A compass would have been handy


the jaw-droppingly beautiful and (to the author) hitherto undiscovered Sloterplas

The idea was, I thought, pretty cool. Despite my good fitness level, I still wanted to do a longish run before the GNR on Sunday.  Sarah (who has just, extremely reluctantly but under advice of the physio, deferred her place to next year) said that I really didn’t need to do a long one, but I know that I would be terribly nervous come the weekend without at least a 15-16k under my belt.  And I’m a stubborn old bugger.

A stubborn old bugger with sod-all sense of direction, to boot.

So, the “four park” plan was to run right through the Westerpark (to just before Sloterdijk), then down Admiral de Ruiterweg and into Erasmuspark in de Baarsjes, round there and out the other side and into Rembrandtpark which would spit me out a sparrow’s nipple away from the bottom of the Vondelpark, which as we all know is a simple 5k jog back home away.  I didn’t work out exactly how far it would be but it seemed to be a 15k-er which was about right.  Have a look at a map of the city and you’ll see that it looks like a doddle.

So, off I went.  Westerpark, easy peasy of course and looking utterly delightful in the evening sunshine with all the beautiful people lounging on the grass.  Found Ad de Ruiter and jogged down there until I saw the Erasmus across the way to the right, and off I went.  Very pleasant too, more beautiful people.  Out the other side, Rembrandt here we come!

Er, well.  Not quite.

(Having already written most of the rest of this narrative, I just went back to the map to try to solve the riddle of Where It All Went Wrong, and I think I have it.  Rather than exiting Erasmuspark on Jan van Galenstraat, I think I was ninety degrees out, which completely explains the rest of the farce and how I ended up where I ended up. Read on.)

So I managed to miss Rebrandtpark completely (ran directly west rather than south, and then north rather than west when I thought I’d missed it – ha) and ended up running along the bike path next to the motorway that feeds into the Haarlemmerweg (obviously I didn’t realise this, I thought I was running south not westwards) before ducking back into suburbia (unwittingly having not ever been anywhere remotely near the elusive third park, not that I knew this) and continued my search – with the great certainty of men everywhere that “it must be around here somewhere”.

Eventually and feeling rather chuffed with myself I found myself in a park.  Obviously I thought I’d found Rembrandtpark.  It turned out to be Sloterpark, which is a whole other kettle of lemons.

Sloterpark contains the jaw-droppingly beautiful Sloterplas, which is a vast lake.  When I say vast, I mean that (as I now see from the map of the city), you could quite easily drop the entire Vondelpark and its surrounding streets in it and there’d be no trace.  Not even knowing that this body of water existed, and thinking that at the other end of this park (remember dear reader that at this point I still, rather idiotically, still think I’m more or less where I was planning to be, despite the rather obvious existence of a bloody inland sea that I didn’t remember seeing in my extensive seventeen-second glance at the map before setting off) is the entrance to the Vondelpark (wronnnnng!), I’m a bit stuck.  Also I’m about 11k into the run by now and not keen on the idea of actually running two half-marathons in five days.  So, not really wanting to run around the whole lake – good decision, as I see now, I flap about a bit and find myself on van Galenstraat, which I know leads back into the centre (past, as I know, Erasmuspark actually, though my mind at this point wasn’t ready to visually reconstruct the 3D Escher impossible eternal staircase that this route was turning into).

So I trot out happily on Jan van Galenstraat until I see a tram go past.  The Other Way.  With Centraal Station As Its Destination.  At this point I lost all confidence in where the holy bejesus I thought I was and asked a very handily placed policewoman to confirm that Yes, this is Jan van Galenstraat and Yes, it’s that way to the centre and Yes, it’s quite a hike.  Reassuring her that I was training for a half-marathon and a few extra kms won’t be a problem (as opposed to Just Escaped From a Secure Facility And On The Run which I’m sure crossed her mind), I thanked her profusely and politely and did a neat 180 and the rest was easy peasy – back to the ring road (tum te tum) and over that, along as if I was an airport taxi coming into the Jordaan, past the Erasmuspark and through de Baarsjes, and back to Lijnbaansgracht and the 17k mark, where I stopped and walked the remaining 600m or so home.

The legs feel great.  A bit tired now but I’ve done tons of stretching and I’m pleased that I’ve got the long one under my belt and that it felt good, despite the pathetic navigation.  A few more 5ks now with no more challenging routes, and I’m ready for the GNR.  Bring it on, just make sure it’s well signposted.

17km, 90:06.

580km remaining.

(The Slavs begin to migrate into the Balkan peninsula; the Roman Senate sends 3000lbs of gold to Byzantine emperor Tiberius II with a plea for help against the Lombards)


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