Well, I am back from Amsterdam, what an experience – some good times, some very bad!

As most of my members will know, I was invited to run in Amsterdam and so this meant an expenses paid trip, which was great as I couldn’t have afforded to go otherwise!

We (my Mum and I) arrived early on Friday morning and from that time onwards it seemed as if my feet did not have time to touch the ground.  There was a reception at the hotel for the Elite athletes and from the moment I attended that I realised this was going to be an experience unlike anything I was used to.  To be honest, it scared me a bit as it made me realise just how pampered the athletes I would be competing against are.  I don’t think there was anyone else there who did not have a manager and a coach with them – which came as a bit of a shock to me as I have neither!

On the day before the race I was invited on a coach trip of the course with the other Elite athletes (including Haile).  Security was very tight and there was a full police escort for the whole 26.2 miles.  The other athletes’ took their entourages with them and the whole thing was taken very seriously indeed.  I was so nervous at being in such illustrious company I hardly dare look at out of the window as the prospect of running the next day was becoming very daunting indeed!  That evening there was a Technical Meeting  for the athletes where all the final details could be ironed out – such as pacemakers, special drinks and food requirements, massages etc.  It was all totally alien to me as I never have anything, I just go out running when I am not needed by the animals.  I have no spare money for fancy drinks and food, I just have to eat what is available at the time.  I suppose I felt daunted by the fact that all the other runners in the field do is eat, rest and train when I all do is work, train and worry!

I was pleased when the morning of the race arrived but a little sceptical as the weather was very windy.  The sun was also very hot when it was out but the wind chill made it cold out of the sun, quite difficult weather to cater for.  The coach arrived to take the Elite athletes the 20 minutes drive to the start and I was honoured enough to sit opposite the great man himself, Haile Gebresalasie.  As we approached the stadium spectators realised this was the bus with the Elite athletes on and began to get very excited, cheering, waving and taking photographs etc. When we disembarked Haile and I walked into the Olympic Stadium side by side which, I have to confess, was a great thrill for me.  A good few people rushed over to take photographs of this great man, so they will be taking home photographs of Haile and a Vegan Runner too!  As the time of the start approached things really did get very serious.  The other runners all seemed to have last minute preparations and rituals to perform, complex stretching routines (often involving their coaches) to go through whilst I just sat quietly with my Mum – playing hangman, proudly sporting my Vegan Runners vest thinking of the animals I might help by running well.

We were called to the start and, after the great press frenzy for photographs, we were off.   I soon settled into my rhythm and it felt like I was flying, pb’s (personal best) through 10K and 16K.  All was going well until we hit the very windy part of the course which was when I began to realise what pacemakers are really for - not to set the pace, but to shield the other runner from the wind and difficult parts of the course.  I continued to carry on at a pb pace into the wind and felt very strong, even though I was running alone.  I was above my scheduled pace when we hit half Marathon (21.1K) and at 25K.  Then, I am sorry to say, disaster struck.  My knee gave way on me and became partially dislocated.  I will explain at this point, for those of you who may not know, that I have a knee replacement and no knee cap on my right side due to having a tumour when I was younger.  It is a great disability and disadvantage to me when running.  Indeed, when I had the operation done the initial plan was to straighten my leg at the knee instead of putting a replacement join in someone so young.  I don’t actually think it is the joint which causes me my problems, it is actually not having a knee cap to attach the tendons to which causes me problems as it makes my knee prone to dislocating as it is quite unstable. 

At this point I was not sure what to do but I desperately wanted to try and carry on, even though the pain was quite awful.  I decided to see if I could continue on but alter my cadence to throw most of the pressure onto my left leg.  I managed to adapt some sort of strange style which allowed me to run/limp along but it slowed me down terribly.  The unfortunate thing was I still had 12K to the finish. 

Eventually I got there but was so glad to see the Olympic Stadium – and finishing line – again I can hardly explain.  I hobbled onto the track and across the finish line where I collapsed in pain.  Indeed, one of the officials said you could see the bone sticking out to the side of my leg when I was running.

In the end I was 9th overall in a time almost two minutes under my personal best.  However, I have to confess I am disappointed as I know I could have done so much better without the injury to my knee.  It is so frustrating as I was running so well up to that point.  I have seen a physio and doctor since the race and am due to see another specialist next week.  In the meantime I will continue to try and get the swelling down and keep the pain under control.

On reflection I know I should not be too hard on myself as I have run my best time ever.  Whilst I was in Amsterdam I had a taste of how ‘real’ athletes live and it made me realise that for someone who has what is classed as a disability, cares for 260 animals and makes themselves available 24/7 in the Fire Service – I don’t do too bad!

There were 16 other Elite ladies there, all full time runners, I beat 7 of those runners and the whole of the rest of the field, and I did not do it for myself, I did it to raise awareness of an animal cruelty free lifestyle and to try and raise funds for the animals at the Sanctuary.  On the evening of the race, I was with the physio in the hotel as Haile came in for a massage.  He asked how I had done and explained what had happened.  Shocked when he saw the state of my leg and the bruising on the ball of my left foot where I had been forced to put so much pressure, he said it was a strange state of affairs that whilst we had both run a personal best time, we were both disappointed.  Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned here.

Thank you to all who sponsored me

Fiona & the gang

Haile & me !
Amsterdam Marathon Report