The flat lands of the Netherlands may well be the last place you’d expect a growing community of trail and mountain runners. Think again? ‘Mud Sweat and Trails’ have very much pioneered the sport for Dutch aficionados with a growing series of races. They regularly have 1000 people toe the line – that is huge!
“True, we have no mountains. But we do have a great variety of nature trails and hills to run – we have open minds! Runners that come from the track or the road find our hills and off-road conditions a new challenge, that’s good! Once they make a step off-road there’s no way back. The Dutch mentality is to explore and seek for new adventures and MudSweatTrails support them in all steps of the process. And always have ‘stroopwafels’ as secret weapons in our vest!” – Marc Weening
In 2016, the ‘MST’ brand expanded with a trail running store, but this is no ordinary trail running store. It’s a store that any run enthusiast would love to own. It’s a Mecca for trail. Imagine walking into a typical warehouse type store and you have an idea of the space that the MST store occupies.
Imagine a wall of shoes that includes Altra, inov-8, Hoke One One, Salomon, Brooks, La Sportiva and so on. Imagine a floor space of apparel by brands such as Buff, Raidlight, The North Face, Salomon, WAA and more.
Another wall of running packs – Ultimate Direction, Salomon, Ocisport and WAA. In and amongst this are GPS watches, head torches, nutrition, socks, gadgets, gizmos and all sorts of trail temptation that really make the MST store an Aladdins Cave for trail. But the attention to detail is second to none. A flat two-lane run track allows shoes to be tested and believe it or not, they even have a ‘trail’ test ramp.
The store has so much space and flexibility, they can even customise sections of the store to a specific race, in this scenario, Marathon des Sables.
I was in the Netherlands at that invite of Tom Maessen and Marc Weening – the brains behind MST. They get trail. They understand the sport is a lifestyle and yes, although they are in business to make money, they also understand that the sport of trail is about community and sharing. So, MST is not only a retail unit but it’s a meeting hub and venue for events.
“MudSweatTrails Store is a 500 square meter Trail Running specialty store for experienced and novice runners. We offer are a place to meet, share experiences with each other, provide run clinics and information sessions and of course product testing. It is our passion to share our adventures and trail dreams. And yes, we are all runners too! We are always keen to explore new trails and adventures.” – Tom Maessen
Above the store but within the store is a first floor room that can hold 250+ people, a screen, sound system and projector is installed. It’s a cinema and conference room in one.
I was attending a ‘Trails in Motion’ screening and I had been kindly invited as a guest of honour to coincide with the launch of my book, Running Beyond. I’m forever thankful that the work I have produced over the past years has gained a following, so, the opportunity to share what I do is special. I can’t thank Tom and Marc enough and indirectly I also need to thank my friends Thomas and Jeroen who had no doubt helped in the process.
I showed images from the book, I provided a little insight how all this happened but ultimately I wanted to inspire everyone in the room to ‘Make Their Dreams Happen!’
It had an impact.
Just a day after the talk, one runner, Ronnie Duinkerken, tweeted, that he had entered Tromso SkyRace after my talk.
It’s always easy to find an excuse not to do something. Think about it. Turn that thought process around and now thin, ‘why can’t I do it?’ As I said in my talk, a point will come in our lives when choices may well be taken away from us. No point in reaching a time or point in life and think, what if?’ Or, ‘If only I had done that…!’ Embrace the moment, embrace the day and don’t wait for tomorrow for something that can be done today.
The Trails in Motion series of movies very much echoed my thought process. I saw my good friends, Mike Wolfe and Mike Foote undertake an epic 3-week journey close to home. I watched a fell runner embrace the English fells after heart surgery and we were able to witness the pain, torture, heartbreak and elation as three runners tried to cross the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in a ‘FKT,’ Bob Hayes who is 89-years old and runs 30 races a year, Wally Hesseltine at Western States in 30-hours and so many more films inspired. All films in their own way were about people embracing a challenge and placing themselves at the vulnerability of their minds, body, trails, weather and yes, the gods! As I said, they were ‘makin’ their dreams happen!’
Life on the Fells, Miles Away, Thirty Hours, Mount Marathon, The Crown Traverse, One Step at a Time, Running Wild, Iceland – Change your Life and The Hard Way.
“Perseverance, individual quirkiness, Fastest Know Times (FKT’s) and trail camaraderie are central to the theme of the 2017 Ledlenser Trails In Motion Film Festival line up. Each film offers an exciting and inspirational view into the world of trail and ultra running, all the while showcasing some of the planet’s most breathtaking trail running destinations in the process. Locate an event in a city near, get your tickets and join like-minder trail runners and adventure enthusiasts for 2 hours of inspirational stories, stories we’re sure will motivate you to want to get outside and explore.” – Trails in Motion
I said in Running Beyond that I feel that trail, mountain, ultra and skyrunning is a metaphor for life – it has never felt more true!
Signing books, I was asked many questions and in turn I asked questions back. Jerry Kenbeek even purchased two books so that he could give one away.
The wine flowed, beers were consumed and excellent food was provided by a catering team. At midnight, the night came to an end, I returned to my hotel room with a night full of memories and emotions.
As I drifted to sleep, I was reminded constantly through flashback that I really do have the best job in the world and within that world, I am joined by the greatest community. Long may it continue.
Saturday soon came and at 0830 I was joined by Marc and Tom to join other runners for a 18km run in the sand dunes of Holland. We weaved in and out of sandy trails and then ran along a flat smooth beach as the sea splashed to the right. It was a Vangelis moment.
No run trip to Holland can be complete without a post run treat; coffee with HUGE pieces of Dutch apple cake and lashings of whipped cream sealed the experience.
I was left to experience Amsterdam centre alone. The weaving streets and canals, the smell of dope in the air, the noisy and rowdy groups of revellers and the glow of red lights felt unfamiliar, harsh and almost distressing. Beautiful buildings, picture postcard scenes were somehow distorted in my mind and eye – I couldn’t relate. I eventually found solace in a quiet restaurant and as my evening came to an end I made my way back to Zoetermeer.
This journey has been a wonderful one. In all honesty, I can’t wait to return.
Holland may have no mountains, I can live with that. A lack of vertical is more than compensated for with hospitality, a great running community and apple cake, oh yes, what apple cake!
images ©mudsweattrails and ©iancorless.com