I have completed 31 international marathons amongst my current total collection of 251. The vast majority of these were front loaded into my running career when I was fortunate enough to do a substantial amount of business travel and managed to work in a marathon or two around the actual work.
The first was Prague when a week of work conveniently coincided with the weekend of the Prague Marathon – a city full of beautiful Gothic architecture and Bohemian culture but for me the biggest significance was that this was the city where Pilsner was invented. Thirsty marathon runners will also be pleased to note that beer prices in Prague are roughly equivalent to those in South Africa.
A year after the Dutch summer sun beat me up, I was back in Amsterdam to speak at a conference. To satisfy my insatiable hunger for marathons, I was faced with a repeat visit to Leiden or a 150km drive to the extreme north of the Netherlands. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me… so the saying goes. I wasn’t going to chance another midday massacre in the middle of summer and therefore decided to head north to Leeuwarden, with just over 100,000 residents the largest city in the province of Friesland.
It is often very entertaining to read the English section of foreign marathon websites, which tend to be full of unintentionally funny translations. The Leeuwarden Marathon avoided this problem by having no English section. Google translate had not yet been invented, so this tested the limits of my rudimentary Afrikaans taal skills, as I had to translate what appeared to be Dutch text.
I managed to figure out the important details – like the race date and start time – and also that this was a pre-entry only race, and I had missed the deadline. I wrote a passionate, imploring letter to the organisers in my best Afrikaans to plead for a late entry, and a reply came back a short while later in English to say they would accommodate my petition.