After getting the London Marathon reject magazine October 2014 I started looking around for alternate races. I signed up for Edinburgh as a spring marathon but Berlin had caught my attention as lots of people had been talking about it on Twitter so I found myself putting my name into the Ballot. I didn’t really expect to get in so I was very excited & a bit shocked when the email came through that I’d got in.
I did Edinburgh Marathon in May & then had an easy running month before I got stuck back into training for Spitfire Scramble in August. Straight after Spitfire I got into training for Berlin. For me this means a few runs per week & a long run that gets longer each week. I build up to 22 miles 2 weeks before. I was feeling really good in training. I think that going to parkrun much more than I used to & running those hills at Brockwell park definitely helped me out in my marathon training.
Berlin came around so fast. You spend so long feeling like its ages away & then suddenly the moment comes around & you’re packing your suitcase. I flew from Southend airport, which is a surprinsingly good airport. No queues at all & the only people in the airport were people on my flight, which included quite a lot of runners. It was all quite exciting.
After 2 hours that I mostly slept through, I landed at Berlin-Schönefeld Airport. It was my 1st time in Germany, I was excited for the weekend ahead & on seeing this city that I had heard so many great things about. I got my suitcase straight away, enjoyed a coffee (while listening to 2 pilots have a conversation about engine failures & crashing?!), and then I headed to the marathon expo. The queue for train tickets was quite long but I spent the time chatting to a couple that had come over for the marathon & I helped them figure out where they were going with my trusty map.
Getting to the expo was quite easy, once off the train it was just a matter of following the sea of runners. The expo is in an aircraft hanger & is massive. I walked through it all without browsing so that I could get my number first. It was all well organized & we queued to get our wrist bands for entry into the race area on race day & then our numbers. It was quite busy but the queue went down quickly.
Once I had my number I tackled the Adidas shop area. This was a bit manic. They’d sold out of the nicest t-shirts & there was a lot of people in a small area, as I still had my suitcase this wasn’t much fun. I did buy a pink jumper & a baseball cap. It was a relief to get out of that area. After that I started to feel pretty tired so I didn’t look around much. I got a photo with my predicted time. I was hoping for a sub-4:30 as that was my current PB. I wasn’t sure if it was possible so I never posted the picture. But here is it:
I got some food there so that once I checked into my hotel I wouldn’t have to go out again. I got the U-bahn to my hotel; the transport system in Berlin is so easy. I laid out my running kit for the Sunday & then went to bed as I wanted to get up for the Breakfast run on Saturday.
The Berlin Breakfast Run
The Breakfast Run is a free 6k for marathon runners, & anyone else wanting to run it. I met up with Darren (aka @runnersknees) at the train station & we easily found the starting area that had a great atmosphere & music. We got ourselves a balloon and at the start of the run everyone let go of the balloons.
We were off. You could really feel what an international event this was as there were so many people from all over the world wearing shirts stating where they were from or proudly wearing their flags. We ran nice & easy & chatted our way through the run. We had to walk to get through a gate into the stadium area but we had to make sure we were fresh for the big one so it didn’t matter. It was awesome running into the Berlin Olympic Stadium.
We walked around the track & bumped into Katie Stanton & her boyfriend. We headed to get some free breakfast which wasn’t very exciting. It was free after all & I did have a nice jammy doughnut.
Chocolate & PB Pasta
After a shower & a rest after the run I headed into central Berlin. I wanted to make sure I knew my route for Sunday morning so I went that way to the Brandenburg Gate & then walked to a meet up with some ukrunchat people. We met at a chocolate shop for tea & cake. It’s always great to have a meet up with people from ukrunchat. We’d had a group DM chat going for a few weeks for everyone to ask questions, share excitement & maranoia moments so it was great to finally meet everyone.
I went for a chilli hot chocolate & a tiramisu cake. Normally chilli hot chocolate has quite a subtle hint of chilli, this one was not subtle at all! It made my throat burn! I managed half of it before I gave up & tried to see if anyone else from the group was brave enough to give it a try (only 2 were). The cake was amazing.
After cake I wanted to see a bit of the city so I walked over to the TV tower to get the lift to the top but the wait was 2 & a half hours so I took a leisurely stroll around the area & back towards the Brandenburg gate to meet up with Laura for dinner. On my way there I saw the roller-blading marathon going on & saw them heading towards the finish line. It was a bit of emotional moment knowing that I’d be running that tomorrow!
Both Laura & I had travelled to Berlin on our own so we met for dinner. We went to Vapianos to do our last bit of carb loading. The place was full of runners. We had to wait a while but the food was worth it. A nice big filling bowl of pasta & ratatouille. Once we’d eaten it was time to go our separate ways so we could get ourselves ready for the big day and get an early night.
I got up & dressed & headed to breakfast. I was feeling excited till I looked out the window & saw them closing the road & putting up barriers. It was really hard to eat my porridge as I really didn’t feel like it but I made myself finish it as I knew I needed it. I then got myself together & headed out to get the train into town. There were so many runners on the train & when we all got off at Hauptbahnof there was a sea of runners heading towards the start. It was quite a sight & a bit of an emotional one too.
It was bit confusing trying to find where to put my bag but once I found it I got rid of my bag quickly as there was no queue. Then I joined the toilet queue – this took ages & by the time I got through it it was time for the race to start. I knew it would take a while to get through the start line anyway so I walked to the starting pen with a girl I’d just met from Brighton who was doing her 1st> marathon. We parted way at the pen as I wanted to make my way forward. It still took about 25 minutes to get over the start line. It was good fun though, a time to focus & soak up the atmosphere of singing, excitement & nerves all around.
The race began
I settled in & was feeling great. I was enjoying the crowds & the sunny weather was perfect for me. I had one earphone in so I could hear my average pace & time from the Nike+ app, aswell as my music. The music wasn’t really necessary as the crowds were great & there were so many bands out around the route. After a few miles I knew I was running faster than I normally would be (which always happen to me in races as the adrenalin & excitement kicks in). I wondered if I should pace myself a bit more but I decided that I felt strong & was enjoying myself so I decided to keep at it & if I paid for it later then so be it.
I had been wondering how it would running with kilometre markers instead of the miles I’m used to. This was actually fine. My step-dad runs in kilometres all the time so he told be do break it down into quarters: 10k=1/4 with an extra 2k at the end. This approach worked for me & I quite enjoyed it.
There were regular water stations with cups which I happily made use of. I know some people don’t like cups but I think it’s fine. I’d have a sip of water & chuck the rest over my head (it was quite warm). That’s what I do with bottles anyway. There were also a few run through showers including some provided by a few fire engines.
The crowd support was great all the way round. People shouted my name (as it was on my top) & I especially enjoyed the crowd at the half way point singing Bon Jovi. There were a few bits where they were quiet- they’re just not as loud as the British crowds…although they were brilliant. There were people from all over the world running & cheering. I spotted so many flags in the crowd & countries written on runners tops. As at the Breakfast run you can really feel what an international event it is.
I could hear from my app that I was keeping up a good pace. I was still feeling strong & was realising I could do much better than I had hoped. In the last 5k I was even trying to speed up as I was feeling so good & excited at how I was doing. The crowd was electric & certainly not quiet in the last section as we all ran towards the finish line. Running under the Brandenburg Gate & then down towards the finish. I’d finished! It was an amazing feeling. I felt a bit emotional as I’d surpassed my own expectations. I was so happy when the lady gave me my medal! It’s a beauty.
I was feeling a little sick so once I’d got my medal & goodie bag I went in search of a drink. They were giving out tea so I thought I’d give it a try. It was black & I had no idea what to expect. It was warm & was quite sweet. I think it was magic tea as I felt fine once I’d drank that. I collected my bag with ease & sat in the sun for a little while to have a stretch & send a text to my parents & had. I checked out my whatsapp messages and that’s when I found out my official time as I had been unable to get on the website. I finished Berlin Marathon in 4:06:19!!! I’m so proud of that and I’m amazed that I got round that fast.
It was time to go & celebrate!
Before I headed back to my hotel I was disappointed to find that there was no finishers t-shirt. I knew they had been selling stuff but I assumed we’d get a free t-shirt at the end. I was told I could go & buy one at the shop so I slowly made my way in that direction only to find they were all sold out of anything worth buying. In hindsight I would have pre-ordered a t-shirt with the race entry. I loved everything about the marathon so this is my only issue with it. When you pay a high price for a race you shouldn’t have to buy a finishers t-shirt too. Anyway….on the bright side I got some great merchandise (that’s PINK!) and I will wear it with pride.
I went back to my hotel & had a foot long sandwich from Subway. I had a shower & got myself together to head back across town to meet up with the ukrunchat gang for celebrations.
We met a German beer bar and shared our stories of how the day had gone over food & drinks. I was so proud of everyone. Everyone in the group had done so well to complete the marathon. We’d all been talking about it for so long it was amazing that we were done.
There were Beers, Prosecco, shots, arm wrestling & dancing on tables. It was a great night & the perfect way to end a fabulous weekend.
I want to thank everyone I got to hang out with that weekend. A couple of friends had originally planned to travel out there with me but they were unable to. I’ve done a lot of travelling before but I was a bit worried about going out there on my own for the marathon; I needn’t have been. I was constantly surrounded by awesome people & had a brilliant weekend. I already felt like I knew them after all we had been chatting for weeks in the build up to the marathon. I will definitely venture to marathons abroad again.
Berlin is such a friendly city & they put on a great marathon. I would highly recommend it. Sign up for 2016… what are you waiting for? (Just pre-order a t-shirt)
I have Bristol-Bath Marathon on October 25th (not expecting a PB there- there’s hills!) & I have my 1st ultra in December. Exciting & scary but I can’t wait to see what I can achieve next.
Suddenly a sub-4 seems possible for me….let’s see what 2016 will bring.
Thank you all for reading. I look forward to seeing you at meet ups at future races xx