The Rotterdam Marathon in October

The fortieth edition of the Rotterdam marathon, on Sunday 24 October 2021, was a very special one. To start with, it was the first Rotterdam marathon in two and a half years. Quite a long interval for an annual event. But we all know what tiny brat of a virus was responsible for that.

Hundreds of marathon runners on Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam shortly after the start of the 2021 edition of the marathon
Erasmus bridge


But also the season made this marathon unique. The event always takes place in the first half of April. This was the first and probably only time 17,000 runners ran these 42,195 meters in autumn.

Marathonrunners shortly after the start of the 2021 edition of the Rotterdam marathon on Laan op Zuid boulevard
Laan op Zuid


Since many thousands of photos of the marathon are being taken anyway, I decided to focus my photography on those seasonal characteristics this time. With the aim of a collection of photos that, even in a hundred years, will make everyone think: ah, autumn colours, that must have been the marathon of 2021.

Dozens of marathon runners on a path in a green environment during the Rotterdam marathon in 2021


I imagined almost psychedelic images of long tree-lined avenues of runners, where the colors of the leaves would rival the vibrant variety of runners’ shirts. But that appeared to be harder than expected. Remarkably many trees, especially along the route, still stubbornly cling to a predominantly green color palette at the end of October. Whether that has to do with climate change or with the type of trees we plant along avenues in Rotterdam; who will say?

Twee spectactors watch hundreds of runners on a path in green environment during the 2021 Rotterdam marathon
And once again Havenspoorpad
Hundreds of marathon runners on Oldegaarde avenue during the 2021 edition of the Rotterdam marathon

Bright sky

But in the end I nevertheless managed to get a nice collection of autumn marathon pictures. The weather was also helpful, because rarely did Roffa’s marathon take place under such a bright blue sky.

Marathon runners in Zuiderpark in Rotterdam in the 2021 edition of the marathon


I found it almost touching to be part of this marathon. To see that the citywide party, which this day always is in Rotterdam, can take place again, after a year and a half of misery. With bands, tiny orchestras, djembe groups and deejays along the route. With people who encouraged their loved ones with signs and banners (“C’mon Anne, run with your fat ass!”, I’m not making this up). And with spectators shouting complete strangers through difficult moments, with a little help form the names on the shirts (“Go Hans, you can do it!”)

Marathon runners on Dorpsweg in Rotterdam during the 2021 edition of the marathon
Dorpsweg in Charlois
Marathon runners on Blaak avenue in downtown Rotterdam during the 2021 edition of the marathon
Near the Markthal


You don’t hear much about the race for the first place when you bicycle through the city to take pictures. It was only when I got home that I heard that for the first time in living memory, the winner was not from Ethiopia or Kenya, but from Belgium: Bashir Abdi. He not only ran the fastest time ever in Rotterdam, but also set a European record: 2:03.35. Even on the bike I couldn’t have kept up with him…

Marathon runners on Kralingse Plaslaan during the Rotterdam marathon in 2021
Kralingse Plaslaan
Marathon runner seen on the back with a blurry background of hundreds of other runners during the Rotterdam marathon in 2021
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

Apparently the conditions were ideal not only for photography but also for running. You wonder if the marathon can’t take place in autumn every year. But probably this fine weather was a lucky shot. After all, last week we also had a few very wet, bleak and windy days. In any case, the next marathon is scheduled for April 10, 2022, in less than six months. Great, so my autumn photo series will remain unique.

Festive scene on Boezemsingel during the 2021 edition of the Rotterdam marathon
Party on Boezemsingel

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