Run Tourism – Holland

Earlier in the year I ventured into the world of run tourism for the first time on a trip to Spain, I made sure to ask my wife if she minded me taking my kit and I was given the green light so off I went exploring around Albir, Althea and Benidorm.

IMG_20170818_151111Last week we went to the Duinrell holiday park in Wassenaar, Holland, when I say “we”, this wasn’t your average family holiday, this was 10 adults and 14 kids aged 3-13. I didn’t need to ask if I could take my kit this time, being in the middle of full on marathon training at the moment Catherine knew it was coming and that I’d be disappearing a couple of times to explore and get some miles in my legs.

Before travelling I put out a request on Twitter for any recommendations and the very kind Heart Runner Girl suggested a couple of possible runs for me based on her local knowledge. I managed three runs while I was there, all on different routes and all had their own particular features.

After the overnight ferry from Hull to Rotterdam we arrived at Duinrell on the Saturday, the first day was spent acclimatising and finding our way around the park and what it had to offer. I was already itching to get out though and so first thing on Sunday morning I was up and heading for the beach. It was a beautiful morning and after running down a few tree lined avenues the road turned slightly and the dunes that dominate this area of coastline began.

What I immediately noticed too was how everyone appeared to be catered for. There was the road, then a separate cycle path, a separate pavement and also a sand covered bridleway. Part way down to the beach the route forked and the road went off to the right whilst the other paths veered off left. I’m always cautious crossing roads abroad so the knowledge that I was on my own path helped me to relax and enjoy my run. After around 5k the path and road converged again at the main beach car park and then I followed the short path down to the beach itself, having taken a few photos I made the return trip and arrived back just as the rest of the family were waking up. It was a very straight forward run and clearly a popular one as I passed over 20 other runners in the 45 minutes of so that I was out. Without fail, everyone acknowledged me with a nod, a smile, a wave or said good morning (at least that’s what I think they were saying, my Dutch isn’t that great!). The knowledge gained during the run came in handy the next day when we decided on a trip to the beach. There was no way I was going to try and walk down to the beach with the kids given the distance but I knew we could park easily and having seen the bars and snack outlets I also knew that we’d be well catered for.

My second run was very much in the “make it up as you go along” category. This time I headed away from the beach and into the centre of Wassenaar, I came across a beautiful old windmill as I wended my way through the streets and then I discovered the various dykes and waterways that criss-crossed the town so I decided to follow them for a while and see where I ended up. The run was so tranquil, despite it being late afternoon and it was great to take in something so quintessentially Dutch. I did end up at a dyke that I couldn’t cross and so had to do a U-turn but that’s part of the adventure of exploring in this way. Eventually I ended up back at Duinrell after just over 10k and in time to fire up the BBQ for some well earned burgers, bratwurst and beer.

The third and final run was another early morning start this time in the direction of Den Haag. I followed the cycle path signs which indicated 10k to the city which is the official seat of Dutch government, home to the Netherlands’ monarch, parliament, ​and supreme court. The cycle path and pavement are away from the main roads and there were some gorgeous views of mist lingering across the fields as the sun came up. The cycle path signs made this a very easy route to follow and nearing the outskirts of Den Haag the signs changed to point you in the direction of various local landmarks. I decided to follow signs for the World Forum and this route took my through a beautiful park. I’d deliberately not checked my Garmin during my run but I felt like I maintained a decent pace assisted in no small part by the flat landscape which was in stark contrast to many of my normal routes. Just after 11 miles I checked my time and it looked like I could be on for an unofficial half marathon PB if I kept the pace up (I say unofficial as to me official PBs are set during races, I know people have different opinions on this but that’s my view). I felt good at this point and so I worked hard to keep going. My total distance for the run was 14.1 miles but when I saved the run I got that lovely “new record” message saying my new half marathon best time was 1:42.13, my official best time set at the Leeds Half Marathon earlier in the year is 1:44.55, let’s just say the two landscapes are rather different and I’m hoping that the flat lands around York can bring me an equally speedy time in a couple of weeks on my marathon debut.

All in all this was another great run tourism experience, I loved finding my way around a new place and taking in some of the local sights, next time you are away somewhere new why not take your kit and give it a try, don’t forget to put your feet up too though!

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Pendle Running Festival 10k – Race Review

A pile of horse manure, plenty of hills, homemade flapjack and the warmest welcome you could hope to receive, it may sound like a rather odd combination but that pretty much sums up my Saturday morning at the Pendle Running Festival 10k.

If you are looking for a big budget event with all the trimmings then this race is probably not for you. What you do get here though is a wonderful running community spirit, some spectacular scenery (albeit shrouded in mist this morning) and a course that asks you plenty of questions.

I arrived around 45 minutes before the start and headed to the registration at Barley village hall to collect my race number, the great and good of the East Lancashire running scene were already in evidence with plenty of runners from Trawden AC and Clayton Le Moors Harriers sporting their club colours. There were also a smattering of runners from other clubs and I passed on a bit of local course knowledge to a few chaps from Holcombe Harriers as they stood inspecting the course map.

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Following the signs down to the start I did wonder for a moment if I was lost, I went down a path, over some cobbles, then down another muddier, rockier path and emerged in a clearing next to a rather large pile of horse manure. I was soon joined by others though and given there was a Start sign here we figured this was it. The race organiser appeared and after a short briefing about the dangers of narrow country lanes and the promise of home baked goods and bacon butties at the finish we were off.

The festival holds a 10k and half marathon on its first day and both groups set off together, 131 runners in total, going back up the path the way we’d come was a bit tricky, thanks to the man holding the low hanging tree branch up out of everyone’s way here! We soon emerged onto the road though and fanned out down towards Roughlee.

The weather was overcast with slight drizzle, perfect in my mind for running and the first mile and a half or so went by pleasantly, we even took in a bit of local history passing the Pendle Witch statue.

 

I knew things were about to change abruptly though as we took a sharp left turn onto Stang Top Road. It felt like a scene from the Tour de France, one minute the peleton is racing along in a bunch on the flat, the next they head uphill and it splinters. Stang Top Road is tough, steep and pretty much unrelenting save for a short downhill section before the final climb, if you do the half marathon you have the pleasure of running this beast twice! Some people started to walk, others seemed to be going backwards, I kept my head down and my legs moving and put my faith in my training and the fact that I actually enjoy hills, weirdo!

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I ignored the drink station at the top and carried on, up more hills, thankfully the gradient was slightly less than vertical this time and there were a few more flat and downhill sections thrown in. What I loved was that everyone was watching out for each other, everyone talked as they passed each other, some were clearly running in pairs or threes, the roads were marshalled but still open and so whenever a car was coming the call went up and along the line of runners from back to front as a warning. I also experienced a first in running on roads with cattle grids, given the rain these were treacherous and navigated with extreme caution.

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After heading across the moor towards Pendle Hill the route took a left back towards the finish at Barley. There was another uphill section into a headwind to negotiate before the final mile or so of pure downhill. I’ve consciously been working on my downhill running and I really saw the benefit, a 6:33 mile after all the climbing my legs had done felt fantastic. I had enough in the tank for a sprint to the finish and was welcomed home by others finishers as I crossed the line in 50:01. As there was no chip timing my Garmin gave me all my times and splits but I didn’t find out until later in the day that I was actually the 17th male finisher and 20th overall in the 10k field of 63.

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I was presented with my medal and a bottle of water and remembering the briefing I went back to the village hall to pick up a brew and some lovely gooey flapjack which I enjoyed whilst cheering more runners home and seeing some of the half marathon field back out on the rest of their race.

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I can genuinely say that I really enjoyed myself. The event was well organised, well marshalled and there was a real feel good factor about everything, this was running at its basic best. Today was never going to be a PB for me, today was about trying a new event, getting more miles in my legs, taking on a challenging course and pushing myself and I ticked all those boxes and met some lovely people too, what better way is there to spend a Saturday morning? I’ll definitely be back next year, I might even give the half marathon a go, I do love them hills!

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Man With A Plan

Sunday 8th October 2017, when I look back in years to come this day will either be fondly remembered with a smile and a glowing sense of satisfaction and achievement or there’ll be a grimace, a rueful shake of the head and thoughts of what might have been.

All roads, all thoughts, all the training I have been putting in, even the majority of what I have been writing about on here, ultimately lead to the York marathon and last week I started my marathon training in earnest. I like organisation and structure and wanting to give myself the best shot of making it to the start line in good shape I have put together the obligatory training plan. I’ve seen numerous plans online, a good friend sent me a plan he previously used (65 miles in a week at its peak!), and various people have suggested plans that have worked for them. We are all unique beasts though and so the plan that I have come up with is designed to suit me in terms of my current fitness, where I need to push myself to distance wise and when I am actually able to get out and run.

My aim is to do two longer runs per week along with a shorter, faster run built in too. Depending on how I feel and what I can fit in around life, I may also add some short bits of speed work and some track or field laps too, the plan really though is to build up sensibly to around 40 miles per week which I think is manageable, will give me the chance to spend plenty of time out on my feet but won’t push me beyond what I can reasonably achieve at the moment which would then increase my risk of injury and the whole thing falling apart around my ears.

In all honesty I have probably over thought this whole experience but the memories of the Great North Run 2007 when I was woefully under prepared nag me still. I know my running, my fitness and my preparation are already so much better than they were then and if someone held a gun to my head now and told me to run a marathon I could probably do it but I want to enjoy the day and if I do then I will have the confidence to enter future marathons. The battle here is almost entirely in my own mind, as the rational thoughts are shouted down by the self-doubt and the fear of the unknown.

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Looking at the positive though marathon training week one has gone well. First of all my fantastic wife offered to bring forward my 40th birthday present by 5 months and so I have a shiny new Garmin Forerunner 35 to play with and my hope is that this will really help me to nail down my pacing and give me confidence that my legs will last the distance, I’m also a data geek so love looking at all the stats it fires out. My first run of the week was deliberately hilly as I prepare for the challenging course of the Pendle Running Festival 10k on 15th July, a solid 7 miles, followed on Wednesday by a quick 5 miler, as both runs coincided with summer (yes that was it folks, summer came and went last week, we’re on the downhill to Christmas now, if you missed it you missed out) I came home in a rather sweaty state after both. Friday’s 13 miles were a lot cooler though and felt good especially since I haven’t run more than 10 miles since the Leeds half back in mid May, looking at the myriad of stats from my Garmin my pacing was rather wonky but where I live and run is an undulating environment and so I’m never going to get it bang on.

The countdown then is now on, I love it when a plan comes together!