Amsterdam: A blast at the half

The water stations felt like running on the sticky side of Duct Tape. 

I can only assume that prior runners ran at full speed while trying to gulp down sports drink from a cup. Clearly, they got more on their shirts and on the road than into their mouths.

Instead of trying to save a few seconds and making the road as sticky as a two-year-old with a lollipop, we took our time, thanked the volunteers, and calmly took on the minefield of cups and sponges. This made our shirts and shoes happy, as well as the outstretched hands of spectators competing for high-fives.

On the 21st of October 2018, I had a blast at the half marathon in Amsterdam.

In 2014, Amsterdam was my first ever go at a half marathon and it was exciting to be back there. My goal was to have fun and enjoy the company of my five-year running buddy. We helped each other get through the boring parts of the course in 2014. This year we chatted throughout the race and had even more fun.

The start

We misjudged the time it would take from the first gun to go until it was time for our bibs to beep. We ended up waiting more than 40 minutes in the starting pens. Most people stared at their phones or simply stood around looking bored. One guy stood with this finger on his watch ready to press start before any of us could even see the start banner in the distance. Instead of hanging around aimlessly, we snapped selfies, discussed our race strategies, and enjoyed the vibe before the start.

The fun

I don’t usually high five people during races. In the best case, my hands are sticky from spilling gels or energy drinks over myself. In a more dire scenario, I just came out of a porta-potty sans hand washing facilities. Why spectators insist on making contact with my hands is beyond me.

But during this race, my running buddy was a big hi-fiver and I soon caught the bug. I was still running along as an anti-high-fiver when a DJ stuck his hand in front of me so unexpectedly that I had to hit it or risk colliding with his hand. After this self-defense high-five, the ice was broken and I started swerving to the sides of the course to reach little kids’ hands.

The culmination of extending our hands came 400m before the finish. My friend high-fived 6 kids in a row but then had to veer to the right to turn a corner. She narrowly missed the 7th extended hand and left behind a very disappointed looking adult woman, who clearly felt she missed out on the fun.

We also waved our arms above our heads like monkeys at every single photographer. You never know when one of you will be only half in the picture or looking the other way, so we tried to make sure we get at least one perfect shot with outstretched arms and open eyes.

The finish

Entering the Olympic stadium is always a special experience and in my opinion, the best part of this half marathon. Unlike the Marathon that starts in the stadium, the finish stretch is the only time the half marathoners can experience this historic track.

We have a customary finish line photo since 2013. After the race, we always take a minute to get our bearings back, grab our medals and then bug a stranger for a portrait. After four years in Amsterdam, we have a montage that shows our connection with the race over the years.

It is special to see the memories made on hot and cold days, before and after weight-loss, before and after pregnancy, and soon before and after surgery (which is apparent from this year’s shot lacking a member of the gang).


Running a race can be a serious affair. A race is a perfect stage to give your best effort or run a PB.

While the serious stuff can be important, some days it’s just great to set out for some serious fun and earn a medal while doing it.

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