Part 3: One hundred and eighty thousand kilometres

Geschreven door Bert Plomp

Later, when the real running began, Theo, Charles, and I covered quite a few marathons throughout the country. During those forty-two kilometres, you lost a lot of fluids. Because I never drank or ate while running, I was usually about three kilos lighter by the end of the race. This concerning weight loss, I quickly compensated for on the terrace of a local pub right after the marathon. You always have to be careful not to dehydrate, was Theo’s advice. And he knew because he studied it. It’s about the only advice I ever took to heart from my sensible brother.

From that period also comes my best finishing time of two hours and forty minutes. I achieved that time during the Utrecht Marathon. I ran the entire course with an average speed of sixteen kilometres per hour. As an amateur, I was satisfied with that result. After all, running was a hobby alongside my ‘nine to five’ office job. Without medical supervision, massages, special nutrition, and extra free time. I actually ran that great time after a night of heavy drinking. Although brother Theo, then and now, also struggled with thirst, he mainly quenched it after the running event. My eldest brother also had some issues with my warm-up. While he did some stretching exercises, I often smoked a quick cigarette right before the race started.

Meanwhile, I’ve accumulated a lot of kilometres. I’ve covered more than 180,000 kilometres running. That’s equivalent to circling the globe more than four times. I started my runs at various times of the day. Before the workday, and then, for a while, after the workday. A period early in the morning, alternated by a while late in the evening. It never seemed to be convenient. Only during the weekends was there no pressure. Wherever I stayed, I always had my bag with running gear with me. On vacation and during weekends. If I was somewhere for a meeting, anywhere in the world, I never skipped my running session.
Because at home in Utrecht, it often involved laps of twenty-five kilometres, my sport required a lot of time.

I preferred to run my laps early in the morning during weekdays. That meant getting up at five o’clock every morning. Then I ran from my house in ‘Oog in Al’ in Utrecht to the village of Haarzuilens, made a round around the castle there, and finally ran back home. Occasionally, I got tired of getting up so early in the morning. Then I ran my laps when I got home from work or late at night, before going to bed. That brought other disadvantages. When I completed the Haarzuilens lap in the dark, I had to move around blindly, feeling my way, around the castle. On a substantial part of that stretch, there wasn’t a lamppost to be seen. Like a blind person without a cane, I wandered between the trees, arms outstretched. You’d get quite a shock if you suddenly collided with another living being in absolute darkness.

Running right after work meant that you only showed up at the table late. Unpleasant for the other household members. They often had to wait until eight o’clock with a growling stomach to eat. That led to them having their meal earlier, and my plate had to be reheated. Late dining also shifted the social agenda a few hours. That’s why you could only receive family and friends or visit someone later in the evening.
Running at the end of the evening resulted in going to bed very late. Because your system was still revved up for a while, it took an eternity before you fell asleep. As a result, chronic sleep deprivation. Then you decided to go running again in the early morning.

In the eighties and nineties, I owned a bungalow at Camping Het Grote Bos in Doorn. Together with my then running buddy Swilly, every Friday afternoon, we ran to the campsite, starting at home in Utrecht. For my Border Collie and me, it was just a warm-up for the next day. On Saturdays, we ran together for a whole afternoon through the forests between Doorn and Veenendaal. Sunday afternoon was the time to return home. My wife by car, Swilly, and I on foot. The two of us enjoyed the beautiful route. The woods and fields between Doorn and Utrecht that crossed our path. It was an excellent way to gradually come to terms with the idea that the weekend was over and that you had to go back to work.

I followed this running pattern for about thirty years of my life. Before and after, I covered quite a few kilometres, but much less. All added up, it was definitely 180,000. Once, at the beginning of my running career, I had to give up my military service, much against my will, after six weeks due to worn-out knees. Now, I’m slowly starting to notice that my left knee has seen better days. However, on one cylinder, I hope to keep chugging along for a while.


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