120k in our Duinhopper adventure back in October 2021 sitting in the dry car gazing into the pouring rain hammering on the car. After a not completely comfortable and relaxing 30 min sleep the task ahead seemed unbearable. Leaving the shelter of the car to continue into a clearly rainy and stormy second night to fight for another 100k to the finish in Den Helder seems like the last thing we should do. Nonsense and useless. We were at the only safe place along our adventure – a safe place that could easily bring us home – could bring us far away from that misery.
Although we tried to pack everything before the nap there was quite a lot of things to do. Packing, unpacking, packing and unpacking again… Horrible plan with two people in a narrow car. We tried not to forget anything while wiggling into new layers of cloths which would get soaked quite fast in that weather anyways. Our mood was reaching below-zero-levels.
The first kms out there again were hilarious. The rain reduced the headlamp light to almost nothing, the surfaces of the various GPS devices hard to read with almost no eyesight. After 3 km we reach Ijmuiden haven where we were supposed to use the ferry. How bizarre. When we approached the dock the ferry was about to leave. We sprinted the last meter through the wind and somehow entered the boat at the last second.
And then the time stopped. The other guests stared at us as. Their views told us the we were looking like strangers from another planet. It is not exactly a long ferry transfer but the wind, the cold and the rain hit us and eliminated the last energy we had in us. Our bodies hardly warmed up from the 3 km stretch after the initial cold shock leaving the car merely minutes before. The whole world seemed like a dark and icy mess. Once at the other side we left the ferry shivering, destroyed and deadly tired from that freezing transfer. Miserable km followed that transfer. Barely able to move, too stiff to run and left with very little hope. It got so horrible that we tried to sleep once we passed the last buildings of Ijmuiden. We were so messed up that we did not manage to find a proper spot and layed down on the side of a big path wrapped in safety blankets. This was the least helpful and comfort sleep break ever. Somehow we continued. At that moment we had no clue that the whole night would be like that. That it simply would not get any better. That we had to fight more endless dark and rainy hours – that we would need to split because we could not synchronise moving speeds and the needs for instant breaks.
I don’t know what made us fighting through but the reward was waiting. With the upcoming daylight we got company and support, we found some hope, we gained some speed and at the very end of the upcoming day we would see the blasting sun again. And we would see Den Helder. This may not seem much but it meant the world to us.
Since this night the Dutch coast is forever linked to that horror.
A true journey changes those who are brave enough to travel wholeheartedly.
The Duinhopper is a 220 km long GPX track provided by acceptnolimits.eu on the Duinhopper page. It covers the whole coast of the Netherlands between Hoek van Holland and Den Helder. How you organize yourself while running, how you manage this long distance is your problem – there is no further service provided. If you are interested in running this track – get in contact with the guys from acceptnolimits.eu and check out the above mentioned Duinhopper page for reports, hints and videos. The original Duinhopper is meant to be run in the winter time in the months January or February.
While checking possible dates for long distance running weekends in 2021 we found the first weekend of October as one of the few possible options this year. As the Duinhopper is part of a private running challenge the decision on the course was easily made. We decided to keep our appearance on the coast secret until the very start of our run. For the fun and the surprise of it. As mentioned above the DH is normally meant to be run in winter but the challenge allows to differ from that. The final thing to do was logistics planning and it turned out that the best option we found is to park the car in the middle of the course at a train station (from where we could shuttle to the start and take a train back from finish line to the car as well). We decided to use the official parking at Driehuis train station which is 1,2 km off track but good connected via train and at km 120 of 220.
The travel to Driehuis by car and the train transfer to Hoek van Holland was horrible. We lost one hour in the traffic jams around Amsterdam and another hour because of a closed bridge (train just stopped and we had to wait for a transfer bus to the next station to pick-up another train). We finally announced to our running family what we were going to try and hit the start button on all our devices. Game on.
The First Night:
We started on Friday 1st of October at 21:37 – with the 48h time limit we had only one task: to reach the finish in Den Helder on Sunday 3rd of October before 21:37. Sounds like more than enough time considering that it is 220 km run.
We had light rain and some wind – but nothing too horrible. After a few hours the sky became clear and we had great running conditions. Within the first marathon the haven and boulevard of Scheveningen was probably the highlight of the night. Always amazing to enter civilization after hours of dark and calm nature. We made quite good progress and our first 15 min break around km 50 because we were quite tired. But sun was near.
The First Day:
Around km 50 the Dunes became more and more serious. The track does not alway uses existing patches – as with every great adventure: you need to walk your own path if you want to succeed. The sun was rising revealing the surrounding – and no kidding: we were amazed. What a beautiful coast. Km 50-99 cover a variety of different Dune areas – all of them different – all of them beautiful. Sometimes Savanna-like (a wide grassland full of animals) sometimes Sahara-like (sand) and sometimes covered with dwarfs (don’t ask). We had a blast. Not too fresh anymore, not fast but we had good weather and moments of pure unity with nature. We even stopped for the second 15 min break to take a nap in the sun. A dear was lying 5 meters away from us and stayed there as if he wanted to protect (or control) the sleepy Germans.
At the end of this stretch the next most welcomed surprise was waiting for us. Maarten and his car with some supply.
The news of us travelling along the coast was squeezed through the secret channels of the internet (we know we have to thank Maarten for a lot of work behind the scenes) and we were closely watched and supported by an amazing Dutch long distance running family. Maarten met us a second time at around km 103 – sending us on our last part to our car. He even found the time to shoot an amazing drone video:
The Second Night:
We reached the car at km 120 in the dark and in more and more intense rain. Long distance running reality hit us hard. All wet and freezing – changing clothes – repacking backs – trying to dry the feet a bit – eat something – finally a sleep in the warm car. The moment the alarm clock rang was so absurd. Kind of warm and dry sitting in a car looking into what was now clearly more than light rain and wind… In these moments: if you have any doubts don’t speak about it. We both were thinking the same about what would be reasonable to do but consequently did the opposite of it. I think we can agree that we do not want to speak about that second night. Luckily we managed to move a little, luckily the hardest rain and wind stopped after a few hours, luckily we were wise and brave enough to split up (after all these years of running we did this the first time) and luckily even the darkest and wettest night has to end. Even in the hardest moments with your best friend you have to stay rational and make wise decisions. Both of us were fighting different battles – and we did this alone. Pushed by the hope that it would be beneficial for a united finish. At the end of the night we were joined by Addie and Margret and had another section of great support. Can’t thank you enough!
The Second Day:
The first daylight of day 2 revealed the Dunes around Schoorl. A nice hit in the face. And, even more horrible, the last 9 km of real Dunes down to the beach. Exhausted, hopelessness, slightly unconscious and zombie-walking through the endless hills. It. Must. End. So pissed about the Dunes at that moment. But finally – the Beach – and another family member: Francois. Three figures shuffling on the beach. Absurd feeling. Would this endless beach really bring us to Den Helder? Still 38 km to go – long hours of „running“ ahead. But we were still in, we had support and we had hope. We met Francois´ car at km 191 and 204 – great to have something to hold on. It felt like no progress at all sometimes but slowly we were approaching.
We left the beach 12km before the finish line. From now on it would be cycling/walking paths through mild Dunes followed by the last long grass part on the dike of Den Helder. Completely exhausted the final relief was slowly approaching. We would really do it. Together with this certainty the sun was back. Some unforgettable km up there in North Holland. Painful but happy moments.
The FB call from our running family was the ultimate sign – we did it. And off course we were not alone – Francois came with beer. I mean: how great was that.
225,66 km; 45:35h; 2600D+; 50% TS
Maarten, Addie, Margret, Francois, Stefan, all members of the TS group – one for all, all for one! Fantastic long distance family!