Running The World: The Netherlands

Today’s Running The World interview is from one of my favourite countries, the Netherlands. I love it because the Dutch are just such a great bunch of people. They ride bikes everywhere, they make amazing cheese and they make the BEST apple cake in the entire world. But I love it most because one of my dearest friends, Tanja, is Dutch and she lives there.

There’s a funny story about how I got in contact with today’s two interviewees. The first Runner Girl I found was Nydia. I got in contact with the Amsterdam running club ‘Running Junkies’ and their leader put me in contact with Nydia. I started reading her blog (and you should too). Nydia is super-cool and wears really distinctive glasses. (This is relevant).

In the meantime, I’d dropped a note to my friend Tanja and asked if she knew anyone. Yes, she said, her sister, Jojanneke, was a keen runner. So in time, Jojanneke sent me her answers and her photos. I scrolled through her photos and there she was, at a race…with Nydia!  Yep, they are really good running buddies and completely independently, I’d asked them both to be part of this post! Such a small world!

And here they are...Jojanneke (L) and Nydia (R)
And here they are…Jojanneke (L) and Nydia (R)

Anyway…let’s hear from the girls.

Tell us a little about yourselves.

Jojanneke – I’m 28 years old. I work at Glamour magazine in Amsterdam. I also live in Amsterdam (which I really LOVE!). My hobbies apart from running are spending time with my friends and family, visiting flea markets, finding new spots in Amsterdam, reading fashion magazines, doing things spontaneously and going to the theatre!

Nydia – My name is Nydia and I live in Amsterdam.  I love Amsterdam for its lovely old buildings, canals, freedom and all the people who live there and dare to express themselves. I’m a freelance journalist and I  write for Dutch magazines like Glamour and Runner’s World and I work in the coffee industry as well, as a barista trainer for a Dutch coffee chain called Coffeecompany.  It may sound weird, but I can talk about coffee for hours (whilst drinking tea, because after drinking two cups of coffee I go crazy because of all the caffeine). My days are filled with lots of coffee dates, cooking,  pub quizzes, watching Star Wars and Gossip Girl and of course: running.

How did you get into running?

Jojanneke –  Running for me started when I broke up with my boyfriend and I remembered him saying once that it was a pity I wasn’t that sporty. I wanted to prove to him and myself that I had it in me. I started with a friend and a running coach. The first time we had to run 2 minutes and walk 2 minutes. I thought these 2 minutes took forever. But I kept on going. Every time a little more. It took me a long time to really enjoy running itself, so not only the feeling after. But when that moment came, it was complete happiness. Running and feeling like it is only you and the space around you. Almost meditative. Nothing in the world beats the feeling of having a good run and being complete with yourself and the nature. It is like flying and being in love with yourself and life.

I run every other day, around 6km. Once a week I try to run longer distance, at least 10k. Because of a recent knee injury,  I’ve started to do yoga, pilates and swimming. Like every runner, I would like to participate in a marathon at least once in my life.

Nydia –  I started running for about four years ago. I didn’t do any sports at that time and noticed I was breathless when taking the stairs. It seemed cool to enter in the biggest Dutch run, which is 10 miles. TEN miles. RUNNING ten miles. It seemed impossible for me at the time, but I still wanted to try. I started following this plan of 3 minutes running, 1 minute walking, with my best friend. I still remember it was quite a mental challenge for me to run 10 minutes at that time, but after a while I got used to it and started loving it more and more. I met more people who were into running and they told me I could do half a marathon when I could do 10 miles. I entered and suddenly I was hooked.

Nowadays, running is a big BIG part of my life. I write a monthly column in the Dutch Runner’s World and have a blog about running called WordsToRunBy. Last year I did two marathons and got a bib-number for a third ( Paris) but because of an injury I couldn’t do it (and I actually cried about that). I love running on my own to get stuff off my mind, but I guess I enjoy running with my crew The Running Junkies even more. Every Tuesday we meet for a social run and every Thursday we run on a track to get faster. On Monday morning I organise a run called RUN COFFEE RUN, which starts from the Coffeecompany roastery. We do a 5k run at a slow pace and finish with filter coffee. Best start of the week!

Nydia after the Amsterdam marathon
Nydia after the Amsterdam marathon

How popular is running in the Netherlands?

Jojanneke – Running is extremely popular in the Netherlands. I have the feeling that almost everybody runs or want to run. No wonder! People in Amsterdam are really into being healthy in food and exercising. I think running is such a hit because it is so easily accessible for every lifestyle.

Nydia – Running is quite popular here and it seems to have got even more popular over the last few years. When you’re in Amsterdam, you see runners all the time, especially in  the Vondelpark. It’s quite far from where I live so I don’t run there, but I love to cycle through the park and see all the runners.

Who is running? Is there a notable gender difference?

Jojanneke – No, certainly not. In the Netherlands I see as many men as women in every social class run.

Nydia – It seems like it isn’t a sport for grumpy, old men anymore. I’m from a small town and one of my neighbours ran a lot. I remember my mother telling me it was so weird he was doing that. Nowadays running is so popular you see runners everywhere, especially in the bigger Dutch cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht. It used to be something for the fanatics… these days it looks like every young person has given it a go and lots of them keep going.

Do you feel safe when you run?

Jojanneke – It is very safe for women to run in the Netherlands. Because Holland is so densely populated, you can run almost at every hour of the day. Off course I wouldn’t recommend to go to the park after dark.

Nydia – I just did some research on this topic because I wanted to write an article about this. It turned out it is really safe to run here. Of course there are incidents and I’m not saying that those incidents aren’t horrible,but the people with whom I spoke about this told me that most of the sexual offenses are committed by people the victims know. The whole idea of a man lying in the bushes waiting to attack isn’t really realistic.

How popular is racing?

Jojanneke – Racing is very popular. The big runs are always sold out. In Amsterdam, we have a ‘Dam to dam’ race. This one is sold out in a couple of hours. Also there was a trail-run that my brother and I wanted to participate in, which sold out in a couple of hours, even though registration opened at midnight (!). Races are organised by private companies, not running clubs and their prices vary – maybe around $20. Half-Marathons are always very popular, as are also 10 mile races.

Nydia – It’s popular. The people I run with all compete in races once in a while. Some of them try to do one every week,but they all definitely do four or five races each year. There’s this big organization Le Champion, which is responsible for lots of races, but races are also organised sometimes by small running clubs, stores, the university and the hospital. Costs are okay, especially when compared to American prices. It’s around 60 euro to do a big marathon over here. The smaller ones are way cheaper. I hope it stays that way so everyone can join.

The Amsterdam Marathon Source
The Amsterdam Marathon

What are races like to participate in?

Jojanneke – Most of the time they are really busy. Almost every race has a  timing chip. There are always a lot of people at the sidelines cheering. In the race there is always a drink and fruit-post after every 5 kms and at the finish.The whole ambiance is always very nice. Except for the dixies where you have stand in line for a very long time.

(Cat’s note: ‘Dixies’ is the Dutch word for portaloos/portapotties. It is now my favourite word ever and I am using it every opportunity.)

Which are the most important races in the Netherlands and which are your own personal favourites?

Jojanneke – The Marathon in Rotterdam is a big one, as is the Amsterdam marathon. The ‘Dam to dam’ is shorter but also a very important race. I really like the ‘Diepe hel’ in Holten and the ‘We own the night‘ Nike run in Amsterdam and the ‘Zevenheuvelenloop‘ in Nijmegen. But I now want to focus more on trail-running.

Jojanneke grinning on the right!
Jojanneke grinning on the right!

Nydia – There is also this ladies’ run called the Marikenloop. It’s only 10k but lots of women come from around the country to run it. I really enjoy the big ones like the Amsterdam and Rotterdam Marathons. One of the more fun runs is the Rock and Run. The course is really nice (it leads you along the canals of Amsterdam) and everyone is dressed up. I once ran it dressed up as Wonder Woman and last year I was a Bond girl. So much fun. One of my other favorites is We Own The Night. It’s a big event with an after-party. And what’s not to like about after parties?

If you could encourage a traveller to do any Netherlands race, which would it be?

Nydia – It depends on the individual runner. The bigger races are cool and the courses are quite easy in comparison with other city marathons, so if you want to run a PR that’s a big advantage. The other ones I mentioned are more ‘fun’.

Jojanneke – If you like running in cities I would say to join  ‘We own the night’ in Amsterdam. If you like to run in nature you have to do the ‘Diepe hel’ in Holten.

Diepe Hel. It does indeed look like 'deep hell'. Source: Diepe Hel FB page
Diepe Hel. For one guy, it does indeed look like ‘deep hell’.
Source: Diepe Hel FB page

What is becoming popular in Dutch running circles?

Jojanneke –  Wearing fluorescent running gear. It is such a trend! Also, in technological terms, competing with each other via the Nike running app.

Nydia – Running with a crew in stead of running with a formal running club. I don’t know lots of people who do that. Young people tend to run on their own or with friends.

How popular is trail running in the Netherlands?

Jojanneke –  I would like to get into that myself. Last November I participated in a race called the ‘Zevenheuvelenloop‘ in the area around Nijmegen. I loved that one because of the heights, the nature and the distance. In the area where I grew up is a great open space called ‘De Holterberg’. It is great to race there. My brother and I were planning to do a trail-run in the Holterberg (me the 25 kilometer and he the 75 (!) kilometer) but because of a knee injury I could not participate.

Nydia – I think it’s getting more popular, but there aren’t that many places where you can do this in Holland. It all is too flat and boring for trail running. We don’t have mountains or amazing nature.

What clothing and shoe brands are popular? 

Jojanneke – Nike is by far the most popular one. The app, the clothes and the shoes.  There is a wide selection of gear and clothes. Everyone can look their best these days while running.

Nydia – Nike, Adidas, Asics, New Balance. Just the regular big brands.  Nike is really big within the running community that I’m part of. They really know how to make running awesome. The designs are amazing and their ads really connect to young people.

Where do people buy their running things? specific running stores or general sports stores

Jojanneke – Both in specific running stores and in general sport stores or online.

Nydia – There is never enough running clothing! I wish there was more affordable and cool stuff in stores. But it’s getting better with stores like H&M providing an affordable (and good looking) sports line. Run2Day is quite a big Dutch chain and there are some other stores where you can go for specific running stuff.

Nydia looking frankly amazing on the beach
Nydia looking frankly amazing on the beach

What do Dutch runners use to fuel and hydrate  when running?

Jojanneke – Mostly bananas or granola bars. Coconut water is really hyped right now. But that is more for after the run.  Whilst running most people like to drink sports drinks.

Nydia- Bananas! Oatmeal! Bread with hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles, one of our specialties)! And pannenkoeken of course (thin European-style pancakes, which we make with apples, bacon and syrup).

Who are the running heroes in the Netherlands?

Jojanneke – I am not really into that. For me the people around me are my running heroes. Especially the ones who are busy working and still find time to run (very fast!). I really look up to them.

Nydia – Ouch, this is a hard one. As far as I know, the Netherlands doesn’t have a long history of running. I’m not that into the running championships or stuff like that.  We don’t have a lot of role models around here, particularly women. One of my personal favorites is Leonie van de Haak. She’s a kickass ultra runner who does quite some cool stuff like the Spartathlon (a 246k run in Greece. 2 4 6 K  – OMG!), but she’s not that famous among non-runners. Maybe it’s part of our Dutch culture as well: we do not pay that much attention to sports other then soccer.

Is Twitter/Blogging big within the Dutch running community? Any cool blogs/twitterers that we should follow?

Jojanneke – Yes! Instagram is very popular among runners and also Facebook. You should see our running club Running Junkies’ FB page! )For blogs, you should try from a girl who also has a column in the Dutch Runners World magazine. But this blog is in Dutch.

(Cat’s note: Yep, Jojanneke unwittingly recommended Nydia’s blog. It IS in Dutch but you can easily translate it using Google Translate and I really like it!)

Nydia – Social media is popular for runners, but in my opinion it’s not big enough. There are some cool blogs and Instagram accounts like GirlsLove2Run and

What are the biggest running publications/podcasts etc?

Jojanneke – The Nike and Runstastic apps are great.

Nydia – The Belgian presenter Evy Gruyaert is really popular, a lady whose podcasts seem to be great in inspiring new runners. I never listened to her podcasts but lots of people talk about them. The Dutch Runner’s World is the biggest running magazine as far as I know.

If I landed in your city, where would you send me to find out about the local running routes, group runs, and local races?

Jojanneke – In Amsterdam is a lovely group called the Running Junkies. Great people, great food, great runs and a great evening. They run every Tuesday and Thursday evening and the group keeps on growing. I would definitely send you there. The people are all so nice and it is great for every age. You will start together but then you will separate in groups of your level. After the run you will all meet again and have the loveliest food made by one of the runners who owns a Suriname take-away. People in the group became great friends and they always participate in races together or cheer at the sideline. It doesn’t cost a penny to participate.

Not your average running club Source: Running Junkies FB page
Not your average running club
Source: Running Junkies FB page

If you want to run by yourself I would send you to run in the Vondelpark. It is like a race- ground with so many other runners. It is also nice to run along the canals, especially at nighttime.

Nydia – I would definitely recommend to get in touch with the Running Junkies via Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. They can tell you everything about this and you could run with them on Tuesday to explore the city while running. You could also do the ‘We Run AMS’ run which starts from the Nike Store at the Kalverstraat (the main shopping street in Amsterdam) every Wednesday night. And don’t forget my Coffeecompany Monday morning run, RUN COFFEE RUN – we start at 7:30 in the morning so it’s just for the early birds amongst you. It’s called RUN COFFEE RUN and we start at the Coffeecompany roastery.

Being a bit of a language geek, I’m adding a new question. How do you say ‘I love running’ and ‘I am a runner’ in Dutch?

I love running‘ is ‘Ik hou van hardlopen’ which is pronounced ‘Ik how vahn hard lopen’.

I am a runner’ is ‘Ik ben een hardloper’ which is pronounced as it looks!

What is the best and worst thing about running in the Netherlands?

Jojanneke – The best thing is that almost everything is flat (haha). No, just kidding. But I invite you to come and experience this for yourself. The worst thing? Sometimes it is boring to run in the Netherlands. Almost everything is flat and I find running in the city not really inspiring. When I was in Greece a couple of weeks ago I ran through the hills and enjoyed the villages I ran through, the streams and the view over the sea. That run was a real piece of heaven to me. But I also noticed that people looked at me a bit strangely. It is not their culture to run. Running in Holland is great because everyone does it and people laugh at you and sometimes clap while you run.

The biggest challenge (for everyone) is to wake up in the early morning and go for a run instead of sleeping a little longer, especially in wintertime. But the feeling afterwards makes it worth getting up early again, two mornings later.

netherlands 10

Nydia – It’s flat! And when it’s not raining, the weather is quite nice as well. Not too hot or too old. The worst could be the rain..I don’t really mind running in the rain, but I can imagine there are some people who don’t really like it and we have to deal with it a lot. Apart from that, the terrain is quite boring. Like I said: it’s flat! Nice to run a PR, but not that diverse though.

Ladies,  thanks SO much for talking to me, it’s been brilliant.  You can follow Nydia on Facebook HERE, Twitter HERE and her blog HERE.  Follow Jojanneke on Instagram HERE🙂

For other Running The World interviews, click HERE.      

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Kate says:

    I already think you Brits are pretty awesome for calling toilets “the loo” and now I can use “dixies” for port-a-pots!

    1. Cathryn says:

      I know, isn’t Dixies amazing!!! (I love ‘loo’ as well).

  2. Now, I want to taste the bread with chocolate sprinkles. It would be far better than sport gel 😉 I never went to Netherlands (I know… such a shame) but I can totally see myself running by the tulips in the countryside. That is the image I have of Netherlands countryside 😉

    1. Cathryn says:

      It’s gorgeous there. I’d want to run with the windmills 🙂

  3. kathryn says:

    loving these cathryn! excited to see which country is next! having run in both japan and singapore, it’s fun to read a local’s perspective!

    1. Cathryn says:

      So glad you like it – I’m trying to cover different parts of the world but I’m having trouble finding people to interview in certain places. It’s so much fun doing it though.

  4. Jen says:

    It’s been interesting reading these posts — I had always assumed that running was super popular in the U.S., but it seems like it’s more popular abroad! The Netherlands seem like a cool place to run, but I’d get sad at the lack of hills and trails.

    1. Cathryn says:

      The more countries I delve into, the more I realize that running is just booming everywhere. I’ve also been working on a few more Europe posts and it’s become apparent that Nike pretty much own European running, it’s really interesting!

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