Race 18: Berlin Marathon, Germany, 28th September 2014

Berlin FlagWell, what a strange mixture of emotions. And I really never thought I could hate 22 seconds so much. But anyway, let’s go back to the start of this run…

Like in any race, it normally starts at the expo to pick up the race number. I thought I’d been to a few big ones before, most notably Athens and Prague, but this was absolutely huge: you could have fitted an airplane or two in it. Actually, you could: it was located in a disused airport and took up 4 of its hangars! You could have bought pretty much any running tat that you’ve ever dreamt of, from caffeine-filled shots to Berlin Marathon-branded kit to running tours in far flung mountains in Asia: you name it, you could buy it!

A couple of days later, having a small habit of always being late, Pippa and I were both somewhat surprised to actually make it to the start of the race “on time”: an hour before the start. Although there would later be thirty odd thousand runners, it was eerily quiet at that time. Just me, a few hundred other runners, some statues, bullet-hole ridden from the various wars in the last century and lots of trees.

Even the traffic man is running
Even the traffic man is running

By 8am, the runners were starting to gather in the Tiergarten Park and the announcer turned up. The music was turned up full volume and, in between playing “Try not guessing the name of all the famous pop songs being played” (in which I dweebily scored 100%), I was zipping back and forward to the portaloos with last minute nerves. I’m not sure why I ever bother entering the pen 20 minutes early as I will invariably jump out of the pen for a pee 3 minutes before the start after having guzzled half a litre of (disgusting, but isotonic…) coconut water. One day I’ll learn…

Anyway, back in the pen, I just had the time to turn around and look back at 30,000 people queuing in front of the Brandenburg Gate: it was quite a sight! And then, “Funf, vier, drei, zwei, ein” and off we were!

Running alongside a very similar looking person
Running alongside a very similar looking person

Berlin SiegessauleConsidering I was in a pen where everyone said they would run under 3 hours, the first kilometre was surprisingly frustrating and slow. After that, the race picked up a little and I recorded my “unofficial” second fastest 10km and third fastest half marathon times. It was all boding quite well for the rest of the morning!

The course, as it is well known for, is remarkably flat. There were a few inclines (obviously enough to slow a hill-hater like me down) but they could hardly be described as slopes. Over the course of the morning, you go past quite a few landmarks (Siegessaule at km 1, Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church at km 34 and Brandenburg Tor at km 41, amongst many others) but the majority of the course is spent in the residential suburbs. This wasn’t particular scenic or interesting but a) it was flat and b) the crowds were really huge and loud at times.

Mmmm, yummy
Mmmm, yummy

As I chundered along, I wouldn’t say I was going super “schnell” but I was happy with my progress for sure, although I had felt a blister developing from km5 onwards on my right big toe. I knew exactly why: the GPS chip you tie to your laces meant the shoe was a bit loose. The post race sight of my foot was not particularly pleasant …

My splits were near-perfect at 4min/km for the first half (although, in hindsight, I did set off far too fast for the first 10km) and it wasn’t until km25 that I started feeling like I was slowing down and it was around then that I got overtaken by a person pushing a pram. Bastard.

In the meantime, Denis Kimetto was setting a world record in 2h02.53 (jesus!). It was pretty much bang on then, around km30 for me, that (relative) disaster struck me when my Garmin watch died. Of all of the thousands – quite literally, of kilometres run with it over the past year, it had to pick this friggin’ day to die. GGGNNNN. Mr CEO of Garmin, expect a lawsuit on your desk on Monday morning.

Who needs two socks when one is more than enough?!
Who needs two socks when one is more than enough?!

After that, the run was strange. With no idea of my speed and using clocks in cafés and bus stops to gauge my progress, I was fairly confident that I could still just sneak in under 3 hours, with a minute or so to spare. Alas. Oh, alas. Shakespeare would struggle to convey the tragedy of this watch-less hour. Good Night, Good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night ’til it be morrow. But how will we know when morrow becometh, when this goddam electronic watch works not. Oh, the tragedy.  Blabla. Yes, I’m a little upset.

Berlin Brandenburg Running
I’m the blue speck

The final kilometre stretch is along Unter den Linden, a major artery which goes under Brandenburg Gate and past the Bundestag. This was certainly one of the highs of the day: a huge crowd, so many centuries of history, Pippa cheering me on and a dream in sight. Aaaand…bugger. I went from very high to very low as I saw the number on the clock above the finish line. I knew my chip time had a 45 second leeway on the gun time but, with 100m to go, it was already showing 3.00.50 and I knew I’d blown it.

In front of the Bundestag
In front of the Bundestag

I tried to redo the maths over the (bloody long actually!) walk over to the family reunion area, hoping for a miscalculation but nope. There, Pippa would confirm my chip time was 3h00.21. Never have 22 seconds been more disappointing and annoying than today! It felt a little like smashing your PB but missing out on a podium finish by a millisecond. Hmpf.

Berlin Brandenburg Finish

We climbed two steps for this photo. We were not going to hobble one inch further...
We climbed two steps for this photo. We were not going to hobble one inch further…

Anyway, trying to look on the bright side, this was a significant PB and this time means I automatically qualify for London and Boston marathons next year.

Injuries-wise, as I type this on the flight home, I feel a tad kaput. My feet are very blistered, my armpit has chaffed (weirdly!) and my hip feels a bit disjointed. Nothing is permanently smashed mind you so that’s good.

In the other race of the day, my good friend Jussi (with whom I ran in Helsinki) also set a PB in 3h38: wunderbar and well done!

And now, with no other races currently scheduled, it’s time to plan for 2015 and to answer the well-known running conundrum: would it be a fashion faux-pas to run with two Garmin watches?

Final Time: 3h00.21 (1,288th/29,997)

Speed sonic4 (minus 1 for those 22 seconds!)

Injuries ambulance2

Weather sun5

Scenery palmtree3

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4 thoughts on “Race 18: Berlin Marathon, Germany, 28th September 2014

  1. Insane finish — though I can definitely understand the conflicting emotions. More than once I’ve looked at my finishing times and had similar thoughts (even with pettier thresholds like finishing in 3:25:12 instead of just gunning it a little more for 3:24:59) … so I can only imagine how much you gnashed your teeth at 3:00:21. But hey, it’s not like you missed a qualifying time right?

    Regardless, congratulations on a SICK time. I’m killing myself over here trying to go sub-3:20, so to one day be that close to 3 hours flat would be amazing. I was in the Berlin lottery for this year but wasn’t chosen, much to my chagrin. I watched the whole thing on TV because it wasn’t enough to simply grumble at not being chosen, I had to enjoy it all vicariously like someone in a body cast standing outside a water park.

    No, I’m not that bitter. But they’d better choose me for 2015.

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