April 4, 2016
Wow, wow, wow what a weekend….I warn you this post might be a little epic.
About 6 months ago a bunch of us decided we would do the Berlin Marathon as a bit of a TFTR road trip, and then of course life got in the way, a few moved country for jobs, a few decided the London Marathon was more their thing, then there were the injuries, the limited funds to come, and then on the morning we were flying out one poor soul had a tummy bug, so before you knew it was just me.
Now some people might feel a little saddened by this, or even tempted not to go too…but I couldn’t wait. A mini adventure, a child free weekend, a whole heap of me time, plus the opportunity to run my favourite distance, whats not to love? So I boarded my plane on Friday stowed my running kit safely ahead in the over head locker and looked forward to what lay ahead.
Training had not been perfect for this race, I was fitting in runs sporadically, and a chest infection in February had me playing catch up with my overall fitness. But I had done two lots of 10 miles, so I knew I had it in me…well I hoped I did, its a long way to go for your first ever DNF (Did Not Finish)
I had never been to Berlin, or Germany before come to think of it and I had no idea what to expect. I hadn’t even done much research as its been a busy few weeks. But upon touchdown I managed to find the right bus to take me into the centre of town and to my hotel, next job was to find the Expo and pick up my race pack!!!
The lovely lady on Reception pointed me towards the underground but I was set on walking, as it was a gorgeous sunny day. She warned me there were “some not nice ladies” further along my route…I spotted them a mile away but I’m not sure I was quite their type.
The Expo was being held at Berlin Station a disused industrial site which I gather is often used for exhibitions etc, but to get there I had to walk across a fab area where tons of families and groups of youngsters were chilling out or playing sport, basically enjoying the sun. I could have sat here and people watched all day.
The Expo worked like a machine, it was so organised and within a few minutes I had everything I needed so it was time to have a browse around all the stalls. I needed some socks as I had forgotten to pack some, and was looking out for a brand I was used to…no such luck. But then I got talking to a guy on a stall who explained his socks were like a well known brand I use, only better…I was sold, in fact the guy gave me a pair of Wright Socks for free in the end when I told him about my blog “We have obesity here too” he said.
But more about the socks later.
Lets talk beer.
Now I know Germans are known for their beer drinking, but I didn’t expect to see so much of the golden stuff being consumed at a sports expo, well I guess if you can’t beat them join em hey? But luckily this was the non alcoholic version and full of carbs I hear, although there was also quite good trade being done of the alcoholic version too.
The atmosphere was buzzing, and this was only Friday. I spoke to someone from their press team and he said they were expecting like 25,000 people the following day. In many ways I was glad I had decided to make the trip today.
It was still daylight outside, so after a very tasty sausage I walked back the way I came realising that I had unintentionally walked 25,000 steps ooopppps. Tomorrow would have to be a more relaxed affair I reckoned.
I had a solitary dinner in a local greek restaurant accompanied by a German Beer, it would be rude not to right? and made my way back to the hotel to work out logistics for Sunday and have an early night…it had been a long day.
As I lay in bed watching BBC World Service and looking through my race information booklet I thought back to the expo when a volunteer tried to direct me to the spectator gate, and I had to explain I was actually running and she looked real skeptical. I also noticed there were no other FAT runners…the press guy had reminded me of the 3 hour 15 cut off and the fact that 65% of runners finish in under 2 hours…what had I let myself in for?
I decided I would do the real tourist thing and get on a sightseeing bus. I figured this would limit my walking and also give me a good look around the city without exhorting too much brain power…I was right, it was perfect. I did of course hop on and off a few times, but two loops round stopping for lunch and a visit to the Jewish Memorial Exhibition and that was my day done. What a lovely city, and so much interesting (if but a little frightening) history.
On my way back I sat in front of two Irish runners who had just picked up their race packs, one guy read everything out to his mate and after 15 minutes or so, I turned and said I’m glad I sat in front of you now. We spoke for a while about parkrun, and travelling abroad for races…runners are a fab breed really, they’ll talk to anyone.
I think I made a bit of a school girl error though which one of the guys had noticed too. I had worn converse for the last few days and my calves and ankles were really feeling it. I also had some small sores on my little toes from wearing a new pair of flats to dinner and I had some weird sensations going on in my glutes…I don’t know if I was being uber sensitive but by about 9pm on Saturday I was starting to really worry about whether I would get round.
The sound of my alarm at 7am and waking up in a strange room kind of scared me a little first thing on Sunday, but everything was laid out ready so it was just a matter of getting dressed and eating the two croissants and banana I had bought for breakfast.
Getting to the start was pretty easy, I just followed everyone else. I felt a bit odd in my bright green Too Fat to Run tshirt at first, but then just though what the heck. The start area was very well organised, and they were playing some great cheezy house tracks to get everyone in the mood. I was in F wave…which I thought was quite funny, but this was actually for runners expecting to finish in 2.15 and beyond so a real mixed bag. Just by chance I ended right up at the tape line behind wave E and then worried if I would actually be knocked off my feet by the faster runners.
There was a very official medical announcement in both German and English which finished with “You only have one life, there are plenty of other half marathons” as a warning for anyone not feeling up to it today…which didn’t instil much confidence, but then we were off.
Crowds lined the streets eyeing up my slogan, and people overtook me from every direction at speed, but I just stuck to the left hand curb, doing my own thing remembering to breath.
My calves felt so tight, with every step they hurt and my glutes were twitching too…this was going to be a long bloody race. The 1K sign perked me up again…until I realised it was 1K and not 1 mile.
The weather was warm, and I could feel my head glistening. I slowed down a bit realising I had been doing 11.30minute miles, I told myself I would run until the 5K point before I allowed myself to walk…I could do a parkrun right? Well, I actually felt OK as we headed towards the 5K mark, we had already passed the Berliner Dom and gone under the famous Brandenburger Tor and the glistening figure at the top of the Siegessdule straight ahead gave me something to focus on. I knew there would be water just before 6K so I held out until then.
I was real thirsty come the water station, and took the opportunity to stretch my calves properly.
I ran on but then felt like my glutes needed a similar treatment, so I stretched them out at 7K and made the decision to walk for a kilometer to see how I felt, so from 7k to 8k I walked…something I never really decide to do…but I was jeffing on purpose for a change. In fact I took this opportunity to shoot a little film and post it to my ladies who were cheering me on from the UK, some of The Clubhouse ladies were doing their longest runs today too, 15, 18 and 20 mile runs were going on simultaneously…it must have been some day watching it all play out on social media.
At 9K we turned into a lovely street tree lined with lots of families supporting the runners, I met a power walker who had seen my tweets last night, and his friend Julia and we spoke about our marathons so far…it was nice to have some company.
A few ladies had commented on my shirt…often in German or sometimes with just a pat on my shoulder and a smile as they ran past. Along the route were endless numbers of bands, everything from Jazz to Samba bands and there really was a carnival atmosphere. The runners around me seemed relaxed, with lots of smiling and chatting going on. At this point I still felt like I was in the middle of the race. It was only once we turned another corner that the field started to spread out. We were now running through a busy shopping district. the crowds were smallish in numbers but boy did they egg you on.
I was feeling OK, a little thirsty still but that must have been the hot weather. I was now walking every 5 or 6 minutes for 60 seconds (The 60 second Rule) and to keep my mind occupied I also started playing The 100 Club…this is a fab game you can play towards the end of a race when most people are running at a similar pace to you. You basically count how many people you overtake and try to get to 100, if someone overtakes you though you have to subtract. Its great for pushing yourself when you’d rather just cruise.
We were now approaching Check Point Charlie and only had a few kilo meters to go, my sports watch had died and I only had a bit of battery left on my phone but I was determined to get a picture of me next to the remaining section of the Berlin Wall.
The last kilometer or so was really hard, my legs were really sore now…not my feet though, I swear I have never worn a more comfortable pair of running socks…no rubbing, no friction burns and no blisters, aside from the two small ones I had at the start and the socks managed to protect those too…so thanks Wright Socks.
The crowds with 500 meters to go were incredible, and I ran with a massive big smile right across the line and under the finishing gantry. I did it. Had no idea of time and I didn’t really care…this one was for the experience.
It seems like a bit of a palaver to travel miles on a plane to run 13 and a bit miles to then fly all the way home again, but I have had one of the best weekends in ages…and most of it spent on my lonesome.
On Friday when I was checking my messages I came across a Facebook Meme that read “I don’t climb mountains so the world can see me, I climb mountains so that I can see the world” and that is exactly why I love the sport of running so much.
So bring on the races and let me see the rest of the world and its wonderful people.
I found out a few hours later that I actually finished in 2.57.25 which I am completely chuffed with and I arrived home just before midnight last night feeling exhausted but accomplished. Thanks for all your support peeps and thank you Berlin for hosting an incredible event in a beautiful and vibrant city.
And as Arny would say (Sorry couldn’t resist this)
I’ll be BACK!!!!