Hi, I'm Koen. I'm a runner.
Journey 8 minutes

Hi, I'm Koen. I'm a runner.

June 1, 2020

I’m an endurance athlete, a thinker, a programmer by trade, a reader. The son of an awesome father and mother. The little brother to two wonderful brothers. The proud boyfriend of the most amazing girl. Totally in love with New York City. Occasionally I’ve been an amateur filmmaker, photographer, screenwriter.

And so much more.

Growing up

Growing up my parents loved taking us on bike rides every now and then. Our vacations also contained lots of bike rides and walks (sometimes to our dismay at that time). It’s safe to say I was raised with enough opportunity and encouragement to be active.

I enjoyed most PE sessions in primary and high school as well, doing things like running on the track, baseball, dodgeball and soccer. My kindergarten teacher used to say I had such a smooth running style, like a horse galloping. She recommended I should join an athletics club. I never considered that an option though. I’m not sure why not early in life, but in high school part of the reason was that I thought it meant I had to do disciplines like the javalin as well.

History in “organized” sports

My first experience in organized (team) sports was soccer when I was young. I don’t remember a whole lot, especially not the early years. In the last years you would usually find me on the left flank in the back as a defender, sprinting towards the ball when it came our way. I wasn’t the best kicker or most technical player, but I was kinda fast and had endurance. Later I would transition to karate (no, not on the soccer field, I had stopped by then), but I lost interest after getting my green belt.

That's me in the top row on the left!

Badminton was the next sport. As a lefty I had an edge against most players because they are mostly used to playing against right-handed opponents. Smash defense was my specialty. Similarly to soccer I wasn’t the most technical but again it was my speed and endurance that allowed me to put up a fight against my opponents. I stopped playing shortly before moving to campus on the other side of the country (where I got my bachelors degree in computer science). My brothers studied at the same university and one of them introduced me to indoor soccer and I became the substitute goalie for his team.


So, I’ve started and stopped with a few sports where I had joined a club to play. And then there is the solo sports (they don’t have to be solo of course, but that’s how it worked out for me).

Usually around the time the Tour de France came around I would start cycling around the lake near me, which is a trip of about 34km (which sounded long back then, I now run that same route quite frequently in preparation for my marathons).

Finally, when the sun was out and it wasn’t too hot, but definitely not so cold as to require long sleeves (i.e. only in spring and summer evenings), I would run. Mostly a set route containing a 3-4km loop which could sometimes be repeated. On campus I would sometimes visit the track, which I assumed was open to the public. Then in the fall and winter I’d stop running again.

That all changed when, during drinks with work just before Christmas, somehow my colleague got into a bet with my boss to run a marathon within two years. I said I could do that and so on December 23rd, 2016 at 18:01 I entered into a bet to run a marathon within 5 hours before December 31st 2017. The 50 euro bill that I won in Amsterdam on October 15th that year marked my first official marathon and to this day is still in the beautiful frame my boss gifted with it.

Since then I’ve toed the line at four more marathons, of which I finished three. Let’s just say I failed one that I pretty much hadn’t trained for at all and went out way too fast aiming for a new PR and had to throw in the towel at the 19km mark. A comedian I enjoy watching once described acts of that nature, rightfully, as “adolescent self-overestimation”. But I certainly learned my fair part from that. To this day that event motivates me in a positive way to be well prepared.

Marathons aren’t the only races I do. I’ve also done races from 5K to half marathons and many in between too, always challenging myself to set a new PR. Two of the most memorable races have been 5Ks in New York. Did I mention I’m in love with that city? I’ve been there ten times now. The past years when I went with my dad we would run every day in Central Park, Prospect Park, along the West Side Highway and other beautiful and interesting routes.

What speaks to me about running there is the sheer amount of runners seen at any time of the day in the parks. Where I live you don’t really see that. My love for the city is why I’ve set the goal to qualify for, and run, the New York City marathon before I’m 30 (that means I have to qualify this year and run it the year after!). Due to the times we live in qualifying might not be possible though this year, with all the race cancellations.

As an aside, my dad, age 59, is an amazing runner as well. If you look at age graded results he wipes the floor with my race results. Ever since I moved closer to where he lives, and where I grew up, I run into him during our morning runs a couple of times a week. Always a fun moment when you spot a runner in the distance and you just recognize the gait from afar.

At the starting line with my dad in November 2017 for the Abbott Dash to the Finish 5K in New York City.

Future plans

As I kept running I also became more interested in the science and principles behind the training plans I follow and running in general. I started reading books and listening to podcasts. My future goals stem from an episode of the Running Rogue podcast (those guys are amazing). They talked about setting a BHAG, or big hairy audacious goal. Something you weren’t sure you could ever achieve. For me that is now running a marathon in 2:29:59 (or faster, of course) before I’m 35. And along the way perhaps finish all 6 major marathons (NYC, Boston, Chicago, London, Berlin and Tokyo).

I’m looking forward to sharing my running journey and things I learn along the way with you.

Koen van Urk