It was time to get back on the horse, metaphorically speaking. I had not toed a starting line of any sort of race since Badwater in July, so I registered for a 15 km running race (9.3 miles) located in the oddly-named town of ‘s-Heerenberg, about 80 miles east of Amsterdam, on the German border.
The decision to make the trek was made easier by the news that Haile Gebrselassie, arguably the greatest distance runner of all-time, would be running the race in his first effort since setting the world record in the marathon earlier this year in
Once we arrived in ‘s-Heerenberg, it didn’t take the rain long to start falling. And falling. And falling. A light rain quickly turned into a torrential downpour, made even more pleasant by whipping winds. I’m sure that I’ve raced in worse weather, but this was downright unpleasant.There seem to be a few differences between running races in the States and in the Netherlands. The scene at the starting line is exactly the same...people chatting nervously with friends before the gun fires. But once underway, I noticed that there was almost NO conversation between runners, unlike in the States, where you usually see/hear friends talking to one another--dependent on pace--during the race. Crowd support was great. Every little tiny village along the route turned out to see the action and encourage the athletes, despite the weather. Numerous marching bands played music as I passed, playing what sounded like national and/or folk music. And the aid stations (two or three in total) offered a curious beverage: Very warm water. Not that I was complaining, because I was freezing my ass off.
I entered the race completely untrained for speed, as I’ve just been on a fitness maintenance routine since we’ve made the move to
Remarkably, I clocked almost even splits (5k: 21:08; 10k: 21:38; 15k: 20:47) en route to a 1:03:33 finish (6:53 min/mi pace). It’s not much, but it’s a start, and I’m fine with the effort given the deplorable conditions.
I even managed to say a quick hello to Geb as he departed the awards ceremony area. It was an honor just to shake the hand of the man who has done so much for the sport of distance running.