Ready to buzz with the very best sport in a truly amazing setting? Fair enough, we’d normally talk about the Van Gogh Museum, or the Red Light District, or the iconic canals, or Anne Frank’s house, or the huge variety of attractions in this exceptional metropolis. We’re changing tack, however, because it’s time for the Amsterdam Marathon, a long-established event of international standing.
In 2016 over 200,000 people packed out the streets of this emblematic city and more than 10,000 cheered on the participants as they entered the imposing Olympic Stadium at the end of the race. Whether at a trot or at a gallop, every October — this year on the 15th — runners are the genuine stars of the Dutch social calendar. As the event requires, they’ll take on a route of 42km and 195m, through some sensational cityscapes. Served up on a plate by Amsterdam itself.
The starting point for this race was back in May 1975, which means that it’s now celebrating 42 editions. A symbolic anniversary given that it coincides with the distance covered in this demanding and charismatic celebration of athletic prowess. Sheer audacity. So much so that organisers and sports lovers alike recommend caution through rigorous, long-term and comprehensive training programmes so as to experience the challenge in the best of health.
“To honour Pheidippides, at least once in your life, is a great objective for your service record as a vocational long distance runner. To do so well trained, with the help of a sports professional and having taken a cardiac stress test shouldn’t just be advisable, it should be mandatory. A marathon is no joke and taking it lightly can have dramatic outcomes.” Advice from the Runner’s World Editor in Chief, Alberto Hernández, for Ling.
Pheidippides, you’ll recall, was a hero of Ancient Greece, the man attributed with starting off this great sporting spectacle of our times. Legend has it that the famous Greek soldier covered the near-40km distance from the city of Marathon — yes, that’s where the name comes from — to Athens to announce the good news of victory over the Persian army in 490BC. And he did it on foot, of course. Surviving the adverse conditions of the age.
Photos: Merijn Roubroeks and Wouter Roosenboom
And his feat was even greater, according to mythology… But that’s another story. Let’s return to the starting point and finish line, the infallible city of Amsterdam, where 16,500 places have been made available for this extraordinary marathon recognised by the IAAF with the Road Race Gold Label, awarded to the very best races in the world and shared by other giants such as Paris, Berlin, Boston, London and New York.
Thousands of Pheidippides will meet up to compete, put themselves to the test, overcome a personal challenge. The Olympic Stadium, which hosted the Olympic Games in 1928, will provide both prologue and epilogue for an event that gets underway in the morning and goes on for various hours in the outskirts of Amsterdam. A flat, fast and attractive route, with the final kilometres along the beautiful Vondelpark.
Raúl Gil, a Spanish professional athlete, encourages the daring to take on these 42.195km and to value the work put in during “the months beforehand, all the different sacrifices: family, personal, meteorological, etc. etc. But the satisfaction of achieving your goal outweighs all of that. Except the one thing that should always be valued above all else: your health.”
Once again, health is all-important. No-one should overlook their physical training for this race, even those who feel in great shape. And — why not?— in the days before or after this great celebration of sport, visitors can — or rather, visitors must — organise another marathon: this time, of leisure, culture and gastronomy. In this way, sightseeing in the gorgeous city of Amsterdam, your performance in any kind of challenge is sure to improve. The website Sportravel.es, whose slogan reads “The world is a great place to run,” suggests making the most of this race to “enjoy one of the most active and cosmopolitan cities on the continent.” This event, which has been designed not only for experts but for the whole family, gives runners the opportunity to participate in a half marathon or an 8km race too. It’s all managed from the official website.
So, whether or not you’ll be donning your running shoes, get warming up. We can experience the spirit of the marathon as enthusiastic spectators. Amsterdam never disappoints. Let’s buzz with the very best sport in a truly amazing setting.