The Dam tot Damloop is a 10 mile, or 16,1 km run that goes from the center of Amsterdam to the center of Zaandam. I’d signed up for it months ago, so last weekend I made my way to Amsterdam. The train had a 1,5 hour delay, so I ended up spending a beautiful day looking at the sunshine from behind the window. When we finally arrived I struggled through the crowds of down town Amsterdam to reach my hostel. Right away I was branded “tourist” with a hostel wristband. In the evening I met my high school friend, whom I hadn’t seen in at least 2 years! It felt great to catch up, eat some Indonesian food and finish off with a drink before going to bed around 11pm. After all, I had a race to run…
The next day, race day, I was a bit worried. I hadn’t slept well for some unknown reason. On top of that, I had packed my tiny backpack with only summer clothes, and now the temperature had dropped and it was raining. I made my way through the wet and empty streets to find a café to hide. I opened my laptop and studied until the weather got a bit better. It was still pretty cold though and because I feared being cold at the end, I bought a cheap sweater. Then I made my way to central station to pick up my bib. It was already getting crowded. The professionals had already finished and now the company groups were preparing for their runs.
I strolled to the start to see one group start. From the start they pretty much turned left straight away, disappearing into the IJ-tunnel. Back at central station I decided to get a locker to store my stuff while I was running. However, all of them were full! I should have known I wouldn’t be the only one looking. This stressed me out. I couldn’t run with my laptop and toiletries on my back. So I went back into town and checked another locker station. They would close at 6pm, cutting it a bit close. But the friendly man recommended another location, closer to the train station actually. I lucked out, opened a locker, let out a sigh of relief and starting organizing my stuff. Two other runners were also preparing for their race.
Then, with a sandwich in hand, I joined the incredibly long line to drop off the clothing bags. The plastic backpack only contained my new sweater, but I knew I would appreciate it afterwards. I met 2 other girls who had signed up alone in line. They were already late for their start time, not expecting this queue. So after about 50 minutes, when we had dropped our bags, they went straight for the start, while I still had to wait for my time slot. The area between the station and the start was filled with runners. I walked to the blue start area, closest to the starting line. Was I in the fast group? They had sorted it by goal times.
Closer to three, the start area opened and the commentator started to psych everyone up for the race. We did some waves and listened to the chatter. At one minute before 3pm the starting pistol fired. Off we went! I paced myself as we entered the tunnel underneath the IJ, the water separating the North and South of Amsterdam, normally only accessible to cars. It was crowded at first. The tunnel’s airconditioning was giving us a head wind. At the other end we continued on a wide road. People were cheering us on from above, standing on some bridges crossing the road.
We ran through Amsterdam North. Every kilometer or so there was a band or DJ playing. In addition, there was the music from many people who had made their own little parties along the route. Kids were holding out hands, waiting for high fives. People were cheering. I heard my name, which was written on my bib in big letters, several times. The first 5 km I did at a pretty normal pace. Then I heard some guys complain: “why are some people passing us several times? What’s the point in that.” I knew I was one of them, since I had stood still for a water. I was thinking: “You know that also means you’ve passed me several times right?”. But instead of saying it out loud, I decided to pick up the pace. I didn’t see them again.
We were in a cute neighborhood now, with little houses that were all decorated with colored flags. At one house people were playing terrible, traditional Dutch music. At the next hardcore gabber music tried to make us go faster. It worked. I was flying. The atmosphere was so great here, it was tough to leave the Molenwijk and enter quieter terrain. But there were always runners alongside me. At some point I started to notice I was catching up with the slow runners from the previous start group. They had started 20 minutes earlier. I realised I was running faster than normal and remember wondering when my energy would run out. Had I been too optimistic?
But my legs kept moving. Suddenly I was at the edge of Zaandam. I had only 2 km to go. This gave me so much energy that I stepped on the gas. I really don’t know how I did this, but I started passing a lot of people. I loved running in Zaandam. All along the last stretch people were standing on the side of the road, drinking, having fun and cheering. I knew the end was close and I kept pushing myself. The one kilometer mark was almost surreal. I still had energy! So I squeezed out all that I had and came over the finish in record time. I gladly took an energy drink and my medal. What a crazy cool race this has been!