The Berlin marathon was my 3rd marathon and first of the 6 current majors. I was successful in the ballot and had 10 long months wait from finding out I had a place, until the actual race day.
I chose to stay in an Airbnb near Ernst-Reuter Platz and this worked out perfectly. Berlin public transport is very efficient and we found it very easy to travel around all 5 days whilst in the city. On race day travel to the start took around 30 mins. 5 mins walk, quick tube ride and a 5 min walk into the main park – Highly recommend this area to calm those pre race nerves!
Preparation for the race had been relatively smooth in comparison to Manchester. No injuries this time round, and a more solid plan that usually consisted of 3 runs a week – 1 hill session, 1 track session and 1 long run. This differs from most but seems to work for myself, any more longer runs and I tend to get bored very quickly into the plan. The long runs really did not go well, I struggled with the motivation and running alone became a real chore. 3 marathons in a year and a half = 45 weeks training = not a lot of rest!! No wonder I had struggled and eventually relied on group running. This made my longer runs much slower than race pace but definitely helped with time on feet and brought out some pretty enjoyable long routes in and around London.
I was sick. Perfect. Had to take the Monday and Tuesday off work and this didn’t really recover all week. Trying to carb load on an upset stomach isn’t ideal however by Saturday I did seem to improve. I went for a quick 3km shake out run and the legs felt fine. The rest of the day was spent at the expo and carb loading with @wildbunchrun Pasta, beer, pretzels, bread and more pasta before trying to get an early ish night.
Side note- the expo is very “meh” The queue appeared large Saturday morning however I got in and out of the number pick up very quickly. The main halls were very manic, squished and pretty disorganised though. London is brilliant in comparison, with a great variety of products and activities. Also, no finishes T-shirt?! for a £100 entry fee I thought this was very poor.
Race day alarm was set for 7am. The plan was breakfast at half 7, leave at 8, get to the start for half 8, bag drop, loo stop and warm up for the 9.35am start. And it was as smooth as that, apart from a usual 4 hour sleep before.
I was tired and tried to munch my way through the muffin & jam combo I had to purchase against my usual pre race bagel! The journey as mentioned was very smooth and relatively quiet. However as soon as I arrived I realised I had forgotten my TomTom, one of my gels and mint creams for the race! EPIC fail. Fortunately I then arranged for a friend to bring the watch to mile 2.
It was grey and rainy but felt very humid and muggy. Not ideal conditions really but I felt confident and was looking forward to the race. The bag drop made 0 sense logistically – with several different bag drops in different areas. We eventually found ours, got in the loo queue (which was very long) and then headed to the start pens. Ergh! Absolutely packed I had to jump over the fence with 100s of others. The large screens showed how Kipchoge et al were getting on and there was a great pre race atmosphere… even when Highway to Hell came on!! Here I bumped into Carl and we chatted as we walked across the start line!
As expected, the start was very, very busy. I found it hard to maintain a constant pace weaving in and out around the Victory column. My legs felt tired and without my watch I was relying on my FitBit stop watch. I carried on using this even after collecting my TomTom as my brain couldn’t work out how best to adapt! I used to stopwatch to check my time at each km mark. I feel people rely on their watches too much mid km’s and checking it every 4-5 minutes is even too much at times. I wanted to hit 10k in 46:30 and half way in 1:37-1:38 but struggled to get to that pace until around 13km.
The humidity really affected my running and I head a constant headache. I wasn’t enjoying the route, long flat roads on repeat and a very mediocre crowd for the race size all didn’t help. I bumped into a few familiar faces however which gave me a great boost and then the cheer squad appeared at halfway!
Here I excelled. I got quicker and felt stronger. My gels worked well and although the water stations were absolute chaos I made sure to get 2 cups at each one. One to drink and one to throw over my head! I got to 30k and wanted to walk however pushed on. I genuinely can’t remember much from the route and found it quite dull if I’m honest, especially in comparison to Barcelona marathon.
At 36k I knew I’d hit the biggest cheer zones. Firstmy Adidas and then bridge the gap. This was epic! Kraft runners, Berlin braves and runpack Berlin did an awesome job here! With my own cheesquad here as well I gained huge momentum.
My first walk came at 39km. I was cramping badly. I then walked for 2 mins and ran to 40km. Walked for 1 min and got cramp in my left quad. I almost hobbled the rest and tried running again when I saw the Brandenburg gates. Now, My stopwatch had stopped at 2:46 and my TomTom was on around 3:13… however I had no idea how far into the race I started my TomTom.
I therefore crosses the line knowing I was agonising close to a pb or just short or my Manchester time. Fortunately it ended up being 03:26:51 a new pb of 2 minutes! Exhausted, I took on all the fluid I could find, met my friend at the finish and walked to the pub to join all the @wildbunchrun squad!
The rest of the day was spent drinking and going tocthe BTG after party! Finally getting to bed at 4:30am after a few too many beers and sambucas. An epic day with the best kind of people!
Honestly, I’d say this is my least enjoyable marathon. Barcelona is picturesque throughout and very well organised. Manchester is passionate and intense throughout. This was all abit in the middle. Average crowds, average route and average goody bag! I do love the medal though.
Would I recommend it? Sure! It’s a major and it is quick. I’d love to come back with better weather and the crowds may have been affected by this as well as election day. It really does have pb potential.. but I will never understand why cups are used for water stations!
It was great to be in a foreign country with a large group running and/or cheering. This really did add to the experience and met so many people throughout the week!
Brighton marathon is booked for April 2018 with my next race on 8th October… Royal Parks half!