I did the same race last year, but they turned out to be complete opposites. In 2018 when I ran the Dam tot Damloop it was raining the entire time and by the end of the race I was soaked and very cold. But this time around it was sunny and very warm.
The Dam tot Damloop is a big race, but they spread out the start of the race over several hours, so only a few thousand runners start per wave. This time around there was a half an hour between the start of my wave and the next one, which meant that I ran kilometer 1 to 7 almost completely by myself with only a few other runners around me, since we were the back of the pack of our starting wave.
The race goes through the IJtunnel which is normally only meant for cars and since by that point I’m already at the back, I basically had the whole tunnel to myself. Which looked a bit surreal, even though the same thing happened to me last year.
My wave started at 13:45 so it was already above 20 degrees Celsius when we started. I managed to run a pretty decent first 5k despite the heat and I thought I could maybe run a better time than I did last year, because I wouldn’t be freezing this time around. Quite the opposite actually.
The organisation had already warned runners that it would be a hot day and what they could do to prepare themselves for running in hot conditions (breathable clothing, drink enough and if you don’t feel well while running, go to the nearest medical tent). The only thing that surprised me about this was that they wrote an entire page about what runners could do, but it said nothing about what extra measures the organisation had taken for race day. No extra aid stations, no sprinklers, nothing.
There has been some controverse surrounding the Dam tot Damloop in the past since they’ve had incidents where people died of heat stroke during the race because the medical teams didn’t know what to do with runners suffering from heat stroke (which is cooling them down as much as possible as fast as possible). This year they did have supplies to cool runners (although only near the finish area).
This being a 10 mile race, they had their standard aid stations at 5k, 8.5k, 11k and 13.5k. That might be enough for a race when it’s cooler, but it wasn’t enough for a race in 26 degrees where some parts of the course didn’t have any shade. Which means the aid stations could hardly keep up. I had my own bottle of Tailwind with me as usual, but even I thought they should have added another station at the beginning and near the end. Especially considering the fact that between 11 and 13k you run along the Zeedijk where there was no shade and there aren’t any houses along that road.
Before you get to 10k you go through villages and there are houses along both sides of the road. Since this year the weather was good, a lot of people were sitting in their front yard cheering on the runners, but they were also kind enough to hand out water, sponges and put up sprinklers to cool us down. I ran underneath every sprinkler I could find. It’s fantastic that they did that, but as an organisation you shouldn’t rely on spectators to take care of your runners, you should be the one taking care of them.
In the end the organisation decided to cancel the last two starting waves due to the heat. At that point 40.000 runners had already completed or were running on the course and those last two starting waves were already lined up ready to go. According to the organisation the medical teams were still coping at that point but they might not be able to cope if the remaining 4000 runners would run. Blaming it on the fact that there were a lot of untrained runners doing the race.
Of course safety is important, but I’m not sure those 4000 runners would have made that much of a difference, since you let all the other runners go already. Yes there are people who don’t train enough and run the Dam tot Damloop ten mile race. But I would expect them to be mainly in the corporate teams which start earlier in the day. Those people might not be runners but feel peer pressured into running the race with their colleagues, although there will obviously also be runners amongst them. The later waves are runners who signed up individually and made the choice to run themselves. The last two waves are the slower runners, but that doesn’t mean they are untrained or don’t know how to listen to their bodies.
I started to struggle because of the heat between the 5 and 10k point. I noticed my heart rate was high (which isn’t unusual for me), but it wouldn’t really go down during my walking breaks because of the heat (it’s normal to have a higher heart rate when it’s hot). My pace dropped a bit but it was still ok. But I was using too much energy with my heart rate remaining so high and the part after the 10k was difficult because of the lack of shade.
So I decided to slow down considerably during the remaining 6k and just take it easy. Better safe than sorry. I did see quite a few people that were on the ground that were being cared for by medical staff. So, I didn’t beat my time from last year, it actually took me almost 6 minutes longer. But I’m fine with it. Because of the heat finish lines were more important than finish times.
Did the organisation make the right choice by cancelling the remaining two starting waves? I don’t know. I don’t think 4000 more runners would have made a huge difference and all those runners were already there, had already dropped off their bags and were ready to go. Obviously you want runners to be safe and runners themselves should be smart enough to slow down if it’s that warm (yes, I know some of you run in even warmer conditions, but here is the Netherlands 26 degrees doesn’t happen every day, so not everyone is used to running in that). But I think the organisation could have also done more to keep runners cool. I think they either should have let them run or should have cancelled the race sooner, rather than letting 90% of the runners go and only cancelling the last 10%. They could have told the last waves to take it easy, since there had been already several runners who had become ill due to the heat and they could have extended the time limit by half an hour or so as to make sure the last waves wouldn’t try to rush. At that point the roads had already been closed for hours, a bit longer wouldn’t have made a huge difference.