By Joseph Taylor
The trip to Amsterdam had felt like it had been in the diary for ages. From the initial email from Ian asking who would be interested it was always something to look forward to and then all of a sudden the 14th of October crept up and it was time to pack our bags and head to the North Shields ferry terminal.
The ferry trip over to Amsterdam was relatively calm, thankfully the crossing wasn’t too choppy and a few drinks in the bar allowed us all to play bingo, explore the ferry and hope for a decent night’s sleep in our bunk beds.
We woke up to find ourselves approaching the port in Amsterdam and after a quick breakfast it was time to leave the ferry, make our way through passport control and make our journey towards the hotel. By the time we arrived at the hotel, we’d managed to travel on three different modes of transport (ferry, coach and metro) and we were ready to dump our luggage in the only available room and head out to explore Amsterdam.
The first task was to head towards the Expo at the Olympic Stadium to pick up our race numbers and inevitably with a group of 30–40 people we were unable to stay altogether. Our sub-group made use of our 24-hour metro passes by getting the metro one stop to the Expo. The Expo was rammed full of runners picking up their pre-race goody bag and browsing all of the merchandise; many of these runners clearly decided to grab a bite to eat after visiting the Expo because all of the cafes and restaurants in the area were packed. Thankfully we finally found a café and after navigating the menu, which was all in Dutch, we all enjoyed delicious sandwiches and cakes. Knowing we only had a limited time to explore Amsterdam we headed towards the city centre. The city centre was beautiful and I think going in the Autumn made it even more picturesque. Every turn was a canal surrounded by trees covered in auburn leaves providing great photo opportunities. The rest of the day was spent dodging cyclists, eating in a lovely pizzeria and heading back to the hotel for an early-ish night in preparation for our races the next day. Even the slight panic that I’d left my run number on the metro couldn’t dampen the day.
Sunday was race day. The marathon and 8k was a morning start whereas the half marathon was starting slightly later at 1pm. I was running the 8k race, hoping for a stress-free run and to hopefully take in the sights around the city. We had a light breakfast and headed towards the Olympic Stadium to catch the start of the marathon and try to spot any Tyne Bridge Harriers vests. A slight panic ensued when we realized that the start line for out 8k was on the other side of the road to where the marathon was being run and with no obvious crossing point, we incorporated our ‘warm up’ into jogging around trying to find a safe crossing. We finally got to the starting line although most of us ended up in the wrong wave which was difficult when other ‘runners’ were walking right from the start of the race.
The race itself wasn’t the greatest – there was a surprising number of bottlenecks on the course meaning we ended up having to stop and walk through them. As the first marathon runners started just 40 mins before us, we inevitably caught up with the back end of the marathon. One spot in particular caused a lot of confusion where the marathon runners were supposed to go one way and the 8k runners were supposed to go the other; this was really badly signposted and two of our club ended up going the wrong way and by the time they’d realized they were on course to do way more than the advertised 8k. The end of all three of the races finished on the track of the Olympic Stadium (Amsterdam hosted the 1928 Olympics which may save you a Google search) and although the 8k race was significantly short it was nice to finish inside a stadium with a watching crowd.
A quick dash back to the hotel to have a shower and then we headed back to the stadium to watch the half marathoners start and the marathoners finish in the stadium accompanied by a portion of the most delicious frites and mayonnaise. The only slight possibly stressful moment with the whole trip was if the half marathon runners would run their race fast enough to avoid missing the ferry back home. Those that had already run in the morning helped to put all the luggage on the coach and despite an incredibly unhelpful bus driver we headed towards the outskirts of the Olympic Stadium to pick up the half marathon runners, all of whom completed the race in plenty of time (I hear Yam’s famous warm ups contributed to the speedy times) and everyone was in good spirits as we headed towards the port.
The Sunday night on the ferry was one of my favourite memories of the trip. Despite the sea being noticeably more choppy leaving the Netherlands and the ferry rocking side to side, the atmosphere amongst the group was relaxed and the camaraderie was brilliant with everybody reflecting on what a brilliant weekend we’d all had. The ferry DJ was taking requests but still managed to play the wrong version of nearly every song (Tragedy by Steps ended up being Tragedy by Norah Jones). Quite a few drinks and a lot of dancing later we all retired to our cabins.
Before the trip I wanted to explore a city I had not visited for a long time and hopefully make some new friends at the club and strengthen the existing friendships I already had. The trip surpassed my expectations and even the 90-minute wait for me to get through UK passport control couldn’t dampen what a fantastic weekend it was. It did take us a while to get used to crossing the road back in England and not expecting an influx of cyclists to be heading towards us from every direction. Where are we going for our next trip?