by Marie Bradley

Around 20 Sportsworlders plus partners travelled to Amsterdam last weekend for the Amsterdam half marathon. The preparations for this trip began in April and were prompted by the success of last years’ trip to Krakow.  The group comprised the club seniors and juniors and supporters coming along for the craic.  I was the “newbie” in the group, and I think that’s why I drew the short straw to write this report.  However, my revenge tactic is to write a weekend report rather than a race report!

Overall it was a great weekend of comradery and good fun.  The teamwork began when I realised, after my arrival in Amsterdam, that I had left my mobile phone at the security check-in in Dublin airport (every iphone user should ensure they have activated “find my iphone” in their settings!).  Eileen who was in terminal two at the airport passed on the contact details of the terminal one gang and within a few minutes Maria was sweet talking the security personnel to extract my phone from their care and return it safely to me when she got to Amsterdam.     

As the advance party we researched the Amsterdam public transport options, taking account of the location of the hotel, the Olympic stadium and city centre.  Little did I realise what a big part that decision was have on our travel schedules over the weekend.  It was our luck that the rail line from the city centre to the hotel was closed due to engineering works…. that left only one option to get around – the BUS! The magic bus was on route “346” ……not 300, 357 or 397 but more about that later.    

Once the Sportsworld army arrived in the hotel, next step was to set off to the expo to collect race numbers.  The group broke up into mini gangs at this stage and dinner that evening was a random affair in various restaurants in the local area.  Night caps didn’t really feature when people returned to the hotel, so it was off to bed in preparation for the big race on Sunday.

As the half marathon didn’t kick off until 1.30pm everybody had to have breakfast – some were brave and had three courses while others nervously tossed food around their plate, worried about the consequences of eating too much……this was on the menu….

The evacuation from the hotel to the start line commenced around 11am.  Some left it a bit late and had to be escorted to the stadium by the locals….

One of the highlights of the races last weekend was to start and finish in the iconic Olympic Stadium built in 1928.  We had plenty of time before the race to look around and view the sub three-hour marathon runners cross the finishing line.

As usual the race had different starting areas dividend by colour.  There was some shifting between zones but here is the pink zone group. 

Phil was in the orange zone…here she is missing her friends….

The racing conditions were perfect.  A flat course was a guarantee.  The route went through the heart of the world-famous Rijksmuseum, followed stretches along the banks of the Amstel and towards the end went through the Vondelpark and Zuidas district.  

We all know what makes a race extra special – it’s the support of family, friends and followers along the route ….however, there are exceptions – namely Aoife, Olive, Nick and my husband Martin – they were not to be seen ….lunch (and alcohol to help it go down easier) was a greater priority!  Paddy did better…he produced photos of the Sportsworld runners passing by but google maps indicates that he was about 500m from the stadium….       

Everybody had a super race.  Padraic was the first Sportsworlder to cross the finishing line and Grainne led the charge amongst the women folk.  Bronwyn achieved a PB.  As a first timer so did I but I managed to clock up 21.95km instead of 21.1km…. Emily and Myles will kill me!  Ray and Paul with their usual casual but steady strides romped home in style while Rosie and Maria kept a close eye on each other.  Eileen, Audrai, Siobhan and Ellen kept each other company throughout the course and ran super races as did Phil and Anna.  Aileen, Carol, Sean and Trevor displayed their real class and are great mentors to us all as is Judith who ran the 8km race earlier in the day.    

The excitement of crossing the finishing line was displayed in style in the bar of the Olympic Hotel afterwards.  Some gathered Dutch courage (no pun intended!) for the journey home.  For the record it was supposed to be a very straight forward DIRECT bus journey on route 346. However, Olive, Paul and Audrai knew better and insisted on crossing a motorway to take the 397 – it has 22 stops and a total trip duration of 65 minutes -aka the scenic route home.  We even passed Schiphol Airport and they reached out to the WhatsApp group to take orders for duty free.  To make matters worse they missed the stop in Haarlem so we had to go to the terminus – earlier they had got off the bus, decided that it was the wrong bus stop and had to get back on…at this stage my patience was wearing thin but my efforts to hail a taxi using the Free Now app were in vain.  There was no other option but to take another bus to the hotel.  At that stage I stood charge of the situation and carefully, with the assistance of the bus driver, navigated them home safely – we had 12 minutes to get ready for 8pm dinner in the Italian restaurant. 

While we were taking the scenic route back to the hotel, the rest of the group were raiding the mini bars in their hotel rooms, compliments of the hotel (never give an Irish group a complementary mini bar!).  Our only hope was that they had left some hot water and shower gel for us to wash away our troubles.

Dinner was in a local restaurant around the biggest table in the city…..vino, beer, grey goose (of the vodka rather than fowl variety) were flowing……birthday wishes for Maria were followed by lots of laughs and banter….the Irish were in town having a great night out…next up was a visit to a local bar where the DJ had to dig into his archives to find crazy Irish songs like “Come on Eileen” and the like……..the breakfast room in the hotel was empty the following morning.

Plans for next year will begin shortly.  Some initial suggestions are an artic run with polar bear stewards or a Saraha marathon in the desert with some camels……we need some responsible adults to take charge (you’ll agree that some members are just not sufficiently qualified) so all suggestions please to Michael who’ll discretely make the final decision without offending anyone.