The Amsterdam Runaround


As a general rule for Runarounds, they tend to run…well…around something.  Usually that’s a city.  In most cases I start at the hotel and then make a big loop back to my starting point.  In some occasions (such as in China about a month ago), I took a taxi a short distance to a location and then started from there before running back to the hotel.  I do this mostly because Runarounds aren’t any specific distance or time, they’re just me adapting my training schedule to a given city.  The time/distance on my training schedule is what I use, and the route is what I make up along the way.

But today I tried something a bit different.  A point to point runaround.  So I suppose that’s technically, a Run-To.

Since my meetings up here in Amsterdam are a bit outside the city, there’s not really a whole lot out here to check out.  Thus it seemed far more interesting to run downtown instead.  But taking the train downtown just to run in a circle there seemed like a lot of work.  So instead a hatched a plan: Run from the hotel to downtown, and take the train back.  It didn’t take me too long to put together a quick route, more or less following bike paths into the city center.


This was ideal because my workout was a tempo run of sorts, roughly 35 minutes of tempo before doing some interval work towards the end.  So with the majority outside the city center I’d be able to keep nice stable (and fast) paces.

Once I was done creating my route and selected ‘Send to Device’ and went digging in my backpack to find a device to use.  I found plenty of devices in there.  A couple of TomTom’s, a Bryton Cardio, the Basis B1, and odd Fitbit, and the Garmin FR610.

Well crap.  None of those supported me sending routes to them.  That meant there was only one thing to do:


Yes, I wrote it all down.  And no, it definitely wasn’t pretty.  In fact, there’s two more steps on the back.


But, I reviewed the course in the GPS satellite mode a few times – sorta like when I memorized ski racing courses growing up ski racing, the morning of a race.  The only difference being 6 miles worth of words I couldn’t pronounce versus red gate, blue gate.

With my little list, I headed outside.  I was lucky in that my hotel was right across from the train station, which meant the ride back would be quick.  I took a picture of it – just in case I was lost and never seen again some CSI investigator might figure out I started there, like a reverse breadcrumb trail.


Off I went.  Initially, I was a bit nervous in that I wasn’t finding my first turn onto the bike path – until I looked down below me.  Score!


There are separate bike paths and running/walking paths here.  The bike paths are packed with cyclists (as you’ll see throughout the post), as well as these tiny little cars.  They remind me of the those kids ride-in-cars.  Note the scale of the bicycles compared to them.



This little stretch of park probably lasted close to a mile or so, but was perfectly flat and awesome for keeping pace.

When I got to the end of it I was pretty excited to see that my written down name for the next street (Step #5) matched what was on the sign (blurry-cam pic included!).  Woot!



From there it was onto a bit of a quiet town/neighborhood road.  Just nice family homes lining the street most of the time.  Again, dedicated bicycle lanes of course on both sides of the street, and then dedicated running/walking lanes next to that.


Soon I came to what I had written down as “Big highway mess” – and thankfully it lived up to that explanation.  I had to cross under the highway, then make a bit of a “U” turn over and around a canal before continuing on.



After clearing the mess of highways I had the beginnings of ‘downtown’ in sight.  I’d be running along a very straight canal for a while.


I’m always excited though when my running speed roughly matches or exceeds that of cyclists.  Even if they are 2-2.5 times my age.


Below, the pace, for those that are curious.  With no turns or things to dodge, this section was my quickest along the route, averaging just a tad over 6/min/mile.


In the river teams were out rowing, with coaches or other team leaders riding bikes alongside:


Once past the river, I started hitting the edge of the city.  It’s here that I figured things would go downhill.  But astoundingly, my notes were actually holding up.


The only time I made a slight diversion was when I misread my note (Step 15) that said “Hit Canal, go right”.  And I did that.


Except about a hundred yards later I thought I reprocessed my own instruction set and remembered that when I wrote “Hit canal”, I meant “When I can’t run forward anymore because there’s a canal in my way”.  Not “Turn right at next Canal”.  So, only really two hundred extra yards of running.

Back onto the running path I went, still following my instructions.  Which, at this point were getting slimmer and slimmer.  I’m not sure why I decided to provide less information as I neared the more complex city streets, but I did.


I soon found Step #17, and continued across the square in front of the Nieuwmarkt Square:


Just after finishing going across the square I completed the tempo run portion of my run.  Nearly perfect timing (really, I couldn’t have ever predicted exactly where I’d finish that distance since it was all HR-driven paces).

This was good because now I was in the row-houses, which can be a bit harder to run at-pace with all the quick turns.


And first up, was the Redlight district.

It doesn’t exactly look as red-light-like in the day, and especially since in the shots I took I’ve kept them all rated ‘G’.   Sorry adult fans!




Next up was a mixed set of short-duration intervals.  About 35-seconds each.  I found spots in between some of the sections were the road was quiet, and was able to knock them out there.  For example, in the photo below, you can see the road down to the next bridge is pretty empty.  Perfect for that.


Along the way, I found some of the famous Coffee Shops (no, not the Starbucks variety!).


The big church building you see two photos above (Oudekerksplein) was one of my last navigation crossings.  I was pretty jazzed to find that.  Though, again, my instructions after that were rather presumptuous.  In fact, I’m not even sure what the heck I wrote there.


The river in that particular area was rather pretty though.  You can see one of the canal tourism boats at the far end of the photo, and then closer up the two boats parked side by side are offloading various goods to a local business.


A couple of blocks away and I broke free of the small canals and nearly had the ‘finish line’ in sight.


And just after clearing a construction zone, there it was at the end of the tracks – my final destination!  The Amsterdam Central train station.


It’s around this area that the cycling gets pretty crazy.


Which, when you consider just how much bike parking they have, is understandable.  Here, let me give you a brief post-run tour of the main parking garage at the train station.


You can see it above, but here’s what it looks like when standing on that deck.  More than likely I’d be just as long as this women was.  She was clearly having trouble remembering where she parked her bike.


As you can see, it stretches on upwards into the sky.  Below are multiple levels – all packed with bikes.  Oh, and the lady is still searching.


Here’s the view probably 100m away at the top, looking back:


The system to hold the bikes up is pretty cool.  You’ll notice that every other bike is either high or low, to allow for more bikes to fit in and not have handlebar clashing issues.


And all the stairs have small channels to allow you to roll your bike up/down them:


Of course, even outside the bicycle parking situation is a wee bit crowded:


With that, I headed on into the train station:


It took a few minutes to figure out exactly how to get the right ticket for the right train to the right places.  But the folks were super friendly and 2.90 EUR later I had my ticket.


As I went to board my train, I had to laugh at this bit of graffiti written on the side:



Approximately 13 minutes later and I was getting back off the train at my stop:


And 100 yards after that, I had the hotel back in sight!  Woohoo, I made it back!


The run itself from a training standpoint went exceedingly well.  The paces for the main tempo portions were right where I’d want them to be.  Each portion had slightly different HR zones assigned to it, starting off relatively easy.


And, upon uploading to Strava I had nailed a bunch of PR’s.  Though I don’t have a lot of historical info in there, so it’s sorta like stealing candy from babies.


And, I even took took a Strava ‘Crown’ (basically a KOM but for running) on a segment.  Well, technically two segments, but it looks like they’re dups.


Note that I still wish they’d go back to the old setup for running.  The fact that the CR’s don’t enumerate on the same page as the ‘Top Results’ is just silly (and annoying).

With that, thanks for the nice weather and city Amsterdam!  Always nice dropping by.  Btw, for those looking for more Amsterdam bike pics from me, here’s a post from a couple years ago with some – including kids in wagons! (Though you’ll need to follow my tour through Africa before you get to the Amsterdam part).

And thanks to everyone else for reading!


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  1. Heyyyyy…. one of those pics is definitely at least a PG-13 ;)

  2. Happy Runner

    Since I get vicarious thrills from your jet setting lifestyle, I was a bit depressed to see you lodging at a Hampton Inn. :)

    • As long as it has fast internet, I’m happy! This hotel is actually brand new, fast and free wifi, and free breakfast. A funny breakfast note from this morning was I saw that a kid had managed to make a sprinkle-sandwhich. Had somehow covered an entire piece of white bread in chocolate sprinkles, and was preparing to add the second layer of bread.

    • Mans M

      chocolate sprinkles are common in the netherlands… you can get them in the supermarket under the name Hagelslag. Hagelslag is one of the things you should put on your grocery list, next to stroopwafels and drop (though you gonna wonder why someone is ever gonna like that :D )

      Also dont forget the hollandse nieuwe :D

    • Mosez

      Almost all Dutch butter their sandwiches. That is what’s keeping those sprinkles in place.

  3. Was in Amsterdam 16 years ago, and ended up running the marathon, so I haven’t done any of my our run-a-rounds, next time, but I just head out and run… hoping for the best.

    Love the way you planned your route.

  4. Cool, seems you were in the neighbourhood :-) (I live in Utrecht, 20K from Amsterdam)

  5. Tonny

    Doesn’t FR610 like DR410 allow you to upload courses?

  6. Jan

    Welcome in Amsterdam! Nice story again. Funny to see you ran just about 50m from my home. For the next time (I guess the chances are pretty slim): during the middle part where you ran along the Wibautstraat I suggest you run along the river slightly to the west. Prettier sights, no traffic lights at all and plenty other people running.

  7. Jan

    Your post reminded me of a website of an American I somehow found years ago with pictures of all the weird (to him) bikes he saw in a short period of time. Managed to find it back: link to Most funny to me is the how he is so utterly surprised, to me it’s all perfectly normal, daily stuff. He doesn’t seem to grasp cycling is an extremely efficient method of transportation in Amsterdam, as long as your bike doesn’t get stolen.

  8. Remco Verdoold

    Love to see you like Amsterdam. I travel every day from Deventer to Amsterdam by train using the long and comfortable intercity trains. My work is located a bit more towards the airport next to the big park with the rowing track (bosbaan) this is really the most ideal place for running in a big city, a nearly empty park with nice asphalt paving.The Netherlands got the huge cycling network during the 60s and 70s of the last century, and as a Dutch you get born with a bike, I currently own 5 bikes each for a different purpose, comuting (brompton folding bike), a MTB, road touring and racing and city bike at my parents.
    Those little cars on the bike paths used to be Granny cars, for elderly who lost their driving licence due to age (failing the medical test). You can drive them with a simple driving licence from the age of 16, but I never want to drive one. Going by bike is faster and easier.
    I like your note that your running pace is equal to the speed of cyclists, I have noticed that as well. Actually the main reason that I cycle with a helmet is not because of the cars (bikes have their on roads) but because other people are slow (between 12 and 16 km/h) while I do usually 22 to 30 km/h but most of them simply don’t look. When you ring the bell to announce you are approaching fast, they first look backwards and only then decide where to go.
    Thanks for this nice story, (and in holland it is rated PG6 most likely :), nothing special to see )

  9. Hans

    Fun to read! My working place is a 100 meters from your hotel :) Doing a lunchwalk everyday passing your hotel to the shopping center.

  10. OJ

    That bike parking is crazy. When I saw the initial picture in the post I thought it was a picture of a transition area.

  11. Iris

    I agree with Jan, you should have run left of the Wibautstraat, parallel to the river Amstel. Much more pretty and perfect for runners. To bad I didn’t see you running past my house, I would have given you directions.

  12. nuttysporter Patrick

    Covering your bread with chocolate sprinkles is as normal in the Netherlands as mac and cheese in the US …..

  13. Mike Graham

    I agree that Strava should go back to the previous run setup. It was so much better!

  14. Joe

    Great post, reminds me of when I travel to Copenhagen to our home office. Next trip I will give this type of adventure a try!

  15. Maarten

    Nice to see you enjoyed your run/visit. As it is all flat here we have excellent places for running. Also the bike lanes make good running lanes. From your hotel it is also quite easy to run throughout country side if you would prefer that next time.

  16. Maarten

    US newspaper also write articles on biking in NL or Amsterdam in specific.

    Below a recent link of an article on
    link to

  17. JT

    Hagelslag sandwiches are only tasty to the dutch. To create: buy the cheapest, most sugary white bread you can find (wonderbread), the cheapest most spreadable butter you can find, the cheapest most sugary chocolate sprinkles you can find, then spread a ton of butter on one slice of untoasted bread, pour half the container of chocolate sprinkles on it, butter another slice of untoasted bread, mash together and eat. If you can make it past two bites you must be dutch.

  18. Carlos

    HI Ray! Ahhhh Cant believe you were here in Amsterdam! Had I known you were in town, I would have guided you rather than your little post it, and I would have used the FR910XT that I GOT FROM YOU from your October 2012 Give Away!! Thks Again BTW I love it!
    Have you considered having a section on your Blog were you post the places you’ll be visiting in the near future?.. I’m sure lots of your followers would be thrilled to know in advance you’ll be in their home towns and for sure people would love to meet up with you for a Swim/Bike/Run/eat Cookies/IceCream marathons etc etc :-) I know you do tweet sometimes when you are in places but probably you’ve got more people following your blog than with twitter acc.


    • Sorry Carlos!

      Yeah, the challenge I have is my schedule tends to be really fluid. Sometimes when it’s more concrete I’ll make posts to the blog. But for last-minute trips or lack of any stability, I tweet instead since it tends to be more instant. I wish I had more stability!

  19. Mark

    When you passed the rowing team on the river, did you instantly think of this Geico commercial?

  20. Claudio Malaguzzi

    Imagine if those bike parks were triathlon transition areas! What a nightmare!

  21. Drew W.

    I had no idea that you couldn’t upload courses to the FR610. I was upset when I found out my FR410 only lets you upload one course into it from Garmin Connect (you can upload multiple from the now defunct Garmin Training Center, but GTC doesn’t play well with Connect), but I guess one course is better than no course!

  22. Willem Wijnans

    I am gonna beat those CR’s as soon as possible, welcome in my home town!

    Love the blog Ray, just brilliant and so damn good to read.

  23. simon

    yep – those strava run pages are rubbish – see several hundred complaints here :
    link to

  24. Jørn

    How do you run with the camera? Holding it in your hand or … ?

  25. Remco Raaphorst

    It’s great to see Amsterdam from your point of view. The little things you notice that we see almost every day. Nice story, as always!

  26. Matthew Cortez

    Nice splits.
    Just got the forerunner on sale because I broke 7 min split myself.
    You da man bra.

  27. cyrilleontheroad

    Cool planned route Ray ! And what about changing the numbers steps with the km or miles ? And peharps made a workout with each of these distances on the 601 (and when the clock vibrate having a look at the new direction) ?

    • It was mostly a time-based workout, so the steps were based on time chunks – and I roughly figured out how many miles I’d need to complete that. I figured if the route was a bit long it’d be fine, as I’d just walk/jog the rest and enjoy wandering.

      Occasionally I do create workouts in the watch using that function, but mostly that just takes time. It’s a pretty simple workout, and I’ve long since memorized my HR zones – so this was a bit quicker.

  28. If you ran with your phone you could have used a map. MapMyRun (or whatever), and then use a watch for higher precision recording.

  29. Matthew Cortez

    Speaking of arm bands. Do you listen to music while you run? I like to, but the phone on my arm with pandora is so annoying.
    Its part of the reason I got the forerunner. Is there some type of blue tooth wireless radio set up, so you dont have to run with a phone?

  30. Mathijs

    Next time pack your Ambit2, as the nav features are pretty cool for a watch in m.o. Last week I had setup a bike tour and just follow the route, so I could see the surroundings more.
    Nice to see you running through Amsterdam though, you were also very close to my work (near the Canal). How do you even make pictures running in that pace?

  31. Andrew

    I was really interested to see what Amsterdam looks like from a runner or cyclists perspective, the facilities look amazing. My late father was Dutch and he used to tell me about all the bikes, I myself have never been there so it was fascinating to see your photos.