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Interview about Koning van Spanje trailrunning race

We have triathletes, cyclists and Bram Willemse. Apparently he only runs! But he does mix up the Vondelpark with trailrunning. Which is something you can actually do in the Netherlands like he will explain. Bram went to Gulpen, Limburg to do the Koning van Spanje (KvS) trailrun.

This is an interview conducted with me, by my training buddies of ATAC (Amsterdam Triathlon And Cycling) Club. It was published in their monthly newsletter.

Southern Limburg is the most hilly part of the Netherlands which most of us already know through cycling. It’s also a beautiful and demanding region for the KvS. This year there were 2 Atac members present. Brian Gibson did the 32k event on Saterday, Bram did the 42k on Sunday. Some real amateurs/masochists did both. The 42k was also the Dutch Championships trailrunning.

Bram, I thougt we didnt have any trailrunning in the Netherlands??

But we do! From the Wadden islands, to the Utrechte Heuvelrug to Limburg. It might be relatively flat, but we have so much beautiful nature and lengthy trails to run as far as you want. Even though I live in Amsterdam I’m still able to call myself a trail runner. If you look carefully you’ll actually find trails in parks (Westerpark), along canals (like Nassaukade) and the best place: het Amsterdamse Bos.

Was it tough?

It was the toughest race of my life. But I’m really happy how I got through. I am not used to climbing (the race had 1200 vertical meters and was only able to train on that one hill in the Amsterdamse Bos (the “Ajax hill”) and the Utrechte Heuvelrug Trail (300-400m vertical). Uphill I managed (by walking), but downhill was really tough on my upper legs.

Could you compare it to a city marathon?

This actually was my first marathon distance, so I can’t personally compare. But I’m sure that would feel like a cakewalk right now!

How was the atmosphere?

The atmosphere was great over the whole weekend. On friday I ran a super fun 16k night trail with a small group and a tiny beer after. The Koning van Spanje event has grown out to a big event with a lot of runners and this year was the first time the 44k race was part of the dutch championship. So there definitely was serious competition. That’s why me and my running buddy Folkert started from the back. Our focus was just to finish.

Tell us about the water passage

It’s actually a bit of a let down. From one angle it’s very photogenic, but all I got was three blurry pictures. And because I got only one foot wet, I ran with one cold and one warm foot for about twenty minutes. Super annoying! :P

More trailrunning coming up?

Hell yeah! Two days after I registered for the Vaalserberg trail on june 11th. It’ll be only 30k, but the same climb as Koning van Spanje. Trail running’s the best, especially in the hills or mountains.

Is there some specific training you would recommend?

Yes. Technique is so much more important than with street running. The book ‘Cool Impossible’ helped me a lot with some specific anti-injury exercises, read it. And I wish we would do a little bit more tech training in our ATAC sessions. My upper legs and lower back felt weak, so I’ll have to start doing more squats & lunges from now on.

Would you recommend trailrunning to other members?

I hope not too much people will start doing it. I want the trails for myself… But yes. Events like this are great. If you want to, you can run throughout the whole weekend. (If I had, I would’ve gotten a medal.) We camped for the whole weekend and we’ll do the same in June, near Vaals. Being out and active in nature is the best.

Can you share any advice on equipment?

Although not very fashionable, I got myself a backpack (Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra 8 Set) to carry water, food and dry clothes. For long runs it’s great to comfortably run wherever you like. And you will definitely need a pair of proper trail running shoes. I think Nike’s Terra Kiger and Innov8’s Terra Claws are great, but you mostly see everyone running on Salomon.