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Rhythm of Egmond Half Marathon

January 12, 2011

The Egmond half is rather a “mile stone” for me. Last year I was not yet ready for a half marathon (OK forget the fact that it was cancelled due to the snow) and it has a reputation of being one of the toughest halfs in The Netherlands.

The day dawned sunny and warm (well anything above 3 Celsius is warm at the moment. Twitter was already busy busy with comments and discussions between people who were running, running the quarter, or not running due to injury (see previous blogs for tips on how to avoid these).

As I entered the start box we were already walking to the start so I was right on time. We jogged over the start. The first part of the race is a circuit around the village of Egmond. It was rather surreal as it was pretty impossible to see even where we were going and totally impossible to get any kind of pace or rhythm going. We “slingered” around, jogging and stopping and going again. Eventually there was a huge board 600 meters!

The race is FAMOUS for its 7 km stretch of beach. So 600 meters is really the warning. So here we go – no turning back I was there! The first part was terrible. Very deep sand and really no way of finding grip. Tack, tack, tack I thought, find the hard stuff. It was VERY comforting to find that, once we were on the beach there was, indeed, hard sand.

Photographs of Egmond always show the beach stretch and the long, unending snake of people. So there I was! In the picture, so to speak and it felt GOOD!

I found a pace. It was very windy. Other tips I had read, try to find a taller person to run behind. I am only 165 cms so that should not be too difficult. Well you would not believe it – it was tricky. The tall people were easy to find but someone who was running my pace was not so easy. OK, so be it – tack tack tack.

The sea was grey and menacing, roaring like a lion and the white horses came rushing in.  Occasionally we were almost in the sea – I ran round puddles and soaking wet areas – other times we were quite some way away, tack, tack , tack.

I eventually found someone to run behind and tucked in behind his shoulder. My breath was quite regular, tack tack tack. He started to run a little faster. I picked up the pace too, tack tack tack. Then he ran a little faster still – OK I get the message, not everyone likes or wants to be shadowed. I let him go and focused on keeping the pace, tack, tack, tack.

The wind was really strong. But weird. We did not run against it, occasionally it felt as if it boosted my pace. It was a sort of side wind from the sea. In fact there was wind everywhere. It was not possible to see exactly where we were running to. So I picked a spot on the horizon and focused, tack, tack, tack.

I knew that we had further to go than that but it was a break point. Indeed I was right. We passed the spot on the horizon. Sand good, temperature good, legs good, breathing good, feeling good, wind everywhere, tack, tack, tack.

Firm sand narrowing, “fighting” for the good parts and the “path” is moving in all directions. Wind everywhere – when will it stop. The end of the beach part is in sight. Its a scramble through the deep sand to come off the beach and up the hill to the downs, tack, tack, tack – Move to the right shouts someone as he and I scramble passed a few slower runners – thanks I respond as I also move in and let him by, tack, tack, tack.

The downs were fabulous! Up and down, dodging in and out of runners, spectators and dogs! NO WIND – so peaceful! I eventually found it easier to run on the left and, where possible actually on the down and off the narrow path that everyone was fighting for, tack, tack, tack. I could feel my pace lengthening a little – stay in control…

We came of the sandy, muddy part of the down onto a rugged road. MUCH easier to run on. Slightly undulating and wider so easier to pass people and let the even faster folk by. NO WIND – kms flew by, tack, tack, tack.

We continued round a corner were a few spectators with bicycles, children’s push chairs and a disabled motorised wheelchair stood and cheered. I relaxed and got chatting to a fellow runner. He was pleased with his performance so far. He could foresee that he would easily be within 2 hours. What was my expected time – I hoped for 1.50 but thought that it may be tricky now. “Indeed, I don’t think that will be possible and you should not stick around with me”. He was right. We said our good-byes and of I went, tack, tack, tack.

I found a good pace, running slightly upright, small steps under my body, staying well balanced and arms keeping close to my body in small movements, tack tack, tack.

An elderly gentlemen spectator could see how concentrated I was and encouraged me on. I now had quite a pace and wondered if I could keep this up, stay in control, breathing good, tack, tack, tack.

Oh yes, round a corner and I remember being warned about this hill! Small steps, keep the rhythm going, tack, tack, tack.

Over the hill and then we re-entered Egmond – what a party!

Music and cheering and I knew that we just had 1.5 – 2 kms to go. Still feeling REALLY good. Solid road surface. Keep the pace up, tack, tack, tack. I spotted a chap in a bright orange top – stay focused  – I think that I had seen him earlier – fantastic atmosphere – tack, tack, tack!

The finish line now in sight! Cheering and shouting. Come on the kms are counting down. Can I find a sprint, its tough, arms working harder now, I spot the man in the orange top again and give chase, tack, tack, tack! He is also running faster, keep on going just 200 m further, don’t slack off, tack, tack ,tack.

Wow! that was it, what a feeling – everybody is on a high – the atmosphere is incredible – I conquered Egmond!

Joost (husband) phoned through that I had run it in 1.52.52 – faster than the BUPA Great North Run (which, by the way, I still think is tougher)!

It was very satisfying to return home to a message that I had in fact come 200= in the ladies recreation run (out of 1381).

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