Trail Running in the Dutch Mountains
[Ed: Introducing MIG, a Dutch trail runner and journalist currently writing a book about ultra trails throughout the world. Welcome!!]
Most trail runner’s worldwide often take off for runs in natural parks and mountain areas. In the Netherlands trail runner’s have to wait for a longer holliday to experience the fun of mountains. The Low Lands, for about 60 percent situated below sealevel, offer dikes and dunes instead of mountains. In the east and south of the country a modest trail runner landscape with small hills up to 300 meter give modest trail opportunity’s, though.
Despite of the awkward geographic situation, the number of trail runners in ‘Cheese Head’ country is growing significant. An explanation for this growing number is the creativity of Dutch atletes. When I visited the Tor Des Géants in Valle d’Aosta in september 2010 I interviewed a French finisher about his training facilities back home. He told me, he lived in Paris and was doing his workouts mostly in parks in and around the French capital. For specific mountain training he worked out indoor. And of course, he took a train to the Alps once in a while, but compared to some mountain guides living at altitude with trails beginning right in between the potatoe plants in their gardens, the runner from Paris did ‘pas mal’, not bad at all.
I saw Dutch trail ‘aficionados’ using a similar strategy. Apparently, you don’t need a Swiss passport to be able to prepare well for running mountain trails.
This brings me to another typical quality of most Dutch. They like travelling. Besides some real fine ‘off road’ running opportunity’s in certain areas througout the small country, some more serious uphill trails and trail competitions can be found in nearby Belgium and Germany. A three hours drive will bring most of Dutch trail runners to some nice trail areas abroad. An additional advantage of travelling to Belgium for a trail run, is the wide offer of good monastery beers that can be found in this country. Furthermore typical Belgian food and a nice atmosphere make it worth the journey.
Last decades in Dutch mountain climbing, another laughable subject of course, a similar development has been seen. As in the seventies mountain climbing was a quite exotic thing in the Netherlands, nowadays climbers from below sealevel accomplish some great mountain performances all over the world. Maybe the Dutch go abroad because of the small size of their country, and the desire of better beer then Heineken. Maybe they never feel restricted by their limits to find new opportunity’s. In history, the Dutch earned gold by selling slaves and drugs centuries ago. I’m still convinced that selling humans and ‘spices’ in the 17th century are the foundation of our 21st century whealth, so beware of the Dutch! :)
I would like to mention in this place an initiative of a modest Dutch trail runner group called MudSweatTrails. They tried to combine best of both cultures of Belgium and The Netherlands in a 30 km trail competition near the border of the two countries, close to the cities of Aachen (D), Liège (B) and Maastricht (NL). A very nice initiative, worth a visit if you’re in the area around the 15 th of may. See: www.mudsweattrails.nl/koningvanspanjeenglish
This rather odd story about trailrunners from a nation with no mountains reminds me of a World Championship speed ice skating the Netherlands, years ago. At that time, this sport was only practised in countries like the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Germany, the United States, Canada or Russia. One of the participating competitors was a guy with a Spanish name, something like Gomez or Gonzales. As a matter of fact, he was from Spain. He had a childish technique and he ended minutes after the elite skaters, but all the spectators gave him a real warm applause. The public simply loved this Spanish anti-hero.
In the same kind of atmosphere, a Dutch runner took part in the TDG in 2010. Swiss people I met during the course were amazed that this guy was able to run around in between all these giant mountains. “Where..? How..? But..?” They ended up joking about such a funny idea… Until they saw him passing by, hours ahead of their Swiss favourite runner. The Dutch runner finished in 22th position.
So we’re in, I guess. And we hope you accept us running your mountains and tasting your beers, wines, steaks, jamon serrano, french fries or Emmental!
Guest post by 100% MIG, from MudSweatTrails, NL