No matter the length of the trip, you can nearly always find the time and manner to pursue you running passion. This trip was a prime example. Originally planned as a short jaunt to Milan (a city I have run in previously), with a stay in a downtown hotel, a scheduled Italian airport workers strike forced a change of plans. What resulted was an in-and-out trip to Amsterdam Schiphol airport, one in which I would have never actually needed to step outside. The other meeting attendees traveled by plane and train from Milan (ahead of and after the strike), Maastricht, and Paris.
The meeting was conducted in the Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel, connected o the airport and train station, and I made a reservation there that night. Flying in on an overnight flight Thursday-into-Friday, I was fortunate enough to get into my room early to freshen up for the meeting. The original plan was to run predawn on Saturday morning, before flying home in time for my wife’s birthday on Sunday. This time of year, predawn is a broad concept in Amsterdam. Located as far north as Quebec is, the late October sunrise and sunset are around 9:00AM and 6:30PM respectively, making for limited daylight hours. The climate in Amsterdam is moderate year-round, with summer average highs in the low 70’s F (22 degrees C), and winter lows just above freezing; the weather was a bit cool for October, with a high around 45 degrees Fahrenheit with a bit of wind – just warm enough for short sleeves.
Our meeting ended earlier than planned, after accomplishing our “B” goal for the trip, so I seized the opportunity and headed out into the late afternoon sunshine as opposed to trying to navigate (and take pictures)in the dark. Through research, I had discovered a bike path around the airport, which seemed ideal for what is normally a difficult environment in which to run; this bike path also connected to Amsterdam itself, though some had warned that the signs are poor. The culture of cycling is strong in the Netherlands, maybe even more than for other European countries, so it’s no surprise to find the suburbs of Amsterdam so well-connected; in fact, you can rent bikes at the airport to get to downtown Amsterdam.
What I wasn’t certain of was how to connect to the bike path, so I followed my own advice on running while traveling and asked the concierge. They kindly walked with me into the hallway outside of the hotel and pointed out where to jump on the path, and after a quick change and warm-up in my room, I was off. Obviously early navigation around the crowded airport was a bit difficult, but after passing the Citizen M Hotel, the path became obvious and clear, save for a few street crossings, and soon I found the sign pointing to Amsterdam.
After passing under two of the runways (Schiphol is a vast airport, in which it can take a good 15 minutes to taxi from the terminal to the start of the runway, even during less busy times), the path headed under a street and past a shipping company, before disappearing onto a side street. There were no further signs to Amsterdam, so you have to trust your instincts at this point and just keep going straight. The route passes some farms and residences, before hitting a more suburban setting with shops and more intersections to cope with.
Eventually, this street (Sloterweg) ended, after passing through the suburb of Badhoevedorp, and you truly feel like you are near Amsterdam, as you reach a canal. Turning right on Nieuwemeerdijk, the run begins to feel more authentic as you approach a windmill (though you have to pay attention to traffic, as the street is narrow, with a lot of parked vehicles). The cycle path turns left here onto Langsom (this is a hectic 3-way intersection) and soon the path separates from the street and truly begins to feel more suburban. In fact, it reminded me of the Mill Stream Run Reservation path near Cleveland, as well as the sidewalks in Cancun.
I continued to go straight and, at the 5:00 hour on a Friday, it began to feel like rush hour, as the bicycle and motor traffic increased significantly. There were plenty of kind smiles from the tall, generally blond-haired cyclists, and the occasional whiff of heavy perfume. I continued to keep running straight, though there were plenty of other options available. It would probably be easy to become lost if you started taking too many turns.
This became one of those runs you didn’t want to end, but I wanted to get back before dark so the landmarks were clearly distinctive (I had forgotten how to use the “path back” feature on my GPS watch), and was capping my mileage during this marathon-recovery period. It turns out, I turned back maybe just 2 miles before hitting Amsterdam proper. The landmarks were so distinctive that it was pretty easy to find my way back.
Whether on the street or on the path itself, the route felt safe, both from traffic and crime. It’s clear that Dutch drivers respect cyclists and typically yield the right of way (and that courtesy generally extends to runners), and cyclists respect each other. However, as you navigate the roads, you should never take this for granted – it only takes one mistake to ruin, at the minimum, your workout – or far worse.
Normally, airport hotels are a disaster when it comes time to find places to run. But the bike paths at Schiphol take running while traveling to a whole new level.
To see more pictures from this run, please visit the Amsterdam set on Flickr or the “Seen on the Run” album on Google+. And discover more about running in the major cities of the world from the Tripped-Out Running Map.