun did a 4.07 for a massive PB, Matt did a 4.39 for a massive PB and Steve (who is a 3.15 runner) did 3.38. He had a ropey first 20K during which time he felt like he felt he might faint at any time. At 25k he realised he felt good but his Dutch running partner hit the bad times at about the same time. Steve did the honourable thing and stayed with his friend….. the pretty Dutch lady, the pretty Dutch Lady with legs up to her armpits, the pretty Dutch Lady in hot pants … the honourable thing.
The mens race was won in 2:06:47
The womens in 2:26:30
Cut off 5:30.
Back to the hotel for a shower followed by a beer then I’m on the bus to the ferry, back at work for 08:30 Monday morning.
Rotterdam is a great city and the marathon is a great event. Gripes ?,1 small one – water should be available on the finish line, you have to walk a couple of hundred metres past the finish before you get a drink but that’s the only con I can think of. An IAAF gold big city marathon weekend for 350 quid (you could do it cheaper if you stay in the Flores) I thoroughly recommend it (the race not the Flores).
Lincsquad fastrax running T
Ron Hill shorts
Adidas Supernova Glide Boost 7 (Metres to Miles – awesome daps, awesome shop)
Socks free with the above
Compress Sport calf compression
Oakley Monster Dogs
Nutrition / Hydration
8 Torq Gels various flavours, 2 with caffeine for use in the latter stages
750 ml Ultimate Performance Kielder bottle with one High 5 Zero berry flavoured tab
1 salt tab
Travel / Accommodation – Thanks to Matt for a brilliant job of organising the whole thing. It’s easy when you just have to make a single payment for the whole weekend, not so easy when you’ve got to organise/book 4 people travelling out together, 1 hotel night for 4, 1 for 3 a single ferry ticket back on Sunday night and returns for the rest on Monday night.
We all ran in 2013, Matt, Steve and Shaun in 2014 and all 4 of us again in 2015 so Matt’s got it down to a slick operation now.
Car to Hull
P&O Ferries to Rotterdam
Bus to city centre
And back home to sunny Scunny