60km of Texel

The late Jan Knippenberg was an ultrarunning pioneer and anglophile from Holland, who wrote an influential book about the history of long distance running. In this book, he convincingly shows that what we now call 'ultramarathons' have in fact a much longer history than the marathon itself. Every other year since 1991, a 60km race is held on Knippenberg's beloved island of Texel. Needless to say that I was very happy to accept race director Martien Baars's invitation to take part in this year's 12th edition. Thanks to the Sat Nav on my Android phone (eat that, Apple!), I discovered that there is a fantastic cycle path going from my home all the way to Luton airport, a very pleasant albeit icy cold journey of just 12 miles. I parked my bike at the terminal building, hopped on the plane to Amsterdam and hitched a ride with my parents to Texel. The race started at 10:35 on April Fool's day. The sky was blue and it was freezing, just like in Barry. In fact, I believe that the very same high pressure centre that was responsible for the icy conditions in late February, is still sitting above of the British Isles right now. Whereas I was wearing shorts in Barry, I wasn't quite sure what to do in Texel, due to the strong north-easterly wind. I ended up changing clothes a lot, thus making the race look a bit like, not strip-poker, but 'strip-running':

distance: 0-20km
clothing: socks, tights, long sleeve t-shirt, regular t-shirt, warm hat, gloves
surface: beach and dunes
conditions: first some tail wind, then a strong and cold head wind.
position: after a gentle start, I catch up with front runner Pascal van Norden, then team up with him and Pieter Mans to fight against the wind. After the first stretch of sand, I pull away from my two companions, then battle against the wind for a second run on the beach, in soft sand and at high tide. I nevertheless enjoy it, as I always do on the surface that reminds me so much of home!

distance: 20-30km
clothing: shorts, long sleeve t-shirt, t-shirt, regular hat, gloves
surface: gravel path
conditions: head wind
position: gently pulling away from Mans and van Norden, who have the advantage of working together against the wind. I come through half way in 2h05'. Way too slow to break the course record of 3h57'.

distance: 30-45km
clothing: shorts, t-shirt, hat, gloves
surface: smooth asphalt
conditions: tail wind, nice and sunny. Great running weather!
position: running at 3:40-3:50/km and quickly extending my lead over my rivals, I recover some of my lost time, briefly getting some hope of finishing sub-4h.

distance: 45-57km
clothing: shorts and t-shirt
surface: mostly asphalt, some cobble stones
conditions: tail wind
position: losing some momentum due to a few sharp turns in the picturesque village of Oosterend, and beginning to run out of fuel, I gradually give up hope of a fast finish time. So I sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery.

distance: 57-60km
clothing: shorts and t-shirt
surface: asphalt
conditions: head wind, slightly uphill!
position: with victory in the bag, I take it easy during the last two miles, allowing me to finish in style, after 4h03'12".

1h44'13" later, my dad arrives as well. Not being in such a rush, he has enjoyed the race even more than I did. Another hour later, I receive the first prize: an old shoe of Jan Knippenberg! I get to keep this coveted trophy for two years, until the next edition of this great event.

Full steam ahead with a tail wind and fellow geologist Furu Mienis for support (picture taken by Erik van Echten).

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