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‘Together we beat the Bridges’: a wintry 15K run through Rotterdam

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The start of the leading group (source: www.bruggenloop.nl)

Buckets full of rain, harsh and cutting wind, or better said a typically cold winter afternoon in the Netherlands. These weather conditions, however, did not discourage the record number of 12.000 runners, including my dad and me, to run the 27th DSW Bruggenloop Rotterdam on Sunday the 7th of December.

None other than Nelli Cooman, former top athlete and world champion on the 60 meters indoor, had the honor to release the starting shot. “Despite the cold you get a warm feeling because of all these enthusiastic participants” she described, and just before the start she emphasized once more, while standing on a cherry picker, “you allknow what you are running for, you are running for a charity, for KiKa. Good luck!” (www.bruggenloop.nl). At 15:30 the first starting wave that includes the real sprinters, was ready for the 15K journey through Rotterdam. While several Santa Clauses and other cheerful supporters wrapped in woolen shawls and beanies in front of De Kuip, the stadium of the football club Feyenoord, applauded loudly, it was by now time for the second starting wave to begin their wintry adventure through the city. After waiting for more than 20 minutes in the cold and trying to get yourself warm by performing some jumping jacks and Christmas dances in the rain, it was finally time for my dad and me, and the other runners in the third starting wave to leave De Kuip behind us.

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Colorful runners of the third starting wave with De Kuip in the background (Yes, you could see my dad and me somewhere in this picture)

During the first 100 meters it was more like speed walking than a running race and furthermore it was a real challenge to sidestep the mountains of rain capes that were put on the ground, but as soon as we passed the first bend there was more space to increase your speed. Barely 800 meters on the way, it was already time for the first bridge, namely the Varkenoordse Viaduct. Luckily this bridge was just a small warming-up for the other bridges, and the colorful procession of runners felt slowly apart while running continuously straight by the lengthy Laan op Zuid in the direction of the Erasmus Bridge. Although we left the first bridge already a short time behind us, it was after 3200 meters time to actually realize the inspiring slogan of the event ‘Together we beat the bridges’, since we all had to climb up the marvelous 802 meters long Erasmus Bridge. But right before the big climb, the runners had the opportunity to mentally prepare themselves and to get an extra boost from the powerful and encouraging music from the brass band ‘Brass society’. “A though bridge” is how most of the contestants described the overpass with the nickname ‘The Swan’, but nevertheless “it was doable”. From here we followed up on the track via the Maasboulevard in the direction of the Van Brienenoord Bridge, where a barefooted lunatic and a lost bare-chested, aloha skirt wearing, Hawaiian man, passed us by.

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The lost Hawaiian man (source: www.bruggenloop.nl)

After 4000 meters the third bridge, the Nieuwe Leuvenbrug, was a fact, although this one was that just piece of a cake, just like the fourth one, the Boerengatbrug, which was located after the first 5K point. Along the road several bands and soaked, but joyful supporters accompanied us and motivated us to keep on running. As a lot of runners will agree with me, music is absolutely something that adds value to your run, and running with some stimulating and rousing beats is not only more enjoyable, it will also make you run faster. In the mean time, it was still raining buckets and enough raindrops were tumbled down to fill a whole swimming pool. Nevertheless we kept on running while trying to keep our socks dry by dodging the meters deep puddles. “The Van Brienenoord Bridge, that is the toughest one” is what Mike Teenens (25), the fastest man of today, said (www.bruggenloop.nl). After almost 9000 meters the bridge, which is the busiest road of the Netherlands with more than 250.000 vehicles a day, loomed up. Since every runner had received a green glow bracelet beforehand, it seemed like a green light cable was decorating the 1320 meters long bridge, which made the race very special. Just before the real climb started my dad and I threw out a big high five to motivate each other to beat this bridge together. “Just baby steps, just baby steps” was the only thing I kept thinking while climbing, what beforehand seemed like, the enormous mountain of a bridge. While reaching the 10K point the feeling of satisfaction submerged me, since we had, despite the rigid wind, reached the top of the mountain and there were only 5 kilometers left. We descended the bridge as if our lives were depending on it and just before the final phase of the race we had the opportunity to charge ourselves by drinking some water. Even though we could already smell the finish line, the last kilometers were quite tough. From kilometer point 11 until 12 it went rather fine, however when we passed the sign of the 12 kilometers point my legs started to resist and my mind was asking me: “Why the heck are you doing this?”. Therefore the only thing I was trying to do, after I thought I was doing something absolutely ridiculous, was focusing on the environment and the other runners. Meanwhile, however, my running gear was completely soaked, my hands were frozen, and the wind was almost blowing away my headband. Nevertheless, quitting, or even walking, was not an option, since running is for the biggest part based on mental factors and I really wanted to win this mind game. The last kilometers I ran, how one says, by character and when we finally could see the actual finish line I looked at my dad once more and the emotional feeling of proud submerged me. One final sprint, and together we crossed the finish line in 1:37:31, and although we were not very happy with our time, we deserved the glow-in-the-dark Bruggenloop 2014 medal, which will get a well-earned spot.

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The glow-in-the-dark medal

One Response to ‘Together we beat the Bridges’: a wintry 15K run through Rotterdam

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