I have to say the start of the Berlin marathon is very un-German. From the hour long queues for the loos, the less than rigorous checking of bibs to get in the right corral (this actually worked in our favour) and having to hop a fence to finally get into the start zone, although the hilarity of it eased some of my nerves.
They use previous marathon times to seed you into corrals for this race, so I was in a corral away from Loz and Ashley. However Loz and I were able to get ourselves into the F corral with relative ease (if you skip the fence jumping bit). I’m sure I’m a terrible person to be with before a big race as I’m a bundle of nerves – thanks to Loz for trying to calm me down. Quick pre-race selfie and we were off.
I was aiming to keep my splits between 8.30-8.40 however I don’t know if it was my garmin that has officially given up or my legs, but my splits were all over the place! I obsessed slightly over my pace for a while before just trying to work out the maths for the 5k, 10k timers etc and just use them to make sure I was on target. I felt quite claustrophobic during the first few miles, like I didn’t have enough room to run, which I know is a problem in massive races. It did get better as the runners spread out further into the race but it’s something to think about when picking your races!
Note to self I need a new race outfit, this is almost exactly the same as Paris!
The next 10k were spent thinking about going strong through the 15k and 20k mats, knowing that people were following my progress around the world- which I find amazing, (thank you to Leah for live tweeting and for all the lovely messages I received) I was also looking forward to seeing my spectators again at 20k…
Except I didn’t. Sadly the infrequent Sunday trains meant they just missed me. It was a bit of a morale knock so I put my headphones in and cranked up my music. I wouldn’t be seeing them again until mile 23 so I had a long way to go on my own.
25k came and went, and by the time I hit 27k I was starting to really hurt and realise I was really, really hot.
I got a bit of a stitch just before the 28k water station so walked through it and took on some water. I immediately felt better and could pick up the pace back to 8.35ish from there. My whole body was hurting so I used the water stations as brief respite to take on water and to walk, even just for 15 seconds. It helped to mentally break up the final 14km, knowing that I was effectively scheduling walking breaks. Additionally it helped to cool me down, and quench my raging thirst- I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so thirsty during a race. I was literally hallucinating about a full fat coke at the finish line.
I had spotted a Run Dem shirt around the 28k marker, and decided to use them as my pacer, as they were walking through water stations too. When they stopped, I stopped. When they ran, I ran. I later found out it was Melissa who I’ve spoken to via twitter before- a big thank you for getting me through 28k-36k!! I’m not sure I ever felt that comfortable during the race, and never felt like I got into a rhythm like I do on training runs. My glutes have felt tight during this training season and I was conscious of them for every step. I just felt a little off throughout, and it took a lot of mental strength not to give up. My stomach was feeling weird too, and although it is stupid looking back, I couldn’t face my gels at miles 19 or 22 and had to hope that the three I’d taken would be enough.
Seeing my family at the 37k mark I put on the biggest smile I could manage- which wasn’t huge. I was soo ready to be done. Id done some calculations and worked out that I just needed to run sub 10 min miles to finish with a sub 4. Not a problem, unless your legs feel like lead.
I pushed on, thinking of everyone at home, all the early morning training runs, the speedwork and the hard work. Less than 5k until I never had to run again, ever, if I chose. Mile 24 was a 9.43- my slowest of the course. 25 wasn’t much better with a 9.27 but I kept trugging. Tom told me afterwards that he’s never watched a marathon at that stage and that we were all waddling by the 23 mile mark, and I can well believe him. The runners around me were in slow motion, as I was, just placing one foot in front of the other, willing the end to come.
You turn a corner and suddenly the Bradenborg Gate is upon you- the final stretch. You can practically taste the alcohol free beer they’re serving at the end.
Except it’s not. There’s another 150m after you cross under the mighty arch. Even though I’d been warned of this, it still came as a cruel joke.
Around me other runners were slowing down, pausing watches, wondering what was going on. With less than 150m to go, and a watch at 3.48- I knew it was going to be incredibly close to a sub 3.50. I gave what I thought was an all out sprint but probably looked more like a half hearted dash for a bus.
But I made it, just. 3.49.56 (official time texted to me by Lissy as my app wasn’t working! Thank you!!)
Although the refreshments (is that what you call them during a race?) were awesome on the course with incredibly helpful volunteers, they were severely lacking in the finishing area. It took me a long time to locate water, and despite staggering around like Bambi, there was very little help. I never found where to remove my chip, but I did track down some beer eventually.
Overall not the race I was planning, and more uncomfortable than I was hoping for but I smashed the goal I came here to achieve. Running a PB race is never going to be easy, and it takes a lot of grit and determination to push through. I may not be a natural runner but what I lack in physical attributes (long lean legs??) I think I more than make up for in mental strength and sheer competitiveness with myself. Proof that anyone can turn themselves into a runner.
Well done to everyone that completed the Berlin Marathon on Sunday, particularly to those I knew on the course. I met up with Ashley and her husband Bo, and my family afterwards to enjoy a coke (dreams can come true!), a beer and the saltiest chips and schnitzel ever- perfect!
Thank you again to every single person that supported me during my training and throughout race day, your words of encouragement meant more than you know. Thank you xxx