Race report: Rotterdam Marathon 2015
“Hand in hand, we will cross the finish line, schatje.”
That’s what I wrote on the Rotterdam Marathon 2015 wall when we picked up our start numbers on Friday afternoon. After that we decided to skip the last training and head over to restaurant Napoli to enjoy some wine, pasta and aperitivo. We had a good feeling about the marathon. We trained hard, we kept to the schedule despite very busy months and we were confident about the finish line. But sometimes, things do not work out the way you planned.
During dinner, on the night before our last long run of 35,5 kilometers, our friend asked, “But what’s the worst that can happen right?” We didn’t know. “Cramps.” Her boyfriend replied.
And the worst thing happened.
The first 30 kilometers went great. We had an annoying start because of the volume of runners but we found our right pace after about 20 kilometers when the number thinned and the road became wider. We kept to the 6:00min/km tempo and even managed to go under that for about 5 kilometers.
At one of the water stations, Robin stomped on a plastic cup that got stuck on his shoes. He stomped too hard that the first onset of cramp set in. After stretching a little bit, we moved on. This was just at the beginning of the route leading to the Kralingse Bos.
At about 34 kilometers, another wave of cramps on his hamstrings made us stop for the second time. I could see how agonizing it was for him. During our training, I had two runs with severe cramps. It made me howl in pain. Robin never had cramps during the training.
After stretching a little bit more, we continued running but at a much slower pace. I kept on looking at my watch. I told him, “We can still make it to 4h:30m.”
“I don’t fucking care about the time,” he blurted. A couple of kilometers after that we stopped again. He didn’t want to continue. “Just go on, you can leave me behind.”
“You are in the middle of the Kralingse Bos with no money and no phone. You have no choice!” I yelled. Everything went downhill from that point.
In addition to the pain and the cramps, he was nauseous. It was probably a combination of too little breakfast and too much heat. We trained in the winter and he was not used to a running temperature above 10 degrees. He was a bit dehydrated and we’ve run out of water a long time ago already.
From kilometer 37, we were switching from walking, dribbling and a very slow running pace. I’ve stopped looking at my watch since the 35th kilometer. At that time, my only concern was for us to reach the finish line without Robin collapsing. He was very dehydrated. I even gave him a pain killer to help ease the pain a bit. Several times he said that he doesn’t want to continue anymore. And every time I told him to look me in the eye, take a deep breath and that he can do it! I told him to curse to release all the frustration.
It is amazing how he managed to push on despite the pain. Indeed, your body is capable of a lot more if you put your mind to it. At first I was ashamed of our time because I had too much expectations. Now I am very proud of how we tackled the very difficult time in Kralingse Bos.
At kilometer 39, fatigue was already setting in on my upper legs. I was also very hungry so thank you to that kid who handed me a banana. But you have to bite on through the pain because you know that there’s only 3 kilometers left. At around 40 km, our friends Fleur and William were cheering on us. William even ran a few meters with Robin. That gave us a little boost.
Robin wasn’t talking anymore. There’s no more trace of pain on his face, just fatigue and a look of determination. We picked up on our pace and the enthusiastic crowd gave us a little more push. When we were about turn right to Coolsingel, he grabbed my hand and squeezed tightly. We were going to make it.
Hand in hand to the finish line
We were running behind the group of blind runners so at the last 200 meters, I yelled at him “Ga inhalen (overtake)”. Because we were not going to be in the picture if we stay behind them. He made one last sprint, almost leaving me behind but I caught on and we crossed the finish line, hand in hand.
Our official time is 4h:46mins. I was very disappointed when I got my engraved medal. Robin didn’t even want to see his time. But looking back now, I am very proud of our time considering how many times we’ve stopped. We ran the first 30km in 3h:05m and the last 12kms in 1h:30.
I felt quite guilty while Robin was suffering. He didn’t even want to run the marathon. He just didn’t want me to train alone. He knew it would be difficult for me, considering how I cannot even navigate a new city without getting lost. Despite rain, snow, storm and two weeks of agonizing toothache, he never let me run alone. He mapped our routes and navigated us throughout South Holland for our long distance runs. He dealt with my hot-headedness, mood swings and cursing, with so much patience. If it hasn’t been for him, I probably would have not even made it to the start line.
When he was finally feeling alive again at home, he joked “You see how much I love you? I’d run a marathon for you.” To which I replied, “Now would you run an ultra for me?”