To be honest, I wasn't hugely looking forward to spectating at Sunday's Amsterdam Marathon, writes Chris Broadbent. I was supposed to be taking part, but with the development of a breathing problem just a few weeks before the race date, I had little option but to shelve my plans. It meant nearly five months of training went to waste. The arrival of my race pack through the post simply deepened the gloom. But the flights and hotel were already booked and four friends were taking on their first ever marathons, so off I set, leaving my trainers sat forlornly at home.
As anyone who has visited Amsterdam will know, it's an enjoyable place to visit with its unique architecture, artistic heritage and lively nightlife. So, I was happily enjoying my weekend city break.
Then I simply couldn't resist dropping into the Marathon Expo at the race HQ at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday. It was a bit if a masochistic move on my part. Runners at marathon expos are like kids in toy shops. 'I want, I want, I want' is all I can think as I browse the running apparel, new shoes and entry forms for exotic endurance races all over the world.
But mostly, it is the final clunking punch-in-the-stomach reminder that I will not be taking part in this marathon tomorrow.
As is pretty commonplace, our pre-race race dinner is at an Italian restaurant, so everyone can load up on pasta. In this instance, I also load up on wine. Each of our first timers are not their usual relaxed selves and have an edgy nervousness that I can completely empathise with.
For the big race, we agree to position ourselves at around 27k into the 42k route, just when the runners might need a pick-me-up. I resign myself to a day stood on the pavement with the rest of the supporters, rather than running on the road.
On the day itself, our timing could not be better as we arrive at an excellent vantage point just five minutes before the leaders zip past. It's always impressive to see world-class runners in the flesh and they are a majestic sight as they effortlessly eat up the ground.
As the pack thickens out, more regular runners make their way past. Among them are scores of familiar UK club vests, including Serpentine Running Club, Clapham Chasers, Teignbridge Trotters, Bristol & West AC, Lothian Running Club, Bellahouston Road Runners, Norwich Road Runners, Hunters' Bog Trotters, Team Bath, City of Hull AC, Barnsley AC and Bournemouth Joggers.
With their first names all displayed clearly on their running bib, we can really personalise our support for each and every one. We get a little carried away with our enthusiasm for some and am surprised how much I am enjoying it.
The reward comes in the reaction from the runners, you can see the physical lift it gives them as you shout their name and offer words of support. Grimaces are instantly transformed into broad grins.
But the best moments are when our friends pass and then our joy knows no bounds. I actually feel a little emotional as we give them every bit of encouragement at as high a volume as we can possibly summon.
It is just as moving seeing each of them cross the finish line in the stadium later on, as each of them collects their first ever marathon medal. For the rest of the day and night, each of them glows with happiness and it's infectious.
The night before the race, I had re-assured one of my nervy friends that his first marathon would be one of the best days of his life. Doubtful 24 hours earlier, he now admits I was right. As for me, it was a pretty damn good day too - much better than I had thought.