I Went to the Football Today

& about a 4.4km x4 race

/1/ I went to the football today. In Katwijk. A queue of some 40 people before buying our tickets, 8euros standing. Staan. It rained. The  wind blew it horizontally. Katwijk, top of the table, playing Rijnsburgse Boys, some way down the table, but not quite at the bottom. Katwijk scored in the first half; Rijnsburgse Boys didn’t score in either half. But, they came close. Very close in the last minute or so. One of their players fluffed his shot and it rolled slowly towards the unguarded goal before a rushing defender hoofed it away. Some violence soon followed and a red card too was brandished demonstrably by the man in black. The orange-bedecked Katwijk players celebrated with the final shrill of the whistle. Some smoke from the marauding barbarians behind the goal; some singing and jumping. The rain still fell.  Rather vertically now. Local football hello.

/2/ Four of us, from Leiden Atletiek, went to Katwijk Atletiek to take part in their annual summer race: a curious distance of 4.4km run each by four runners. There were three other teams from Leiden Atletiek. The race started a couple of hours before dusk: warm, no wind, no clouds. A perfect summer evening. We ran in our typical athletes clothing: small socks, light-weight shoes, small shorts and singlets adorned with club logo. Some of the team remembered bitterly the winter they had spent training at this club, while Leiden Atletiek was under renovation. I wasn’t there. I wouldn’t know. Jasper started. And by the end of his 4.4km, we were a healthy second. He rounded the curve and came down the straight: we slapped hands under the official’s watchful gaze and I started upon my 4.4km. For 4km I held my place, all the while hearing the breathing and paces landing on the gravel, bitumen and grass of the runner behind me. And then as we turned for our lap of the track; he overtook me. I slapped hands with Joost and he took up his 4.4km. And now, by Jan’s turn, we were down to fourth. Then, up to second within a couple of hundred meters. With two kilometers to go, still in second by five or so meters. Up the hill, before turning on the track still second by five meters. The leader, then collapsed with 20meters to go, as Jan sailed past, half smiling. ‘I could see from the first kilometer, he was no longer pulling away. I knew from a long way out he was at his limit. I knew all I had to do was stick with him and it would be mine. Even when we arrived on the track and I was a long way behind, I didn’t panic.’

While facing into the wind and rain, I occasionally glanced up to the track where we had run. While running, I had looked down and glanced at the football pitch wondering what kind of football would be played there and who would watch it. At the game’s conclusion, Syahril and I, walked through the chanting crowd: the locals had held off one of their nearby rivals and maintained their spot on top of the table.

Reading Sideways