Maurice McCrohan Reports: Declan Power has been extolling the virtues of an away trip spring half for some time. The Den Haag half is a race event that went under the radar for our running community. Kieran, Jer and myself took Declans’ advice and joined him on his return to the event.
Unfortunately ,on arrival in Amsterdam Schifol airport train station,we did not take Declans advice,that there are three stations in the Hague and the race HQ is close to Centraal station. We jumped off at Den Haag North and were puzzled not to see a park and HQ Tents in the locality. But,of course you can find your way so easily these days with google maps..?
30 minutes later we were still aimlessly looping around Den Haag desperate for signs of greenery.We then saw the sign for Centraal Station and the penny dropped in terms of Declan’s clear directions! The race tents came into view.We got our race numbers without fuss or much queueing. The race T shirt was add on to the race fee. Only one of our group bought the T shirt.
The number on the T shirts 070 caused debate.It seemed to be a misprint of race categories? No! Exclaimed a Dutch friend of Declans( in their stereotypical direct way )when asked about this later! She thought we had been to a “coffee” shop! 070 is the NL dialling code!
From our race gang of four,we were a man down for the race. Jer was on the injury list. But ,he was our able mentor,coach,sherpa. A bit of a fixer upper as the song goes ,But also an occasional winder upper. On saturday evening , smirking, supping a Dutch local ale ,while we were left to choose between sparking and still water. We spent the afternoon watching and enjoying the Rugby! The Park Hotel was located in the Centrum,close to identical looking side streets of numerous cafes,bars ,restaurants.There were glorious old church structures and the main shopping thoroughfare.In summary, the city is a hidden treasure.
I found the streets all looked the same. So I did not get my bearings until Sunday.
The food range satisfied the dietay requirements of our gang.A vegan,a vegetarian and one who eats any old sh..!
Declans booked an Italian restraurant for the evening.Our google maps locator again went haywire.We had another aimless loop wander until we reached the restaurant .The Fratelli was so popular that our booking was moved to the basement function room.It was actually fine. We could hear ourself talk.
The pasta and pennes were ok ,the waiters very friendly. The location picturesque ,adjacent to a lake and an old historical building.
We were up bright and early on race day.We did not need to be up too early,race time was 2.30pm.This gave us the digestion time to fill our boots food wise.Kieran and myself brought our own porridge.But ,porridge is not a regular on the Dutch breakfast menu. They heated my porridge flakes ,but did not realise it tastes better if you add milk or water!
The Den Haag HM is one of a number of races on the day. We arrived at race HQ an hour before to see the tail end of the 10KM. Jer Sherpa took our gear and we warmed up. Declan was in to the elite field zone.
We lined up feeling positively Lilliputian among the land of the Dutch giants. So many tall runners,when smaller seems an advantage for distance races. The MC was fun lots of Dutch songs and chants.And then we were off..
It was a mainly flat course.Roads wide enough for runing space.Early on Dutch runners when undertaking were very polite using the Dutch for excuse me as they passed.It was a mild afernoon,the earlier rain had cleared.
The only real testing area is a couple of KMs on the coast,slight increase in gradient and potential exposure to the wind. Fortunately,there was no headwind ,which was a feature in 2017. Mentor Jer had us very concerned about the potential moderate winds.But as the shipping forecast would say,winds stayed the light side of moderate.
The course remained flat for the run in to the finish.The race had around 9500 finishers,so there was no overcrowing.There were 4 water stations giving out cups water and energy drinks were sufficient.
There were good crowds along the route,But the Dutch are more reserved than Americans or Dubs in terms of encouragement. Heading into the finish straight there is around 300m run to the line.Good support and a less reserved crowd lined the run in area.
I was happy with a 87 finish.My times in something of a contradiction are improving slowly. The bouquets are deserved elsewhere. Declan got 1st M045 and a top 100 finish in 73 mins. Kierans 83mins was an impressive 10th in age group and 1st (flying) non Dutchman M050.
The post race area in a field was well organised and spacious.But,not much in terms of snacky post race food.This is a very well run event. We were all happy and ready for a post race relaxing evening. But first ,being Holland ,Kieran had to have his post race chips. We found a place with excellent chips that hit the mark.
We then went to the suprisingly busy Hupple bar. The reasons for the crowd soon became clear. The bar manager brought our complimentary soup and bread. Again,this hit the mark. The only condition, the manager imposed made was you had to write a review of the soup and sandwiches in the pub notebook!!We found another bar with a food area attached,which went down well as hunger pains returned. Reggae music addded to the ambiance. We then returned to the Hupple bar ,where the bar man granted spotify music requests until we had had our full of drink…
In summary,we gave the event a big 4 yesees! An away day spring half is written into our diaries. Kieran is eyeing up an 055 placing next year and a new phone with a better google maps app. Declan is eyeing a PB and the Hupple bar food. Jer is just hoping to be fit to run .Whilst,I am looking at incremental improvement and a playlist for the bar man in the Hupple!
Maurice “Mo” McCrohan