High Mileage Experiment: Rotterdam Marathon 2024

Race Date: Sunday 14th April 2024

Before moving to Sheffield at the start of 2022 I had no interest in running a marathon. Fast forward two years, and I’ve just completed my second. My debut came with a pot luck London marathon ballot entry where I defied the odds and gained a place on my first attempt, this was after being influenced by my new training group, aptly named “Marathon Bus”. After getting over the line at London, I had a recurring thought in my head (some call this the marathon blues), “technically I didn’t choose to enter; rather, I was forced into it. Who turns down a ballot place? So… maybe I should enter another marathon of my own accord.” Now this brings us onto Rotterdam Marathon 2024. (Editor’s Note: Naeem ran 2:44:02 at London. Not a bad debut but we all knew that he could go faster).

Why Rotterdam? I had done some research into abroad spring marathons and kept being drawn to Rotterdam – maybe it was the lack of hills and PB potential. But after speaking to a few from the club who had previously ran Rotterdam, they didn’t have a bad word to say about the event. The only exception was the differing weather conditions, from heatwaves to wind. (Editor’s Note: The existing club record of 2:28:39 was set at Rotterdam whilst Jennifer Rich ran Rotterdam in 2018 to become the first Steel City woman to run under three hours. Wat niets kost, is niets waard).

Travel? I opted to fly to Amsterdam from Manchester after getting a train from Sheffield early Friday morning. I then took a direct train to Rotterdam Centraal Station. Short walk to the expo to collect my race number and vibrant t-shirt, finished off with a walk to the hotel. Base camp was set up.

Training? Now this is where the fun starts. I opted for a high mileage Pfitzinger inspired training block, that could be easily moulded to my regular training weekly format of Monday strength & conditioning; Tuesday long tempo/threshold work; Thursday VO2 track session; Saturday tempo work; and Sunday long run, with recovery jogs on the days in between. Over a 16-week block, my average mileage per week was 130km (70mi), with the highest mileage falling during a Portugal ‘warm weather’ training camp of 185k (115mi) and lowest 100k (60mi) for a week taper before Dewsbury 10k (let’s not talk about the race). Throughout the block I ensured there was the same percentage of quality during each week to avoid ‘junk mileage’. I surprisingly felt great throughout the block and was able to avoid injuries and serious niggles. This 16-week block was followed by a 2 week taper, dropping volume & intensity to 60% and then 40%. (Editor’s Note: Naeem fails to mention a 74:59 pb at the North Lincs Half Marathon in March).

Nutrition? Throughout the block I have been training with Maurten 320 carb drink, Maurten gels, and SiS Beta fuel. I initially had some GI issues with Maurten gels; however, after a few weeks, this seemed to settle, and my body got used to running on them. My race nutrition plan would be to finish a 500ml bottle with 320 carb drink mix at least 20 mins before the start to guarantee a quick toilet stop beforehand. During the race to alternate between SiS Beta fuel and Maurten gels every 30 mins.

About 2km to go, still with a good knee lift and leg drive. The fuelling strategy working well.

Race -1 The plan said for a 6k easy jog. This was the perfect opportunity to check out a local Parkrun. Luckily, Kralingse Bos was just a short metro ride away and hosted a parkrun on paths adjacent to the picturesque lake. The rest of the day consisted of eating and catching up with a friend from my time at university. He’s a local and wanted to give me a whistle-stop tour of Rotterdam, which was potentially a little more walking than I first envisaged one day out, but a halfway pit stop for brunch helped break this up. The last evening meal I had was a Thai. It worked for the previous marathon, so why change a winning formula?

Race Day Weather check… Sunny, 13 degrees and a slight breeze – I’ll take it. I arrived at the start area roughly an hour before go time. I discovered a relatively quiet road to do activations, quick jog and strides. My starting pen was B, which luckily had separate toilets to the main waves and had access to the elite race hotel. I made full use of this and lounged on some comfy chairs in the warmth. The race held a minute silence in respect to the current marathon world recorder holder, Kelvin Kiptum, Rotterdam would have been Kelvin’s attempt at breaking the 2 hour barrier. This was followed by a performance of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Dutch favourite Lee Towers. Not quite the pumping music you want before a race, but I got involved and waved my hands.

Race This is it, the gun goes. I cross the start line to a standstill. There seemed to be a bottle neck ahead, is this a parkrun? Not the ideal start I was wanting but I’ll go with it. I then broke one of the cardinal sins in marathoning and began to surge to get on pace. I, and by the looks of it many others around me, couldn’t quite get settled into the race until about 10km. I remembered crossing the 15km mat and began to have issues with my stomach. This was strange and very early on. Luckily I latched onto a good pack shortly after and began to perk up. Not enough to see my girlfriend through the crowd who at that point was standing at the 29km mark though, but she did manage to get a good video of me. This changed at 37km where I began to get the same stomach issues I had experienced earlier on, then noticed the pace to be slowly dropping off. After a couple of let’s say ‘water incidents’ at 39km, I felt relieved and began to kick for home. My goals for the race were A=2:35, B=Sub 2:40, C=Finish. I crossed the line in 2:35:54. I was absolutely over the moon and couldn’t stop smiling through the pain. I’d done it!

Pos Name Cat Time
163 Naeem Stevens SM 02:35:54

First male was Abdi Nageeye who set a Dutch National Record of 2:04:45 with first woman Ashete Bekere (Ethiopia) 2:19:27. The last of the 17093 finishers crossed the line in 6:17:07.

Results Rotterdam Marathon 2024

Bit of a dip at 35km but nothing like that experienced by most in the latter stages.

What’s Next? As much as I enjoyed the training block, I am going to take a break from marathons and focus on attempting to improve my shorter distance PBs.

Addidas Pro 3 but what’s that he’s drinking?

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