Steam is hissing, the train whistle blowing, conductors with big, grey whiskers, are closing the wooden doors. I sit down on an old, wooden bench in the dining car. A step up from the third class wagon I just walked through. It all feels a bit like a scene from the Agatha Christie movie Murder on the Orient Express, It’s just that all the people around me, feel out of place.
No Hercule Poirot dressed in his 1930’s suit, No Michelle Pfeiffer neither, not even Judi Dench. And no suits, furs, long dresses or fancy five course meals. Instead, all the people around me are wearing leggings, shorts and running vests, packed with energy bars and gels.
Slowly the train starts moving for our Viking Outdoor Steam Trail, a trail run race in the heart of The Netherlands. Creaking, hissing, as if the train is almost protesting to leave the station. Inside all the runners are taking photos, laughing and talking about kilometers, training methods and shoes. It’s the strangest start for my longest run ever.
In Eerbeek the old steam train comes to a halt, with almost as much noise as when it started. Here, half of the people leave the train. They will run back to Dieren, where we started half an hour earlier. The rest of us stay on board until Beekbergen, where we will also leave the train and run back. All of us just have a one way ticket.
Juggling work and ultra running
From here on, we’re on our own. No more wheels, just our own legs to get us back. Mine feel good. Maybe a little too good, because when I catch up with Akke and we start chatting about her ultra runs and how she juggles work, motherhood and running long distances, our pace goes up unnoticed.
After a few kilometers I look at my watch and see that my heart rate is above 160, where I promised myself to keep it around 150 in the beginning. I apologize for being a rookie, and not being able to follow her pace any longer. She smiles at me and confesses that she was thinking she was actually following my pace. A nice way to preserve my ego.
A little mental dip
I am this little child, that’s always happy to run and gets over excited easily. Yet, I’m also a bit of a diesel. It’s a weakness and after a kilometer of twelve, when the sun is burning down on me on the moorlands, full of Ericaceae I notice I’ve fallen for it again. My legs feel heavy and my mind is protesting.
When I see Tessa’s little group, resting their legs for a moment in the shadow of a big tree, taking in all the purple and green fields, full of sheep around them on the Loenermark, I decide to join them, grab an energy gel and shake my legs out.
With my legs still heavy, I follow my way. The fields make way for the forest, which shelters me against the sun. I put on one of my favorite podcasts, The Guardian’s Football Weekly, and move on to the refreshments post at 16 kilometers, where there is a big gathering of all the runners.
I decide not to join the small talk, but to quickly grab half a cup of Coca Cola and move on. If it’s the Cola or the coolness of the shadow, I don’t know, but I feel the energy returning to my legs.
With another nine kilometers to go, I keep the brakes on a little longer. Strangely enough I feel better with every step I take, and with 5 kilometers to go I finally allow myself to run as fast as my legs want to go. Before I know it, I’m back in Dieren and cross the finish line of the Viking Steam Trail with a big smile.