This was my first race since the Boston Marathon. In hindsight it might have been better for me to do the 5 kilometers instead of the 10, but I couldn’t change my distance at the last minute. It was also the first time I did this race, even though it isn’t that far from me these days, but obviously a lot of races have been canceled in the last few years.
The first thing I noticed when I got to the city was that it wasn’t that clear that there was a running event taking place that day. There were no signs from the station to the start, but also no signs telling other traffic that the roads might be closed or anything like that. People were just going around their business and shopping and enjoying the nice weather.
It’s been quite warm around here these past few weeks and race day was no exception, it was sunny and about 24 degrees. My distance didn’t start until 1 pm, so it was definitely sunny and warm out. They had water at the start area and they were encouraging you to drink before the race. There were five starting waves, but the last one, the one I was in, seemed by far the biggest. The last wave seemed to be everyone who was planning to run 50 minutes or more. I think they could have maybe spread that out a bit better over the 5 waves and changed the expected times per wave.
The first part of the race goes through the streets of Den Bosch and it was pretty crowded in the beginning, but that is often the case with races, so no surprise there. After about 2.5 kilometers you get to the Zuiderplas where you run on the cycling lane. And this is where the cyclists came in. They did have some marshals on the course and some road blocks for cars, but that was it. And since it was a Sunday with nice sunny weather, there were quite a few cyclists around. The problem is that they were cycling on the course not really aware that there was an event going on and the marshals didn’t stop them.
Now, I realize that it’s difficult to close everything down these days and it’s hard to find enough volunteers (trust me, I know, I organize a free running event, parkrun, with a group of volunteers every single week), but this is an official race, it’s an event I pay money for to enter. Either close the route down or if you can’t close that part of the city, maybe pick another route or be very clear up front that the roads will not be closed. I had to abruptly stop several times because a cyclist was right in front of me and had to hit the brakes. One of those times was when I was halfway around the Zuiderplas. There was a family of four, mom, dad and two kids on bikes cheering on a woman who was a little in front of me in the race. Nothing wrong with cheering someone on of course, but they were cycling along with her almost the entire way around the lake in between the runners. And since the kids were quite small they kept stopping and going again and were clearly quite bored and at one point the girl was right in front of me on her bike and breaked and I almost fell over her. The four of them should just not have been on the course cycling along with the runners in the first place.
There was one aid station at around 3.5 kilometers in, but since it was hot and sunny everyone was grabbing water and the aid station was just one table where only half of the cups were filled with water. There was another aid station around 6.5 kilometers in where the volunteers were actively handing out water to the runners, thank you for that. But given the temperatures and the midday race time, I think the organization could have done more. There were no sponges or any other way to cool runners down.
After you go around the lake you go through Vught, still dodging cyclists, and then back towards the city center with some nice views of the Bossche Broek along the way.
Once you get back into the city center you aren’t only dodging bikes, you are also dodging shoppers and strollers and the likes. I think at the average parkrun, which doesn’t close down roads (and also doesn’t claim that they do), there are less people to dodge than at this race.
I didn’t run a very fast time, but it just wasn’t the race for it with dodging all the cyclists and the high temperatures. Luckily they did hand out water and sports drinks at the finish and the finish is at a nice central location. After that I had to walk back to the start area to pick up my bag again, but I didn’t really mind that since both start and finish are realatively easy to reach from the station.
To be honest, I’m not sure if I’ll do this race again. The route is quite nice, but what’s the point of a race if you have to dodge that many people? It’s roughly the same thing as going for a run by yourself on a busy cycling path, I can do that any day. Or maybe I should just do a trail distance next year, at least there won’t be any cyclists there.