This weekend gone, international running crews Bridge Runners, Paris Running Club and London’s Run Dem Crew (rolling 120 members deep) arrived in Amsterdam for the marathon, and, more importantly, third instalment of the Bridge The Gap meet-up hosted this time by Patta’s Running Team. Yin&Yang presence was in full effect; not only was I there to take on the Dutch roads, Yin was also in Amsterdam for a related-but-not-related project. In my last Cool Runnings post I spoke about running confidence and remembering my greatness on the pavements. This weekend presented a whole different plane of reflection, extending much further beyond the steps I took in my trainers. Read on to find out what I learned and see some stunning race photography by Yin.
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On Thursday evening my sister and I arrived in Amsterdam. Easily one of my favourite cities, I became enamoured all over again with it’s stunning architecture, the canals, and the laid back Dutch demeanour. It was my sister’s first time in the city, so I had the chance to experience the city like a first time visitor, but even my scenic surroundings couldn’t stop the dampener on my mood. Five days before race-day I was advised not to run when I ended up with a phantom injury on my calf. This, coupled with accommodation issues when we arrived, had me seriously questioning whether I should’ve come on the trip at all. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a firm believer that everything happens with purpose, yet I wondered if I’d pushed fate in the wrong direction.
In spite of this feeling, I decided to make the best of the situation. Somewhere between the incredible #Amsterdamage Bridge The Gap boat dinner/party on Friday, a day taking in the city on Saturday, and some angels helping sort our accommodation issues, a new feeling descended over me. “I’m going to run.” I told my sister. If running, and then in a very literal way, the trip to Amsterdam up to that point, had taught me anything at all it taught me tenacity.
Sunday came and I was void of the pre-race nerves that most around me were experiencing, and which I usually experienced. Before hitting the Dutch streets, as a collective of over 100, we shook away our demons with a firm “AWAY, AWAY, AWAY!”
When we set off I felt strong. I hit 5K faster than my usual time, and at 10K I was on track for my pre-injury time of sub 2:30. Somewhere after that, the searing muscle ache gripped my calf. Of course, I kept going. Between 12 and 16K many begun to pass me as my pace slowed and I had to walk as much as I ran. My right ankle (which is actually giving me more trouble than my calf post-race!) begun to ache. But as the course emptied, I never begun to panic and I never felt lonely. That feeling of absolute, utter, aloneness that most runners can identify with can take over during a race. However, with the knowledge that the whole of Run Dem Crew, my sister and one of my closest friends were all waiting to cheer me on, that feeling never had the chance the manifest.
Seeing my dear friend Bangs and a Bun who I affectionately moniker my running ‘mama’, I limp-ran up to her excitedly. Fuelled on by her support, I continued on towards the finish line. Somewhere between 16 and 20K we journeyed through a long and winding park. The course was almost bare, filled with just us ‘walking warriors’ who were determined only to get to the finish line. Recognising more than ever that many of them didn’t have the support I do, I hobbled up to them to tell them ‘hello’, ‘well done’, ‘keep on going!’ or ‘we’ve got this!’
I found a little speed when we emerged from the park. I recognised the road as the final stretch. Charging forward as best as slow as an injured tortoise can, I ran into roars of “TAHIRAH!” coming from my sister, Niran, and the whole of the Crew – spurring me on until I hobbled to the finish line.
I left Amsterdam with more than a medal on Monday night. Running in pain reminded me that the mind is stronger than the physical, running with the Crew reminded me the of the power of human spirit. I learned not to question myself – we’re rarely put into situations we can’t handle. Even more importantly, I took in the collective power yielded from observing so many individuals channel their personal triumphs through a distance of 13.1 or 26.2 miles. On Tuesday when we convened for a medal-giving ceremony at Run Dem Crew, Charlie told emotive stories of what the run meant to each person individually. Sunday’s race saw lots of people ran through demons in their personal life; Sunday’s race saw all people remind themselves of what they could do. “If you can run a distance most people won’t walk in their life, you can do anything.”
Look out for a full race report from me on Run Dem Crew’s website. I was raising money for ExGenn during Amsterdam’s half-marathon. For more information and to sponsor me – click here.
Check out more race pictures below:
See full album of images on Y&Y Facebook – click here.