The Rotterdam marathon. My first go at racing a marathon.

Overly Long Dramatic Intro

For as long as I have been running, people have asked me about whether I had done or was training for a marathon. The thought never appealed to me. One reason might be just to be contrarian. If everyone sees something as the thing to go for, it manages to subconsciously lose its appeal to me. One reason might be because of what a dumb distance it is. My running career was nurtured on (albeit, badly Belgian measured) 5 kms, 10 kms, and 20 kms. Nice round numbers. The marathon? Something with wanting to finish in front of the palace of some now dead monarch, if memory serves. I think the major reason was, though, that I realised I liked trying to run fast. I saw the marathon as something people moved up to to avoid having to go through the training to get faster. “Why run harder when you can slow down for longer?”

Fast is relative of course. Fast is everyone that beats me in races. I remain average. For a while I held off the boat with the excuse “I will think about the marathon when I get faster and think I can run sub 3:00”. That point came and went as I improved on other distances, but my desire to run a marathon did not develop. On the contrary, I had discovered track racing in earnest and liked what I saw.

And yet. Over the past eight months, the idea of racing a marathon started growing in my mind. I do not know if it is really true, but I like to say the seed was planted when a colleague told me he was the best marathoner at the office. He said it as sort of a joke, but he was right: of all those that had run a marathon, he was the fastest. He added “and please don’t run one”. I can get a bit competitive about things. Either way, I started thinking about marathons. I also thought that while I do not care about the distance right now, I might start caring in a few years. By that time, some experience could come in handy. With most people only racing a marathon 2-3 times a year, building that experience would take time. Another point in favour of doing a marathon.

Back in, I want to say, November, I looked around a bit at the options for spring marathons. Gent caught my eye because of its proximity. Going by a conversion my PBs on shorter distances, I might have also been able to run a top 20 (twenty) there. That always looks nice. Rotterdam also caught my eye. It is the Netherlands, so it is flat. I had heard it was well organised. I saw the results from previous years and I was going to have to work to be top 200 (two hundred). That meant there would be a lot of people to run with in case the going got hard. That has really dragged me through some bad spells in races in the past, so if I had to make a choice, Rotterdam would be it. And then I shelved the idea and sort of forgot about marathons.

Around the end of January, beginning of February, I thought about the marathon again. I opened the Rotterdam marathon website. It had already sold out and… I felt a pang of FOMO. That was the very moment that I realised I did want to run Rotterdam. Bit late, innit?

Rotterdam marathon also has a “Vraag en Aanbod forum”: people with a ticket that do not want to use it any more, e.g., because of an injury, can offer their ticket up for sale. Potential buyers then fill in their email address and hope the seller picks them to talk to. As I write this, I do not know whether they actually offered this in a language other than Dutch. Maybe not, to avoid scams. From time to time I opened the forum and filled in my email address in a bunch of offers. Weeks passed without a reply, but I figured even a sale three weeks out from the marathon would be fine. I already had my training that kept me busy, all that I would need to adjust was some taper time the final weeks before the actual race.

Eventually someone contacted me and somewhere in early March I was officially signed up for the Rotterdam marathon on 16 April.


I will only give a detailed overview of what happened since the Belgian Half Marathon Championships 35 days (5 weeks) prior to this race. For more details, check out that report. Basically during winter I had built up to 120 km per week and kept that steady, not really doing workouts. Six weeks prior to that race (so 11 weeks prior to this marathon), I reintroduced workouts. LT work and some Marathon pace attempts.

After the half marathon race, the plan was to do a recovery week, then two up weeks around 120 km with workouts. Finally two taper weeks with the marathon race at the last Sunday. I will count the weeks down to one in this overview.

Week 6. Week of the half marathon race. Some lower volume as a mini taper for the race. Race pace workout on Tuesday. Race on Sunday. Good effort, new PR, yadeyade, see the other report.

Week 5. Planned post race recovery week. 10-13-13-13-13 for the weekdays. Lower side of the belly felt sore from the race effort. Legs more sore than they had been in a while. Nothing worrying, just racing shenanigans. The night of Friday to Saturday, things went to shit. Literally. I had a stomach bug, flu, whatever you want to call it, and everything had to go. I forced some puking to hopefully resolve the situation, but kept on feeling bad. Saturday I quickly decided to not go for my planned long run. Fool me once, don’t get fooled again, and all that. The non-literal runs continued, I had zero appetite, and whatever I did manage to eat seemed to go straight through. I thought I’d suffer for a day, but no, it continued for days on end. I lost Sunday too. Just 64 km for the week.

Week 4. I continued being sick and lost another three days of running. Five days down the shitter. I lost 4 kg in the process and I do not have many to lose. When I finally seemed past it, I dared to try running again. My body had taken a beating though, everything felt like a lot of effort, I still needed to regain all the energy I had lost barely eating for days. Rest of the week was 6, 10, 13, and 13 km. 42 km total. I did also manage a 17 km walk on Saturday. Running too much too soon felt risky, but I figured a walk was more readily kept easy or abandoned.

Week 3. I needed a good week still before the race, if for nothing else than my confidence. This one had to suffice. I ran 120 km for the week, but did not feel quite right enough to do a workout yet. Long run (30k) and mid-week long run (23k) went fine though. Also made sure to have another go at practising taking in gels. That seemed fine too, no stomach issues. For the 30 km I took five of them. First one at 2 km, then another one every 4 km. 88 kcal per gel, 22 gram carbs.

Week 2. And then it was already taper time. It felt weird after just the one up week because of the illness, but I felt more like playing this one safe. Whether it was the right choice, I will never know. I put the plan for this together rather belatedly (that is, the Sunday of the previous week), getting inspiration from Pfitzinger’s “18/85” plan (18 week plan, peaking at 137 km or 85 miles). I settled on 90 km for the first taper week: 14, 10, 15, 10, 11, 21, and 9 km. Strides on Monday and Friday. A CV workout on Wednesday. If I had not been sick and actually done workouts the two weeks prior, I would have done VO2max then, and probably now too. In the current situation, I decided to not try my first VO2max in a while just 10 days before the marathon. I did 4×1000 aiming for about 3:21 to 3:26. Actual splits: 3:27, 3:23, 3:19, and 3:21. Had actually wanted to do five reps, but something felt a bit off on the fourth one, so I called it a day. Rest was about 1:10 (~1/3rd of the time of a rep).

Week 1, race week. Not much running left at this point: 11, 10, 13, 10, 8, 6, race day. Total prior to race day: 58 km. Wednesday I did 3 km at marathon pace, but the GPS went all wonky and I was constantly speeding up and slowing back down to get the pacing right. Maybe I should have done it on a track just to be sure of the pace this one time. Considerations for another training cycle. Either way, paces were a bit all over the place, but it did not worry me. Strides on Monday and Friday.

Goal and Strategy


Back when I first considered running this marathon, my then half marathon PR put me just shy of 2:40. My PRs on the shorter distances put me under 2:40. That looked pretty, but also probably just out reach. Then in March I ran 1:14:52 on the half marathon, which translates to a 2:36:35. All calculations in this paragraph based on JD’s vdot calculator.

So. Ye. That’s really tempting. At first I was hesitant to go out that aggressively on my first marathon. Surely it was safer to go out at 2:45? Play it safe, don’t blow up, keep the fast work for a future marathon. Alas, the more I thought about it, the more I realised I wanted that sub 2:40. 2:40:xx or 2:41? Maybe I could live with it, but I probably would not be happy. Slower still? I think I would just be disappointed. I am not trying to qualify for anything, I am not trying to beat anyone. It’s intrinsic motivation only and that one was now all in on sub 2:40.

So that is the goal time: 2:39:59. That is 3:47.5 per km. Even splits seemed the safest approach, so the plan was to aim for that pace from the start. Banking time sounds risky, even with the hypothetical few seconds per km I supposedly could go faster according to the calculator. Starting too slow sounds risky too, cause that expects me to be able to speed up in the second half. I didn’t know yet whether I would dare to speed up if I did happen to feel good later on in the race. Either way, that was a decision that I wouldn’t need to make till maybe 34 km into the race. Worries for beat-up-by-the-marathon-me. We cross a bridge twice and go through a tunnel, but besides that I don’t think there is any elevation. So not much to plan for on that end.

Spurned on by the wonky GPS during the last marathon pace mini workout the week of the race, I also checked heart rate ranges in Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathoning book. I got 155-166. Had no clue what in that range to aim for, but I was going to remember that range.


I had a bunch of the gels I had tried three weeks out (88kcal, 22g carbs). They would have to do. I wanted to take in six of them and ended up packing a seventh as backup. The plan was to take one at 2, 6, 10, 14, 18, 22 km. It seemed to work in training. There are water stands every five km, so be sure to take some sips of water every time.

The Others

I like the racing aspect of, well, racing. In a 5000m you can gamble to try and follow somebody’s move even if it feels a little bit hot. Probably a bit riskier to do that in your first marathon. I picked Rotterdam cause there should be a good number of people around my pace. I just have to make sure they do not lure me into running too fast. Definitely run my own race the first 20-30 km, then evaluate after. But damn, it may be difficult to rein myself in. I will have to tell myself this a few times in the corral and during the first few kilometre.


The Week

I found myself not thinking about the marathon as much as I would have expected going by other people’s accounts. None of the “taper crazies” or anything like it. Maybe cause it still feels like something extra, not a main goal I have worked towards over months. It is running, how much worse can it be than the suffering I always put myself through? I planned out my logistics of course, but never sat around fretting. By this point I had settled on my goal pace as well, so there was nothing that could be done any more.

I slept less than I usually do, just waking up earlier. Maybe the lower volume left me rested. I also wore a face mask in public transport more often again. Did not want to get sick.

The Weekend

My wife and I made our way to Rotterdam on Saturday. It is an easy train ride from Brussels. Arriving around 13:00, I had eaten on the train, food I had brought from home. We went to the marathon expo to get my bib and a free running t-shirt. Walk through all the stands that I did not feel like standing around for. Got to rest them legs! We bought what we needed to make some pasta in the evening and made our way to the place we were staying. Rest of the afternoon and evening was spent sitting around and planning the final details of the next morning. The place I had gotten last minute was in a bit of a public transport dead zone and I did not want to have to walk too much in the morning. We settled on getting a ride in the morning to the nearest metro station and taking that into the city. Next time: think better about public transport options when getting your place.

The Day

I put my alarm at 6:00, four hours before the race was supposed to start. I mostly wanted to give my body enough of a buffer to do all the toilet business it might need to. Had 150g of muesli I had brought along from home and 300ml soy milk with it. Drank two cups of Kenyan black tea. Feeling faster already. Went to the toilet a few times, took a shower. We planned to get out the door at 8:00. In case getting a ride failed, there would still be enough time to walk to the public transport. The ride showed up soon and brought us to the metro station nearby (driving into the city was… difficult because of the marathon).

Because of the walking backup buffer, we got to the centre of Rotterdam a bit earlier than originally planned. We went to the marathon expo building again to sit inside where it was dry and warm (it was about 7-8C and had started to drizzle a little). I went to the toilet there again and we sat around for a while waiting for the start to draw closer.

Around 9:10 we started meandering towards my wave. Since I was more near the front, we still had to walk down all the waves. There was a large amount of portapotties everywhere. Both outside and inside the waves by the looks of it. I tried using one just in case. Getting bellycramps during a race is something I always worry about. The checks to get in your wave were quite diligent. Would not have been able to just hop in there. I jogged around for like half a km as warmup, gave my wife the last of my extra gear, and went into 1.C, my start area. I was not sure where in this area to start. I think it was everyone from 2:31 to 2:59, so I wiggled between a bit to move up some lines, then stood around waiting for the gun.

They had a guy with a red flag at an elevated platform at the front. This indicated it was still more than two minutes. Dutch singer Lee Towers sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, which is apparently a tradition at the start of this race. At some point the red flag got swapped out for a green flag, indicating the final two minutes.

The gun went off aaaand we walked towards the start line. Always a little anticlimactic that way. Eventually I reached the actual start line.


Almost immediately after starting, you have to cross the Erasmusbrug. A podcast I listen to had expressly said to not go out too fast on that. I had kept that advice in mind. It was also quite crowded at this point, so I could not actually go much faster up it than I was doing there. I think I kept things under control, but it is hard to know for sure. There are also a lot of spectators right there on both sides on the bridge. The tram line that normally goes through the middle is also rerouted and taken over by spectators. A wall of cheers to go through. You quickly reach the top of this bridge and when heading down I pass some more people. Going downhill is easier for me.

Over the next several km I am mostly trying to find my pace. I do not trust the 1 km splits too much and instead pay extra attention to my heart rate. That one quickly settles around 159-160, smack dab in the middle of the range I had planned for. I decide then and there to aim for that heart rate for a while, ignoring pace till I hit the 5 km marker. I had written down the 5, 10, and 40 km splits on my hand as well, so that was easier to compare than doing the mental math with 3:47.5 per km. My plan to take a gel at 2 km felt silly since nobody else was grabbing anything yet, but at 3.x I decided to grab my first one after all. Perhaps a little too early. Around the 5 km point is also a water stand and I grab a cup and try to drink some of it. I am sure most of it splashed out, but at least some of it I managed to actually drink.

Similarly continued on the next 5 km. I had another gel around 7.x km and felt the belly be a little unhappy a km or so later, so I decided to put some more kms between gels. Another water attempt at 10 km.

5 km: 18:53, 10 km: 37:50 (18:57 5k). 4-5 seconds ahead of schedule for both.

I think by this point I was in a bit of a group with similarly paced people. I ran at the front for a bit, I purposefully moved a bit further back at some point because there was a head wind. I kept an eye on my heart rate and was also satisfied with the pacing so far. I did try to keep an eye on the km splits too, had to ensure I kept on sub 2:40 pace. We all ran together for a good while.

Chugging along with a group.
Chugging along with a group.

Some people in the group had friends, coaches, whatever, that would be ready with bottles or gels, some biking between spots, some briefly biking along to hand over what was needed. A squeezy bottle did seem a lot easier to drink from than the paper cups we got from the organisation. I just carried my own gels and had another one of those around 13-14 km. I think I aimed to eat the gel just before the next water stand. Help digesting with some fluids.

After the 15 km water stand I suddenly found myself a bit ahead of my group. I don’t know whether I subconsciously speed up through them or whether everyone else slows way down. Briefly thought about waiting for them specifically again, but decided to just hang at the pace I was hitting.

I had just highfived some kids (which I ended up doing quite often in this race), when I spotted my wife cheering me on.
I had just highfived some kids (which I ended up doing quite often in this race), when I spotted my wife cheering me on.

The next five are a bit of a blur. I think I was still mostly running with others. I had gel number four at some point. My mental math with the splits was failing me, so I was just waiting for the halfway mark to have a better idea. 2:40 divided by 2 I could still handle.

Somewhere in this block I was also thinking how kinda boring it was. You are racing, but it is mostly a game of ensuring you do not push too hard. OK, every race is like that, but in a marathon it actually has to feel somewhat easy for quite a while. In a 5k it is more about only slightly killing yourself the first half.

15 km: 56:52 (19:02 5k), 20 km: 1:15:47 (18:55 5k), half marathon: 1:19:58. 1s, 3s, and 2s ahead of schedule.

At some point I found myself alone again, possibly after the 20 km water stands. After the halfway point, you also hit a lonelier stretch in terms of crowd support. Finally there was some headwind to top it all off. I tried to stay focused, just ticking away the kilometres. Not sure whether I had an opinion on any of the GPS km splits that I saw. I think I caught up to a group a little before the 25 km mark. No clue whether I was still on track for sub-2:40.

25 km: 1:34:59 (19:12 5k). 11 seconds behind schedule.

I ran with my new group for a little bit. Around 26.5 km into the race, we take a turn and the Erasmusbridge is showing itself again in all its glory. I felt awed by the sight of it. So tall and hulking, a beautiful piece of engineering. I had seen and crossed the bridge a few times on a past trip already and never had that feeling, so I am attributing it partially to running emotions. Shortly after my admiring, I got smacked around by the bridge as we climbed upwards. I quickly decided not to have my heart rate shoot up trying to keep pace with my group and switched tempo. There were also more spectators here again, I made sure to not make them hype me up so much that I would blast up the bridge after all. Soon I found myself descending again and creeping closer back towards my group. I also spotted an official photographer. I decided to flash a moose antler sign, but as I raised my hands for it, the crowd went absolutely wild. The decibels shot up. I felt slightly seen and turned my movement in a sort of raising the roof moment. The cheering got me real hyped. I briefly thought about trying it again 50 metres further, but felt too self-conscious and feared I might get left hanging.

Raising the roof.
Raising the roof.

I think I joined some people (or at least one person) again by the end of the bridge. The HR had shot up a little after descending, I was confused about that at the time, but in retrospect I am inclined to blame it on the crowds. Either way, we continued on and after an annoying π turn, had to go in a short tunnel just past the 28 km point. The tunnel part is fine, but on the climbing out of it, I decided to take it slower than those around me again. I do not really remember anything about the next bit though recall the lane before the 30 km water stand being a bit narrow.

30 km: 1:54:06 (19:07 5k). 21 seconds behind schedule. Not according to keikaku.

I believe around 31 km I suddenly started hearing a helicopter. I saw some police motorcycles drive by. I knew what was coming. Soon I saw them, Bashir Abdi and some other guy leading the race together crossed me in the opposite direction. Sadly there was the end of a tram stop separating us. If I had been 20 seconds faster or slower, I think all that would have stood between us was a little red-white ribbon. Either way, when they got as close to me as I was going to get, I let out a “KOMAAN BASHIR” as loud as I could manage. Probably got lost among the noise, but it was as much to hype myself up as it was to shout him on to victory. You have to do something to keep yourself busy during a marathon.

Soon after, I hit another quieter part of the course. This road is wedged between a highway and a large lake and surrounding park (Kralingse plas en bos). Not many supporters were present here, though after the race someone assured me that it gets quite crowded if you are on the slower end. It is just that at this point in the race, all those supporters are still waiting for their loved ones on earlier parts of the course. The road also had a bit of a camber going for longer than I liked. Or at least, I remember being annoyed with it at the time. I briefly ran behind someone else, but I think they were slowing down too much and I left them behind. I had my sixth gel somewhere along this stretch, I want to say around 32-33 km. You would think this would have been the perfect time for some split calculating to see whether I was still on pace. I had not really had a clue since the halfway mark. You would think wrong, I recall still struggling with it. It really should not be as difficult as I was experiencing at the time. I passed the 35 km mark at some point and I think I realised I was behind pace, but I do not think it really registered how much behind I was.

35 km: 2:13:17 (19:11 5k). 34 seconds behind schedule.

Around 36 km you get outside of the more lonely stretch. It is also the moment I decided I could stop trying to keep the heart rate under control. Looking back at the data afterwards, I: (a) had apparently already crossed the upper range (166) of my heart rate in the kilometre before that, and (b) seem to have actually gone slower the kilometres after my decision that I could speed up. Zooming way way in on the nearly flat Rotterdam marathon elevation chart, there is a hint of it going ever so slightly up in comparison to the ever so slightly down of the prior kilometres so maybe that is to blame. Either way, I let the heart rate creep up to 170.

Around 38 km. It felt lonelier than the long spread out line of people looks like here.
Around 38 km. It felt lonelier than the long spread out line of people looks like here.

Around the 38.5 km point, you start running the opposite direction of people that are yet to run around the Kralingse plas, on the other side of the road from them. To do so, you run perpendicular towards the road they are on, then turn left onto their road. I remember spotting people running into the turn-right direction, thinking that was where I would have to go next. I also saw us being directed to the left instead. I was confused, was there another moment where you go left for a bit before turning around? I thought only Slinge and the tunnel had a π turn. After the turn I started looking for the turn around. It took me a little bit to realise these people were way more numerous than what I had been running in and were going noticeably slower. Finally I realised this were the people that still had 11ish km to go. I swear I am not normally this dumb.

Around km 39 and then some I was already starting to feel the extra effort of my speed-up-but-not-actually-speed-up I had started at km 36. A little swearing at myself for, apparently, starting too soon, but did my best to hold on. I did not die entirely I think, so maybe that was just how I was supposed to feel at that point. I was counting down the kilometres, figuring it was barely anything now, just keep on keeping on.

The 40 km point was coming up, besides the 5 km and the 10 km split this was the only split I had written on my hand. I had figured that by this point I might have trouble to do split split (hehe) calculations in my head. I was not wrong. I was also not quite right. I could have used many more splits on my hand.

40 km: 2:32:37 (19:20 5k). 56 seconds behind schedule. Shit.

So that was a bit of a stroke of clarity. I was way behind the 2:40 goal now. I quickly realised that there was no way I would be making up 56 seconds in the last 2.195 km of a marathon. Damnit, that was a bit of a mental blow. I had known I was behind, but I was not 100% sure how much exactly. I figured with starting to push at 36 km I had been closing the gap to make it manageable for the last bit. No dice. Despite the disappointment, or because of it, I pushed harder. See what I can still do. Keeping it at 2:40:xx was the new goal.

In km 39.x, my heart rate had gone to 171-172, in km 40.x that went up further to 173-174. Speedwise, not much actually changed it seems. Elevation data shows a little bump here, but I am inclined not to really believe that. Again, The Netherlands.

Around 41 km. Hanging in there.
Around 41 km. Hanging in there.

With 1000m to go, there was a marker placed. That motivated me to push harder still. The heart rate kept creeping up now. I did not pay attention to it at the time, I was just pushing whatever I still could. The 500m point was marked in the same manner and from there I started my sprint to the line. 100-200 metre later I regretted that choice. Lots of gritting my teeth to survive. I was passing people still though, so must have been doing something right.

In the last 50-100 metre, I knew I could somewhat celebrate without losing pace. Some time ago I had read “Inside a Marathon” by Scott Fauble. In it, he mentions approaching the finish line of, I think, NYC marathon and lifting his arms, pointing at people in the crowd, enjoying that last moment. That had seemed like something I should do at some point. Emboldened by my earlier luck on the Erasmusbridge, I went for it. I raised my arms a few times, hands spread out and the palms up, asking for some encouragement. The crowd roared in response. I swung my right arm in a circle maybe twice to hopefully keep them going as I raced the last bit to the line. The clock was ticking away at 2:41:20ish, but I knew I had a 28 second buffer of the difference between chip and gun time.

I crossed the line. Having finally learned from previous (mostly track) races, I did not let up on the line to stop my watch. Every second counted. I passed the second timing mat. I stopped my legs and my watch. My legs almost immediately started to buckle. A crowd of medical personnel was waiting and one immediately came up to ensure I did not topple over. I leaned on her, shuffled some steps, pointed at the fence on the side, and asked her to drop me off there so I could lean on it. I hung there for a while, then started to shuffle onwards through the 500 metre long finishing chute, grabbing drinks and snacks along the way. I quickly downed everything. I was cold. My legs were in pain.

I had mixed feelings.


My time was 2:40:55 (my watch was showing 2:40:57 at the time and that was all I had to go by). I had the 2:40:xx I had been focusing on during that last bit of the race. I also missed out on sub 2:40, the real goal I had come here for. It felt so close and yet so far away. At the time, I was not sure yet how I felt about it. I leaned towards disappointment, but with some acceptance. I write this a few days later and the feeling has flipped to acceptance with still a little bit of disappointment. “I am a 2:40 guy” sounds fine. I don’t think I messed anything up on race day, so this is about as much as I could have squeezed out that day. Above all, I did not blow up, which is what I really did not want to happen. As you can tell from the following table, I did positive split, but not in a crazy manner.

km time 2:40 last 5k split pace
5 18:53 -5 18:53 3:47
10 37:50 -5 18:57 3:47
15 56:52 -1 19:02 3:48
20 1:15:47 -3 18:55 3:47
half 1:19:58 -2    
25 1:34:59 +11 19:12 3:50
30 1:54:06 +20 19:07 3:49
35 2:13:17 +34 19:11 3:50
40 2:32:37 +56 19:20 3:52
full 2:40:55 +55   3:47

I finished 312th of 16849 finishers. I think this was a faster year, because there was no sun or warmth to deal with. 2:40:55 would have netted you a top 200 spot in the previous years. There seems to be a 6 hour cutoff. I am interested in seeing the bell curve (also compared to other years), but am too lazy to whip that together right now. Plus the problem with that for everyone is that there are a lot of untrained people taking part too. I don’t think that is representative, but I do not know how to limit the data to what-I-consider-relevant results.

As a silly aside, I have been keeping somewhat track of how many World Athletics points my time on the different distances net me. I do this only cause it is the kind of stuff that entertains me. Either way, this is my first result netting me over 700 points. For reference, the maximum is 1400, a man would need to run a 1:56:14 marathon with the current tables to achieve that. The world record nets you about 1300 it looks like. You get one point for running it in 4:25:53. I think it may be more generous for longer distances.

Distance My WA points
800m 558
1500m 583
3000m 539
5000m 564
10k 603
half 664
full 704

Usually I mention the times of some people that I ran with here. Rotterdam marathon even makes it easier: everyone has to wear a second bib on their back. So I saw many bib numbers. I remembered none of those I actually ran with.

There is one time I can give you. It may come as a surprise that after beating me in the half five weeks earlier, Bashir Abdi beat me again here. He won the race in 2:03:47. He had hoped to beat the European record he already holds, but cited bad pacers and wind as two of the reasons it did not work out.

Lessons Learned


  • Doing the final marathon pace test in the race week might be nicer on a track, just to have the exact pacing.
  • The place we were staying at was not ideal for public transport. A 25 minute walk through nature to get to the public transport was nice in normal circumstances, but not so much the morning of the marathon. In the future find out public transport details and work back to a place to stay from there.
  • Gels every 4 km might have worked in training, but seems like it was ambitious for the race. Harder effort than a long run and 4 km goes by several minutes more quickly. Either base them on time or just stick to 5 km. Or keep training my stomach of course.
  • Write down waaaay more splits on my arms, calculating things was just not working very well. Apparently you can get one of those fake tattoos with splits, maybe that is an option too.
  • With an extra bib on the back, maybe write your name on it. Or write your name on any of your bibs, I guess. I might have remembered more people I ran with if they were a name instead of a number.

Rotterdam Specific

  • Metro is the safest the morning of race day. Trams that head to the centre will still do so, but probably reroute some stops. This is also fine, just be sure to check it out. Cars are banned from certain parts, so a taxi or similar may not be the way to go.
  • There are changing rooms, but there is no shower. I saw one person who had packed a washing cloth which he wetted with a water bottle to at least scrub the worst off.
  • If you’re meeting up with someone, the end of the finishing chute will be easiest if you’re fast enough (I was). I assume once it gets busier, you will want to meet a bit further. Just make sure you check the finishing chute direction when you plan that spot (we had not). For reference: it was heading towards the central station.


We went for some Vietnamese food as lunch after I had changed into clean clothes. I was worried I would have trouble eating, so I went for a pho since at least spooning in soup should work. Turns out my stomach wasn’t in that bad of a shape. I definitely ate less than I usually would have, but still downed a decent amount. Also had a beer.

We meandered around for a bit and passed the course again around the 41k mark. As we were walking along it, some guy with a bib saying “Tom” on it had to stop running and switched to a walk with a grimace on his face. Me and someone on the other side of road immediately started yelling at him (in Dutch) “COME ON TOMMY! DON’T QUIT NOW! YOU’RE SO CLOSE! DON’T GIVE UP!”. I do not know whether he appreciated it.

We got beer in another place, meandered some again, sat down in yet another place for two beers and a little snack. In this final place, at some point a guy was walking around on the terrace, holding up his Rotterdam marathon medal in one hand, holding up a beer in his other hand, looking triumphant. He went around the tables, cheering if anyone showed their own medal, bumping the glasses against each other in salutation. When he had gone around the tables, he walked to one certain table, took off his medal, gave it to a guy sitting there, and said “thanks for letting me borrow it for a second”. Well played, well played.

Eventually we made our way back to the bnb. The legs were tired and I walked quite slowly, but they were not feeling terrible. They got very sore later in the evening.

The next morning the front of my thighs were killing me, but I had time before needing to catch my train back to Brussels (had to be at work in the afternoon). I decided to try a 2-3 km jog. The first few steps felt like I was Bambi on ice, my legs did not want to support me like that. It quickly went to “ok”, though I did keep things at a shuffle. Just wanted to get that blood flowing. We also walked 30ish minutes to the nearest tram stop to head to the train station. All in all, a decent amount of movement.

The second day the fronts of the thighs were still super sore. Going down stairs or getting up out of chairs was near impossible without supporting myself with my hands.

Third day things had gotten manageable. Fourth day I would say it felt pretty much alright. I did a short jog daily, just for the semblance of movement. That will continue for another week or two. Have not quite figured out yet what exactly I want my recovery to look like.


I might do the 20 km door Brussel again. That is the last weekend of May. I will also be taking a proper look at the track calendar in the coming two months, that should be online by now. Something nice and short again for a change.

Future marathons… we’ll see. I definitely think it was less enjoyable than a speedy track race. The long recovery time is also driving me mad already after only a few days of it. It is worse than the marathon taper, at least then you have a goal you are aiming for. Maybe I will end up aiming for one marathon a year just to get some more experience. Going sub 2:40 will remain a goal too, I admit.

With all the time I spend in the USA, maybe I will end up having a go at the Boston marathon. Not cause I care for the course (though a point to point does look nice on my heatmap) or the race, but mostly because I can already anticipate the “so did/will you run Boston” questions when state side. What I hear of the logistics makes it sound miserable though.