Mist hangs above the fields, blurring the cows that are trying to find some juicy grass. Some of them are sticking their heads just above the white veils. A meadow further a heron stands all on its own. It looks like a black and white drawing out of a history book. And this is just on my way to the race. I haven’t even started running the Amerongse Berg Trail yet.
An hour and a half after I left home, I park my car next to Boshotel Overberg, and next to another runner, who is gearing up for this mornings trail run. The car park isn’t really full yet, and when I walk to the little tent to pick up my bib number I’m one of the few. Even the pavilion isn’t open yet. So no tea, before the start.
When I look at my number, I smile. 747. Boeing 747. Nice number, but I don’t think I will be flying today. Easy is the plan. It’s a trail run, not a race. Not for me, nor for anybody else. There is no time registration and no group start. The Amerongse Berg Trail is a fun run.
To be fair, it’s the set-up I often prefer. Races can be crowded. The Steam Trail I ran earlier this year was fun, but the first couple of kilometers was one big traffic jam. I mean a couple of hundred runners on a single track, just doesn’t work. Twenty people on a single track already doesn’t work.
Besides that, I like the silence. Luckily, Trail Events does things differently. They let you start in small groups. Or, like me this morning, on my own, as there are not a lot of other people yet. There were four before me, but they took off, while I was still lacing up my shoes. Tucked away in my rain jacket against the cold, beanie on my head, I follow them into the woods. Their bright yellow shirts stand out in between the green and brown trees.
The start is easy. Some wider paths. Dried up mud, covered with leaves of the surrounding trees that slowly let the first sun rays shine down on me. But the big bush lanes quickly are swapped for small single tracks going slowly uphill.
When I’m almost on the heels of the two women in front of me, I stop for a moment. Sure, it’s nice to overtake, but it’s even nicer to be comfortable. With the sun now higher in the sky, I’m getting seriously warm. So it’s time to take off my jacket. My beanie stays on a little longer.
Within a kilometer I take over the two runners in front of me. Just before the forest suddenly opens up into a wide field full of Erica that has ceased blossoming. The track through it is so small I can hardly put one foot in front of the other.
In the middle of the field stands an old tree, almost on its own. His branches hang down like droopy shoulders. I stop, to hook my little tripod around it to take some action pictures. When the ladies overtake me and stop as well to take a picture of each other, I offer to do it for them.
When they are on their way again, I take a couple of more photos, select an interesting podcast from The Economist about Xi Jinping, and start running again towards the aid station half way the Amerongse Berg Trail.
Generally I don’t stop too long at an aid station. I carry everything with me for a race. I mean, every trail run is a training for the next one and the next one might be a long one with limited aid stations.
But here a nice Kiwi is serving the drinks and chopped up Brussels waffles. Having spent 8 months in New Zealand I’m happy to get to know him and chat a bit about running on the other side of the world, and the races he’s doing here in Europe. Sadly enough, I feel my legs getting cold, so after a couple of minutes I’m on my way.
Again we start on a wider lane, but leave it soon behind us for a single track. This time a path through bushes and trees that are so close on top of each other I have to push them to the side.
As soon as I have worked my way through them, I enter a part of the forest, where the ground is so full of leaves the run starts to feel like an orienteering one. Luckily the white markers are easy to find and my Garmin beeps at every turn I have to take.
I check my watch. More than 15 kilometers done. I feel almost as fit as when I started, and decide to run a negative split by speeding up and making my last 5 kilometers the fastest ones of this trail.
I zigzag a little bit more through the forest, over single tracks, where I overtake a couple of young guys that overtook me at the aid-station when I was chatting. A couple of more turns later I’m back on the path where I started. In front of me I see the roof of the hotel sticking out above the trees, announcing the finish. I sigh. This is the most beautiful trail run I’ve done in the Netherlands so far, and I don’t want it to end, but I have no choice.
One more corner and I cross the finish line, alone. With a big smile I receive my medal, thank the organizers, and jump in my car to drive home and to tell Sara all about it.