My hotel is near the Spittlemarkt U bahn station. Line U2. Just four stops to Potzdamer Platz and a short walk to the start. I bought and validated a ticket. Not sure why you need to buy and then validate a ticket, but you do, so I got my ticket from the machine, stamped in the nearby red box and then waited a couple of minutes for my train. It was a far more successful public transport experience than Saturday's. Darren and I failed to find a ticket machine at Ostbahnhof, eventually found a ticket office, found our platform and got on our train. We then realised we'd not validated our tickets. So we got off the train. Its doors closed and we had somehow managed to miss a train we'd actually been on.
Back to race day.
The overnight rain had backed off to a bit of slight drizzle. Low cloud and very grey. I think it was about 13 degrees. I wandered up to the start/finish area; past the holocaust memorial, Brandenburger Tor and the Reichstag then into the Tiergarten. Bit of a tourist route. Quite a lot of runners about.
I was traveling light. I'm not a fan of bag drops - or rather the collection afterwards - and my support crew, Darren, was bringing along my post-race clothes. So no bag drop and I meandered to the start bays. I was starting in block C but I took a wrong turn and started wandering in from the back of block H. It was quite a long walk to get to my block, reinforcing just how many runners were taking part - 43,852 according to the website. That is lot of marathoners. Blocks A, B and C were relatively small. I was quite close to the front, a bit nervous because I didn't really think I had a chance of getting close to the 3hours that earns you your place in block C. But hey, I've done the miles in the past and I've got a sub-3 under my belt so I can lay legitimate claim to my place.
The handbikes where first off at 08:45, half an hour before the runners. Mad looking machines, like a recumbent but one you pedal with your hands out in front of your chest. I walked down to just in front of the startline to watch them shoot off and then went back to my block. Then back to my block, so I saw the wheelchaisr start at just before 9 on the big screen. Twenty minutes to go and I threw down a lemon tea (which is usually a Gatorade.) Fifteen to go and the disposable trousers were off. Five minutes to go and the elites were being introduced, I removed my throw-away shirts and was ready to run.
And then we were off. A brief shuffle through the start gate and over the timing mats and straight into the running. I was running between two of the three hour pacers - optimistic, but hey, I didn't know what sort of shape I was in so maybe I'd be able to surprise myself.
For those who prefer numbers and graphs to words...here is my Strava upload.
I felt quite comfortable, probably because of the flatness of the course and the adrenalin that comes with running a major among so many people. I was feeling quite focused, which does not make for a great blog post because it means I was not paying a lot of attention to what was going on around me.
The first kilometer was 4.21 - not bad for a first km, what with the early jostling and getting on pace. I was a little frustrated with my typically English politeness when it came to yielding in elbow clashes and criss crossing. The first water station was a bit of a bundle but not too bad and I was keeping with the three hour bus. There had been a very slight headwind and it was a wet course with a bit of rain. The tower in Alexanderplatz was lost in low cloud. I was thinking the world record might not be broken today (ha, as if we should expect a world record!) At least I was on for a PB on this course...
At 10k I was still with the bus but the pace was very flat - nothing was being put in the bank for the fade towards the end of the race. And so my mental wobbling started. I wasn't going to beat 3hours, but that's OK. By 12km I thought I'd fallen off of the bus, but I spotted a three hour pacer over my right shoulder; weird. Maybe I'd still pull a decent time? I thought I'd keep pushing until half way and see how I felt.
By a third of the way through I was slowing, but not dramatically. But from here it started to go south for me. By 17k my right knee was starting to ache. I remember thinking it'd be OK, only 25km left! I went through the half in a little under 1:32 and at this point was thinking I'd still be OK for 3:15. Then my left knee decided to start aching. And by 27k I was getting a dull ache in my back, just above my left butt cheek. From here on I was digging in. There was an aid station wiht some sort of power drink in a squeezy container and cola gels; I grabbed one of each and gulped them both down.
The race is very well supported; lots of people, lots of noise. A great atmosphere (I wonder what it is like then the weather is better?) I tried to distract myself from my bodily woes by high-fiving kids along the way. It didn't really work. My race bib had my name on it, and there were fairly regular shouts of encouragement from the spectators. I was getting frustrated with myself now; I realised I had nothing left in the tank and wasn't pushing. But I was struggling to just enjoy myself for fear of throwing my back out or having a knee crumble. Bugger.
Darren gave me a shout at, I think, about 36km. I waved and smiled and he videoed and then I got back to struggling on. I think the 3:15 bus went past me at about 35k. I didn't even contemplate trying to keep up.
I was having a mental tussle and trying to stop beating myself up for my under-performance.
- I flew in on Friday morning; not a lot of time to recover from a big flight.
- Two weeks ago I had a back-spasm thing and needed some physio work just to get to the plane.
- My best was a couple of years ago when I was doing a lot more running than I do nowadays
- I have had to recover from an achilles injury ("if you keep running now you'll probably snap it")
- I DID earn my place in the C block
- For fucks sake, I was going to finish the Berlin Marathon!
Of course I may have just been being soft, because my form was still OK and I did not stop, did not walk a single step. The last couple of km came up pretty slowly, but I did manage a quick grimaced smile as I rounded the corner on Unter Den Linden and saw the Brandenburg Gate looming ahead of me. Through the gate, another couple of hundred metres and...done.
I finished in 3:21:31 which is still a respectable time and I will get around to congratulating myself.
I collected my rather hefty medal and a plastic sheet to keep myself warm. There was a goody bag with some food in it (fruit, dodgy croissant, protein bar and a bottle of water) and then I got an Erdinger alcohol free beer. I wandered to the family reunion area, past the best organised bag collection tent I have ever seen; the bags were lined up on hooks in tents with wooden floors! Maybe I'll use the bag drop next time.