The decision to travel abroad, particularly for a race, is challenging. However, when you decide to take the call, I believe you must stay committed to it. I, too, had comparable feelings, well, let’s just say, more or less the same.
One of the items on my bucket list this year was to race on international grounds, and I was adamant about ticking this off. By the time I had decided and was ready, limited choices were available to pick from, but I zeroed on the Dam-tot Damloop in Amsterdam as my holiday run this year.
The first step towards this was obtaining a visa, for which I had to wait for two months to get an appointment. Documents were submitted in August, and I patiently waited for the visa to come through. I was nervous until the visa was stamped, as any mistake in the application would cost me entry for the race.
Nevertheless, once the visa was received, planning and preparations began: running gear (of course, that had to be decided first), warm clothes, shoes, hotel and flight bookings, travel itinerary, etc. I flew out to Amsterdam on September 16th, nervous, a tad bit excited and most importantly, eager to see the city and explore. A seven-hour flight got me to Schiphol International Airport, where my 5-day adventure started. Coming from Dubai International Airport, you always feel that the rest of the world moves at a slower pace. From passport control to elevators, everything seems to move slow. Getting out of the airport, I navigated my way to the hotel on the train. Chilly winds and slight drizzle welcomed me, which eventually got better.
The first day was familiarizing myself with the city and meeting international teammates from ASICS. It was exciting to meet people from Germany, the UK, Norway, Poland, Netherlands, Sweden and many more. Everyone had incredible stories to share and specialized in different running disciplines.
Fast forward to race day, which was quickly the best day of the trip. We were welcomed with heavy showers and chilly winds right from the start. I was hoping it wouldn’t rain on this day. But the spirit of the people around me got me going on the right foot, maintaining the right speed and momentum. A smooth first 5kms always lays a good foundation to build up the pace for the remaining race, and I was happy with myself. I slowly started to pick up the pace, and special thanks to my teammates Ilona and Valerie, with whom I ran most of the race. They kept pushing me to maintain speed in the rainy weather and kept my morale high. We ran through the highway and villages with many incredible people cheering us on.
There were musical bands, DJ trucks and an assured happy ambience that the race would be completed with high spirits. Dripped in soggy socks, heavy shoes and wet gear on a rainy afternoon in the Netherlands, we finished the race in Zaandam, a little town with calmness surrounding it.
After disappointing summer runs in Dubai, I felt confident running at a good pace. A sigh of relief, loads of hugs and many pictures ensured enough memories were made at the finish line. Not to forget the race medal and, most importantly, the race bib, which I consider my most cherished memorabilia. Getting to the finish line and crossing it with a satisfied soul wouldn’t have been possible without the untiring support of my coach and a dear friend, who rallied to get me to Amsterdam.
The race was very well organized considering the participation volume, race course and post-race experience. This was one of the best races I thoroughly enjoyed in the last two years.