Thank god that’s over. What a weight off my mind! This will probably be quite a long post, so here’s a quick spoiler: I survived, I absolutely loved it and I got a PB.
I’ll do a recap of the Berlin visit and the expo another time, but today I just want to recap the marathon. Cliff notes of the days leading up: Ben and me arrived on Friday (we got the expo done and dusted that afternoon – best time to do it, no queues whatsoever) and my dad arrived late Friday night. On Saturday I did a 3 mile easy run. I wanted to do this run to reassure my brain that everything felt OK. The run went fine and was lovely through the Tiergarten, a huge beautiful park in Berlin. Everything felt perfect and I saw the elite runner Tsegaye Kebede running with his coach – we exchanged “good mornings”!
For dinner I ate a huge tuna and onion pizza and drank a 750ml bottle of sparkling water. I felt good to go.
It was ‘H’. I thought I was ‘E’ or ‘F’. ‘H’ was the last wave (4.15 hours plus runners) and I realised I was put here because at the time of applying I didn’t have a marathon time to prove I was able to be in a faster wave. No disrespect to anyone who was in the ‘H’ wave or is a 4.15+ marathoner, but I realised I wouldn’t be around people who were running similar paces to me and also there would be a lot more people in this wave than the other segregated waves. Though I wasn’t aiming for a super fast time, I didn’t want to be held up by (relatively) slower runners. I wanted to run the pace I’d planned, which was faster than a 4.15 hour finish.
Aside from that panic, I was actually able to get to sleep relatively early. My dad was in a different hotel and breakfast wasn’t included in his, but Ben and me had breakfast included in ours. So we decided that my dad would have my hotel breakfast with Ben downstairs while I got ready and ate the breakfast that I’d brought from home in the hotel room. This way Ben and my dad would have had a good meal and I could do my stressing alone 😉
Annoyingly our coffee machine turned out to not work but luckily we still had a kettle so I could make my porridge and have a cup of tea. Unfortunately there was no milk and what I thought was creamer was actually a cappuccino powder thing (hence why my tea in the photo looks disgusting). I still drank it; I needed the caffeine. I had my porridge and a Beet It bar. This was absolutely perfect. Got my go-go beetroot power and my traditional oats!
Then we headed out to walk to the start. It was quite chilly but not too cold and we were only about 15-20 minute walk away. My dad had given me an old jumper that I could toss before the start so I was fine.
Then I had to say goodbye to Ben and my dad and go to my allocated wave. I reluctantly headed off to ‘H’. I had about 30 minutes before the start so I found a portable loo and then decided to see if I could change waves. There were marshals standing guard on the wave entrances and checking people’s bibs before they could go through. I headed to ‘F’ and showed the German lady marshal my bib and she shook her head and pointed down the road. I got my phone and desperately showed her my Paris marathon time and said that I should be in this wave. I literally begged her and she sort of wryly looked at me and then quickly pushed me through with a “don’t let anyone know” look. Thank you German lady! You are amazing!
Unfortunately I realised the error I’d made when there were no loos within the pen and I still had 25 minutes to wait. I knew I’d need the loo one more time but to go to the loo meant leaving the pen and then having to get back in again. What a nightmare. I sat down and resided to the fact that I’d have to find a loo when I had started running.
Five minutes before we started the pen got very busy and people were stripping off layers. Suddenly it was very chaotic and the loo queue I could see on the other side of the barriers had gone and a few people were leaping over the barriers for one last wee and then jumping back in, bypassing the marshals completely. Ah ha! I followed suite quickly – hidden by the crowds. I ran to the nearest loo. Dear lord. I wish I could unsee what I saw. I’m not exaggerating when I say there was an actual lump of poo on the seat. A LUMP OF POO. I had to go and just didn’t have time to swap loos. I did my very best hovering technique and thankfully avoided any poo contamination – could you imagine running 26.2 miles with someone else’s poo on you?! That would be pretty horrific.
I jumped back in the ‘F’ wave and was ready to go. I was very pleased (though traumatised) to have successfully mastered that problem.
My plan had been to stick to 8.30min/miles for the first 10 miles with no music or podcasts. I felt brilliant, all was going well (as I guess it should so early on). The temperature was perfect. I was running faster than I had planned but I felt good. Ben and my dad would be waiting at 7km so I had that to look forward to and it was fun just to look around and ‘runner watch’ (people watch, but people who are runners). What were people wearing? Running styles? Nationalities? All very interesting. Lots of people were wearing leggings and jackets which I thought was a bit much – it really wasn’t cold at all.
There were quite a lot of spectators (more than Paris, but that’s not saying much) which was great. There were some very busy sections and people had cowbells, shakers and flags. Pretty much from mile 3 I started looking out for Ben and my dad. This kept me entertained. When I saw them it was for literally a few seconds and I was over the moon (see above picture). It really spurred me on and made me so happy.
I really can’t remember much about the course other than it was exceptionally flat. There were a few occasions you’d go over a bridge and it would incline ever so slightly but that was it. I remember seeing the S-bahn (the German metro) go across a bridge above us and people were waving which was a cool experience. Lots of young children wanting high fives as well. I tried to do as many as I could without veering too much around the road. I tried to stick to the blue line as much as possible but it was quite tricky, especially going round corners as everyone made a bee line for the line. It was a crowded course but it didn’t feel packed because the roads were so wide.
The first water station was a nightmare. I didn’t need water so I ran straight through the middle. But the water was in plastic cups. I mean seriously?! Firstly they are the worst things to drink out of when running and secondly when people dropped them it because a minefield of slippery plastic. Each water station was just chaos. I had my first gel at mile 8.
When I got to mile 10 I popped on a podcast. I didn’t think I especially needed it but I knew I had to keep my mind occupied. My plan had been to go to 8.20min/miles for these miles but I still felt good and wanted to have a little bit of buffer time as I knew I was running longer than the course. There were no mile markers to be certain but from the km markers I could work it out. At each 5k we ran over a mat and this, I knew, would send my times to the app to anyone who was following. This helped keep me focused. I also had in my mind that Ben and my dad were racing from the 7km spot to the halfway spot.
Just after halfway I saw them and it was once again a nice boost. After seeing them I had my second gel. I continued to feel very good and was chuffed to hit 14 miles – the furthest I’ve run since Paris in April. Unlike Paris I found the miles 14-20 fly by. I even looked at my watch at on point thinking I’d see 15 miles but saw 16. It was crazy. I felt so good.
It started to get very warm as we were running and the sun was right in my eyes for a lot of the first half. Each water station I would dash into and managed to get two or three sips of water before it flew everywhere out of the cup. Luckily there were stations every 5km as I got thirsty very quickly.
Ben rang me and we had a quick conversation. We’d agreed beforehand that he could ring me if he fancied as I had a microphone on my headphones. We thought it would be cool. I wasn’t out of breath so I was able to talk – I was running at a very comfortable pace. But instead of lifting me I found talking to Ben very hard psychologically. I wanted to be with him and my dad, not on my own with so many miles still ahead. It really didn’t boost me at all and I told Ben I couldn’t talk anymore as it was too hard. He understood, bless him. He did tell me though that he’d see me at mile 20-something and to be prepared for a slight incline just before. I took my last gel at mile 18.
Miles 21-to the end
At mile 20 and put my music on. I felt ready to let myself go a bit. Daft Punk ‘Hard Better Faster’ came on and was amazing. I remember looking at the actual time and seeing it was just after 11.30 and realising I would be finished before 12.30ish. This was a good feeling. I just needed to hang on.
My mind was foggy and confused and I couldn’t remember where Ben and said he’d be so I was looking out all the time for him, worried I’d miss them. Then at 23 miles (I think!) I came to a slight incline and suddenly I knew they’d be there! It felt brilliant again to see them and I knew I’d see them again soon. My quads started hurting – not in an injured way, but in a “Jesus I’ve been running for over 3 hours” kind of way. I tried to keep the pace up but it was unbelievably tough.
The last ‘real’ mile was the hardest, as you can imagine. I just couldn’t seem to maintain the pace. The finish felt so far away – I knew I still had the 0.2 miles to go and I knew it wouldn’t be just 0.2 miles at all because of all the veering around the course I’d done.
Then Spotify just randomly stopped! Just when I needed its support, it just stopped. I fiddled about with it and finally got it working again which kind of ruined my flow but I needed that music to really push me.
I got through the Brandenburg Gate and saw the finish line about 200m ahead. It was all pain here. But I made it. My official time: 3:36:26.
I can’t tell you how over the moon I am. 5 minutes-ish better than Paris. Having Ben and my dad support me during the race hugely helped. I would be looking forward to seeing them and then boosted when I did see them. It was amazing.
What was not so amazing was wandering around like a lost sheep straight after. I was desperately thirsty and just couldn’t see water anywhere. I got a poncho and kept asking everyone where the water was and then finally finding it a fair walk away from the finish. I received my goodie bag (disappointing for a marathon major) and just stumbled along having no idea how to get out or where I was. The only directions I could see were where to pick your bag up but I didn’t need this, I just needed to get out!
Finally Ben and me were able to speak on the phone (signal was terrible as you can imagine) and we agreed to meet outside the Reichstag building where there were letters for meeting points. I was so confused and tired I had no idea where I was and said I’d meet them by ‘S’. I put my poncho on the floor and sat down and just stared into space exhausted.
Dazed and confused on my poncho picnic spot
About half an hour later I saw Ben and my dad who were exasperated with me as I was sat under ‘V’ not ‘S’ (despite me thinking because I could see ‘S’ that was the same thing…). It was so crowded.
Ben and my dad were exhausted too as they’d had to walk over 13 miles to get around the course – and fairly quickly to make sure they saw me! So we were all dragging our feet trying to find a way out. All the roads were blocked so we ended up walking round in circles before eventually finding a way out. We were very tempted to get a taxi but we resolved to walk the 20 or so minutes back. The most painful walk in the world!
So there we have it. Done and dusted. A worry off my mind. It was bittersweet as I would have loved Ben to have run it too but sadly he wasn’t able. He said he enjoyed watching, especially as he saw a world record happen and a world marathon major is quite a race to see. But I can’t thank him enough for his support and the amount of effort he put in to get around the course. Truly an amazing husband. And I’m very thankful for my dad being there as well, keeping Ben company and walking miles to get to the different spots. It really helped.
Like I said, the goodie bag was disappointing. There was a Powerbar snack bar, a gel, some leaflets, a rubber wrist band and, the best thing by far, an apple. Actually there was a leaflet explaining the different apple varieties which I thought was cool – obviously knew I would be running the marathon 😉 The medal is quite small – almost like a 10k medal and on the back is a picture of Wilson Kipsang “the world record holder”…which he no longer is. But I won’t complain, I’m just happy to have completed it and done so well despite my poor training. Thank you for bearing with me and supporting me!
*Huge sigh of relief*