H/B/F 2017: Leiden Half Marathon

I ran the Leiden half marathon!

(Be sure to give Leiden a read; I had no idea that the Pilgrims actually came from here–after fleeing England–before sailing for what is now America on the Mayflower. Certainly explains New Amsterdam, and the Pennsylvania Dutch.)

Before our trip materialized, I’d signed up for the Buffalo half marathon, a race I’ve been wanting to run for awhile but we always seem to be out of town. (To see what we were up to the last two years, click here and here.)

Once I found out I’d be out of town, I quickly transferred my registration to another runner friend (thanks, Jim!) and started looking for races here in the Netherlands during our visit. I was in luck! There were not one but two race events close to Haarlem, one in Leiden and one in Hoorn.

While both cities would have made great sightseeing days, I opted for the one in Leiden as its closer (20 minutes by train) and I was able to register online. (We plan to see Hoorn this weekend before we leave Holland.)

After a failed attempt to pick up my race packet the night before (turns out most runners here must opt for morning-of pick-up as most were still there in the a.m. and there really isn’t a large expo like in the States), Andrew and I hit up St. Peter’s Kerk to grab my goodies and bib.

We had some time, so we did a little walking around.  Full disclosure: I was super anxious and finally let Andrew go to do his own sightseeing when I needed to line up in my corral.  Even more full disclosure:  I was way more anxious about this than I needed/wanted to be.  I’ve already absolved Andrew of all responsibility to me in future overseas race endeavors; hopefully I’ll discover an inner coolness that’s never before existed and be able to refrain from stressing about events such as these.  In the meantime, I’ll still keep checking to see if there are races near our European vacation locales, and hopefully Andrew will forgive me of all my unnecessary anxiety.

Here I am!  I finished in 1:46, which is only one minute slower than my previous PR from six years ago (which was in a downhill race and probably 15 pounds lighter).  Just sayin.’

Afterward, we nabbed a spot at a cafe near the finish for lunch.  I loved being part of the action even after I finished.

After lunch, Andrew and I finished the Rick walk he’d started, which included this STEEP climb up to a man-made hilltop ‘bunker’ used for protection way back when. Beautiful views, tight hamstrings.

And because I hadn’t gotten enough steps already, we hiked over to (and UP) the windmill museum.  (Don’t get me wrong; it’s most of the reason I chose to run in Leiden–so my engineer husband could check it out.)

Once we said goodbye to the windmill museum, we headed back toward the train station…but not before we experienced a truly unique experience: crossing the running route en mass facilitated by race volunteers.  I’ve never seen a method such as this before: in order to cross the route, a group of us were hoarded into a small corral, and then the runners were diverted (using metal gates) around us so that we could be let out on the far side (toward our destination).  Then, it was reversed and the runners were diverted to the other side to allow the corral to be opened to the side from which we just came. Genius!  Does anyone know if this happens in the States?

#bestrunninggroupever

Last week, the East Aurora Runners celebrated the end of our first ‘Winter Warrior Challenge,’ a 16-week contest to see who could attend the most runs, no matter the weather.  Pictured below are our winners, two couples who are die-hard runners.

(All photos courtesy of Stacy Grinsfelder)

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Sarah, far left, is pregnant and got this cute onesie in her gift bag!

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I came in second, with another runner, as I missed ONE RUN due to my varicose vein removal in December.  I think I should have gotten a pass for that one, but whatev 🙂  There’s always next year!

I’ve been running with the group since sometime in 2013 and even wrote an article on us that was published in the East Aurora Advertiser in February of 2014. Debbie, pictured below left, started the group in December of 2012.  I missed about half of last year due to a bulging disc, but have been going strong since July.

The photo below is of some of the earliest runners in our original shirts. Since then, we’ve gotten t-shirts from 42 North (gifted to each runner after 10 runs) and neon jackets to promote visibility on our evening runs.

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This group has grown from just a few women meeting in a parking lot to 20+ runners each Thursday night.  (I credit much of that to ‘upgrading’ our meet-up location at 42 North…)  I’ve gotten to know some of the runners fairly well and we meet up for additional weekend runs and even movies (!!).  What was once for me (albeit for a short time) an ‘optional’ workout is now a singed-in-ink weekly date on my calendar.  We’ve run in rain (in fact, the night of our party was the wettest run in a long time), snow and heat, but it’s not even about the weather.  It’s about the company of others who are like-minded and genuinely interested in building relationships.

If you’re local and a runner, come out and meet us each Thursday night at 6 p.m. at 42 North–I promise you’ll have a group of friends almost instantly!

 

Turk-EA Trot

Guys!  I started something.  I think.

Since we moved to East Aurora, we’ve traditionally stayed in town and done Thanksgiving with Andrew’s parents, which means we eat early (like 1:30) and I can’t go downtown for the YMCA Turkey Trot. The 8k (5 miles) race began in 1896 and is said to be ‘the oldest continually run footrace in North America,’ and is capped at 14,000 runners each year.  It’s a huge deal around here, full of costumes and a great post-race party.  Logistically, however, it’s a nightmare; parking is no where near the start, and with that many people, and a 9 am start, there is no way I’d be home before noon.

So, you can imagine my disappointment each year to miss out on such an exciting and hallmark event in our area.  For the last couple years, I’ve done my own exercise Thanksgiving morning, from a simple run to a ‘Gobble ’til You Wobble’ workout full of squats and lunges.

This year, I posited an idea to our running group, which has grown to 20+ people who come out on Thursday nights for our weekly runs.  Why not have our own race here in East Aurora??  With my heart racing, I posted the idea to our Facebook page and waited.   There HAD to be more people like me whose cooking responsibilities precluded them from doing the run downtown, right?  But what if people hated it?

They didn’t hate it.  While many of our runners are loyal to the downtown event–and will continue to be–I got others who said they’d be interested in doing the run, or perhaps next year (as they were already signed up for the other one). In the days leading up to the run, I promised baked goods as a post-race goodie, made a sign and planned a route.  A small handful came out, and I was thrilled when one of our regulars brought her husband along, too.

Seven of us ran the inaugural ‘Turk-EA Trot’ (name compliments of a friend) and had a blast.  The weather was mild, a few came in costume, and we brightened the smiles of those we passed on the road.  Once we finished and were enjoying some coffee from the East Aurora Cooperative Market (where we met), multiple passers-by were interested in our run and lamented that they hadn’t known about it.  I explained that I’d only mentioned it to the running group, but that we planned to do it again next year!  The general manager at the co-op, a friend, was psyched to see us using the store as a meeting place (our new weekend morning run starting location, FYI) and promised help with the run next year.

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t already had visions of becoming a ‘race director-extraordinaire’ with that first Facebook post.  I’d love to one day have real registration and t-shirts and goodie bags and road closures.  To attract runners from not just East Aurora, but from Orchard Park and West Seneca and Elma.  To have costume contests and prizes. For now, I’m happy to do some homework on what it takes to become a real race, and bring treats for those who come out next year. I’ll bake until the race is too big!