I lose. Or win. It depends. 3:55:53, anyway.

Another in my marathon posts, but! To a new city, Rotterdam. Which is indeed a fairly new city, having been bombed to buggery (by us, mostly, I presume [update: no, I’m wrong, it was the Krauts]) during WW II. Anyway, TL:DR: 3:55:53. Which is one second slower than Amsterdam 2012.

Here’s my list, in order:

* Brighton 2011: 4:20:32.
* Amsterdam 2014: 3:58.02.
* Amsterdam 2011: 3:57:25.
* Rotterdam, 2015: 3:55:53.
* Amsterdam 2012: 3:55:52.
* Brighton 2012: 3:54:28.
* Brighton 2013: 3:46:34.
* Brighton 2014: 3:43:42.
* Amsterdam 2013: 3:43:06.

So if I’d pushed just a tiny fraction harder it could have been my median marathon. Perhaps it is, to within timing accuracy: my watch gave me 3:55:52. My long term ambition is to get down to 3:30 before I die, or possibly it will be simultaneous, let us hope not.

A few short notes on the marathon, as a thing to run

2015-04-12 14.45.10

Well, it was flat. Even flatter than Amsterdam :-). They didn’t carefully sign post the bag-drop, which lead to some anxious pre-start moments. They kept faithfully to the tradition of all marathons by not having nearly enough toilets at the start. Water was in cups, instead of the wasteful bottles, which is nice but hard to drink from. But, they had a foam-disk insert in the cups, with a cut-out, so you could drink from it without spilling much, and then use the foam as a sponge to cool your fevered brow; good. There were also sponge points.

Overall: a good marathon; I’d go again. Especially if I forget to register in time for Paris, again.

Too long trip report


Caught 19:44 train from Cambridge. Actually had 5+ mins free but had to sweat to get there on time because I wasn’t sure. Next time, leave 5 mins earlier. To ferry fine (they took us on board on a bus onto the car deck, for some unknown reason). Cabin, indoor, fine though not nearly as nice as the de luxe ones. To resto for evening meal, fruit salad and bread roll if I recall correctly. And a coffee, obviously.

Watch a bit of TV, read a bit of stuff (M bought me a new Kindle as a bday present, since she’d nicked mine, effectively; all I’d loaded up was the Bible and I’ve sort-of resolved to read it. Read it on the train, starting at the beginning, but its heavy going – all the begats, and the weird wanderings for now obvious reason; got past Sodom and Gomorrah which really isn’t as exciting as it sounds). But on the ferry I switched to “Poor Economics” which has a punchy beginning and I was getting something from it, though I’d be somewhat hard pushed to say exactly what. To sleep.


Bing bong! We’d like to tell you that in <quite a long time> we’ll be docking, so why not get up real early and buy stuff? Groan. Nonetheless, get up around 7 – I’ll want to tomorrow – and have a full English buffet breakfast, which is rather good: sos, bacon, egg, fruit, coffee, orange juice. We dock.

I think: well, I have free time, and I’ve always wondered what Hoek van Holland Strand is like, so why not find out? The answer is, “windy”. But also beautiful, in a rather bleak way. Take the 1-minute train from Haven to Strand, then walk down, its only about a km: there’s the low sea wall with road, which protects the channel, and stretching off Eastwards the sand dunes and beach. Mooch around, conscious that I really don’t want to walk too far the day before. There are cafes and stuff, but somehow I don’t feel like going in. Realise I forgot to note the time of the trains from Haven, but as it happens I get back just in time to catch one.

And so to Rotterdam. I’ve been told bad things about it – bombed to buggery in WWII and rebuild in brutal fashion. But actually its rather good. Any number of weird and wonderful modern buildings that I’d consider disaster areas in London, but here they fit. You can do whatever you like it seems, and people do. Some slight confusion over my route, and it rains off and on, but its fine, and cross the Erasmusbrug and then – perhaps a bit further than I’d really like – to Suithotel Pincoffs. Which is gorgeous. They’re terribly terribly nice people, and its all very ecological & the ambience is good. My room is very large, and quite possibly taller than it is long. It contains an enormous wardrobe that it manages to make look small, some decent chairs, a coffee machine, and a good view of the local lifty-bridge and the main river channel and the Erasmusbrug. Fairly soon after I settle in an enormous ocean-going oilrig supply-type vessel (well, its bright red and has a helicopter platform) comes by, and I discover that a bit of the Erasmusbrug is lifty too (they’ve even found a cute way to make the tramway cables connect). And then, a moment of comedy, the local lifty-bridge, which is pretty enormous, raises itself and I think “oh how interesting, something big is coming” but no, its just some little 2-man cruiser that doesn’t quite fit under the road.

View from my room. The ship wasn’t always there, you understand.

Then its time to meet B for lunch, and “Little V”, the V being Vietnam. I go “the other way round” over the red bridge, and see the remains of the old railway lifty-bridge, which is missing its central section and looks like two colliery towers. I’m only 15 mins late, and wouldn’t have been that late except the map deceived me. A good lunch – noodles, veg, spring rolls, that kind of thing, since I’m happy to be veg and B is.

After, to the weird U-shaped “indoor market” which is also an appartment complex – you have to see it. Weirdly, I’d first seen it on The Phytophactor, who’d got slightly the wrong idea – its not a local farmers market. Anyway, after some searching we found decent coffee – from two different shops, B is more picky than me – and somewhere to drink it. And so, goodbye, with the correct *3* kisses because this time I asked. Three in Holland.

That took me to about 4. the weather was clearing. Walk back, via a Spar to buy bread, sliced Oud cheese, and Rembrandt apples, and some blueberries, which were to be my supper, since the hotel doesn’t do supper and I couldn’t be bothered to go out. And so to my room, and sit in the nice white leather chair looking out over the world and using their fine internet. Have a long bath. That was another surprise of the suite – walking into the bathroom and going Wow, because it too was enormous, and desperately tasteful. It even had a watching Buddha.

After, realise that the boat race is on, and I’m in a position to watch it. Woot. I’ve missed the women’s – we won, easily it appears – but the real one (oops, sorry) is on soon. Kewl. Intro, blah, then we’re on the start line trying to get straight. Cambridge are heavier, but we’re favourite, though there will be a headwind which favours the heavier crew. After much faffing they’re straight and started quickly, but Cambridge stuff up their first stroke or two quite badly, and we gain a couple of seats, and then a few more, and then they hold us at 1/2 length. Around the first small bend we don’t get much, and then its their bend, still more or less level, but we hold then. Its an exciting race. I keep waiting for us to fall back because of teh bend, but we don’t. Then after Hammersmith, suddenly, while the commentators are nattering about something else, suddenly, we’re ahead. Looking at a replay on youtube, it takes about 40-50 strokes for us to go from maybe half a length up to clear water, and move across in front of them, at which point it essentially over, because Cambridge get our puddles. but we keep pulling away, and its 6-7 lengths by the finish, and at that distance they have no such excuse. Woo! Post to facebook, where oddly enough my euphoria is not shared.

The rest of the evening, quietly.


Alarm for 6:45 as b’fast starts at 7, but I get down politely at 7:05. They’re very attentive – I’m first down – and have done a special “runners world” museli that I have, though I’d rather have porridge. Also fresh orange juice, coffee, fruit, croissant with honey. Very pleasant. By the time I’m finished its still before 8 so I have an hour to kill by visiting the toilet a lot.

Its sunny, BTW. A very promising day – much better than running with yesterday’s weather. Wind is fairly quiet, too. Set off with an hour to go, because it takes about half an hour, and I’m cool. Over the E’brug, and start wondering where baggage drop is – I’ve elected for delayed checkout from the hotel, but I’m wearing spare clothes and stuff so need it. Eventually, with only 15 mins left, find it beyond the start line around the corner – they really could have signed it better. Join the toilet queue – of course. D’oh: no toilet paper. I’ll spare you the details. Now, where’s the start line / pens? Well, somewhere around, and eventually find the right place to stand with 5 mins to go, turn on GPS, and all is ready. At 10 the race goes off – I can tell from the music and the cheering – and 5+ mins later we shuffle off the pavement into the road, and I cross the start line at 10:13. Which is fine really: who cares exactly when you cross? Am resolved to run a sane race, which means not fast, 5:20-5:30 seems about right, and that’s pretty what I settle at. Its about 3.5 km before I can run at “my pace” anyway.

People I hate at marathons: bozos who are clearly hopeless but who have put themselves into a high start bin. Idiots who run in groups blocking the road.

There’s a slight oddity to the start and first maybe 5 km, and actually much of the route: being a fine Dutch road, it had a tramline down the middle. So whichever side you start on, you’re stuck on, for quite a long time. I doubt it matters greatly.

Going over the E’brig should have been a highlight of the race, its glorious and all, but actually I spent most of it staring at the back of the guy ahead of me. I try to run efficiently.

2015-04-12 09.14.39

And so, round we go. I know I’m not in training and feel no obligation to try for a good time, so its all fairly comfortable for the first 20 km or so. Or even the first 30, perhaps; I don’t often have to kick myself up a bit. 27 km passes coming back over the E’brug which is a nice marker. My left calf is starting to talk to me. its not torn, a-la Cambridge, but its clearly not as happy as the right. Weakly, I decide to use this as yet another excuse not to push too hard. I really don’t want to have to limp round. At 27 km I’m doing little calculations to myself like “right, that’s 15 km to go. That’s not so far, is it? And I’m here before 2:30.” (actually 2:28 I think). “So, from this point, if I hit no better than 6:00 I get round in under 4:00 – so that’s good”. I was kinda hoping to stick to 5:30, which might have given me 3:50, but that didn’t happen.

It started to get grim around 32, and really grim around 34. That’s only 8 km to go, which really isn’t far, but when you’re struggling to maintain 5:45 its a long way. My tummy wasn’t terribly happy, and didn’t want me to eat more energy gels, so I skipped the one I would have had at 33 and had one at 38, and finished the race with one spare. Perhaps a mistake. From 39 I could smell the finish and things got better, I even pushed a bit, before realising quite how empty I was. Then I crossed the “1000 m” line, and its really not far from there, although 5 minutes is a long time at that point. And so, over the line, just within 3:56. Woo!

The familiar ritual: medal, banana, drink, baggage reclaim, and walk slowly and stiffly back. I sat down for a little, but not too long, which makes me think I hadn’t pushed myself as hard this time as I have before.

Hotel, long hot bath, post time to M and to Facebook, and sit quietly for a while.

Eventually its time to leave. Its been a very pleasant stay. I’ve checked; trains to HvH are every half hour, so it doesn’t matter when I get to the station; walk back slowly, eschewing the taxi proffered. And catch train with 3 mins spare, good.

The idea is to get to HvH early, so I can go for a walk on the beach. This seemed like a great idea back in a warm sunny hotel, but on the coast its a bit cloudier and a *lot* windier. Hmpf. Well, never mind, do it anyway: walk out all the way along the seawall-road, past even the bit where it says “it can be dangerous”. At the end, lie down to try to be out of the wind somewhat, and watch huge ships.

Then, back to the ferry, on board, and here I am, just finished my Heineken while writing this.


* Overconfident and undertrained
* 58. Addicted to global mean temperature – Isaac Held.

9 thoughts on “I lose. Or win. It depends. 3:55:53, anyway.”

  1. Question is, how close were you to being the median placed runner for the event?

    I’ve noticed that 2h is about 50% for half marathons, but also that the field is very dense for the few minutes either side. Whole marathons might be generally slower…?

    [As it turns out, almost exactly in the middle, both overall and for category. The race results (http://www.nnmarathonrotterdam.org/report-2015/race-results/) say:

    Overall place 5652 / 11879
    Category place 588 / 1221



  2. On the even of the Boston Marathon, I salute you. We have boat races too (the “Head of the Charles” in October, which unfortunately overlaps our For Point Open Studios. But still … you rock, if you don’t mind my saying so.

    [Thank you. It would be nice to row abroad, some time. But running is easier -W]


  3. Nothing on Shapps?

    [There’s loads on Shapps. Its all over the news, you must have heard it. Oh, you mean I haven’t written about it 😕 Its quite interesting in fact, I will -W]


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