The (Actual) Life of an Ultrarunner, Trailrunning, Travel
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Amsterdam: Where to Run in the City of Canals, Weed & Poffertjes

Amsterdam probably doesn’t come to mind when you think about running; if you’re confined to a city, then surely one where bikes outnumber people nearly 2 to 1, coffeeshops (not what you think they are) are found on every corner, and tourists flock to some of the best museums doesn’t come to mind.

Nick and I recently spent two weeks in Amsterdam, enjoying everything from Indonesian food  to wandering the Red Light District, but we still made time to run. Luckily, if you’re willing to rent a bike or jog your way around a few bikes, then Amsterdam can be a great place to run. Here’s our list of the best places to get off of your bike and onto your own two feet:

1. Westerpark


Located directly west of the city center and adjacent to the bustling, boutique-filled Haarlemerstraat, Westerpark is home to a variety of festivals throughout the summer and one of the more convenient parks to access from the city center. More than 4 miles of trail, both paved and unpaved, skirt the grassy fields. Additionally, there are several exercise stations, ponds, and two (very small) hills. Westerpark is typically quiet in the mornings, but you will see the resident rabbits, a variety of birds including gray herons, jackdaws, and even bright green rose-ringed parakeets flocking from tree to tree. If you go on weekend afternoons, don’t expect there to be much grass left. On average, Dutch people work the least in the world and when they’re not working, they’re probably hanging out in the masses at the local parks–for good reason, too. They’re that nice!

Tempo workouts, fartleks and even hill repeats are a great choice for this park. Afterwards, head on over to Haarlemerstraat for coffee and a croissant at Two for Joy Coffee, or walk a few blocks further to Jay’s Juices for any one of his healthy and delicious concoctions.

2. Rembrandt Park


Photo by Flickr user Matthew Pennell

West of the city, Rembrandt Park is bigger (and quieter) than both Westerpark and the popular Vondelpark. If you’re looking for peace, a plethora of trails and picturesque trails, Rembrandt Park is the perfect fit. The easiest way to get there from city center is to travel through Vondelpark and continue west.

If you’re running from city center, a loop around Rembrandt Park might be all you need to chalk up 6-8 miles. There are several fun playgrounds here, so save time for exploring. The ponds throughout the park host a variety of waterbirds. Locals come here to relax with a  good book, practice yoga, or play with their dogs. Nick proposed to me here in this park, so I can guarantee it’s a stunning location, especially when the sun is shining.

3. Amsterdamse Bos


When Nick and I arrived in Amsterdam, we immediately pulled out a map to look for green space. While the parks provided small sections, Amsterdamse Bos, southwest of city center, had A LOT. So, we headed there. It’s best to ride your bikes to the bos–literally translated as forest–as it covers more than 1,000 hectares; in other words, it’s three times the size of Central Park in New York City! While there are several marked trails and loops to follow, exploring the park without a guide may yield the best rewards. A goat farm lies in the middle of the forest, but expect to find several bridges, a dog park, creative art sculptures, a Fun Forest that includes zip lining, balance challenges and a ropes course, as well as several restaurants and sports centers along the perimeter. During the summer months, several big festivals are held here, too.

This park is best suited for long runs in order to capitalize on the gorgeous terrain, but fartleks and tempos work great here, too. The one thing that doesn’t work so well? Hill repeats…this area is flat!

4. Ultra Path Netherlands


This 154 km (96 mile) trail was created by Han Savelkoel; his idea was to walk the route on the longest day of the year, when sunlight hours were at their peak. Ultra runner Michiel Panhuysen ran the route unsupported in a time of 26 hours, 23 minutes. Most recently, three runners bested Michiel’s time by just over 3 hours to finish in 23 hours, 19 minutes. While I don’t recommend that you run the whole thing during your vacation, (or, really, any time you don’t have more than a day to devote entirely to running), parts of the route are extremely beautiful. I ran the first third, which runs through a mix of forest, expansive fields and country roads. The route is entirely UNMARKED, so be sure to download the GPS route in order to navigate.

GPS Route:

This route is best suited for a long endurance run. Ensure you bring plenty of water and food, as there’s little available along the way.

5. Amsterdam Center


Perhaps this is the most obvious choice: why not run in Amsterdam when you’re visiting the city of fantastic museums, saucy red light districts, fresh herring, fluffy poffertjes, and stunning canals? Some streets are better suited to running than others, and a careful eye for oncoming bikes and motorcycles that will ring, honk or yell is necessary. Start by choosing a destination, then follow any street that leads you there. A willingness to take it easy and enjoy the sights, not to mention stay in potentially sweating clothes, is handy, too. After checking out the Van Gogh or Heineken Museums, grab a bite to eat before jogging back.

Amsterdam is best suited for walking or biking, of course, but a casual jog can be a smart way to cover as much ground as possible–after all, we’re here for to see the city. Oh–and eat poffertjes.

Photo by Flickr user Cheryl Foong

Photo by Flickr user Cheryl Foong

Have you been to Amsterdam? Which parks or locations would you recommend?



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