The Berlin Marathon is known for being a flat and fast course, so I trained with the hope of PRing, or at least qualifying for Boston again. Best laid plans and all that…
As I boarded our plane in Denver, I was confident I could run a 3:40 and qualify for Boston. My optimism would be shattered, however, by the time we arrived in Berlin. Our flight from Denver to Newark was delayed, and we began circling western Pennsylvania en route because someone needed private airspace. We consequently missed our flight to Berlin and were re-routed via Frankfurt. We were told (numerous times) that our luggage was checked through to Berlin. When we finally arrived in Berlin, 4 hours late, our luggage was nowhere to be found.
I quickly considered my situation. I had my running shoes and I could buy a new running outfit and gu’s, but I had no intention of spending $$$ for a new Garmin watch. A few hours later, while sitting in a beer garden drinking a weiss beer and eating currywurst and pommes frites, I realized I would be happy simply running the marathon and that I no longer care about my time. I was going to enjoy my vacation, enjoy Berlin, and, most importantly, enjoy the German beers. Luckily, the next day, after purchasing new socks, shorts, jog bra, top, hair ties, and gu’s, my luggage arrived!!
I registered for the marathon through a running tour company called Running Crazy and they booked the hotel, organized the pre-race pasta dinner, and walked us to the start line. With the stress of delayed flights, a missed connection, and lost luggage, I was so grateful to not worry about where to eat dinner or what time to leave the hotel on race morning.
On our way to the start line, we walked through a park filled with trees. Within the trees were hundreds of people peeing. I have run many races and have never seen so many people popping a squat. I have also never felt so short in a start corral. I was in the first wave, Corral E, surrounded by 6-foot+ männer (dudes) and people wearing obnoxiously huge costumes. One woman dressed as grapes, a guy dressed as the Brandenburg Gate, and another in a beer bottle. It turns out Brandenburg Gate Guy stayed a little in front of me the entire race, making it easy for my husband and friend to spot me along the course.
The marathon course was as promised: flat and fast. It was in the 50s with a light rain. Nothing at all like the freezing rains at the Portland Marathon last year. I had not trained using kilometers, so my watch continued to track my progress in miles. At the first 5K (3.1 miles) I was already .1 miles ahead due to the turns. I remembered one of my Colorado Harriers teammates warning me about the number of turns and became more diligent about running on the inside of every turn, even if it meant slowing down. Despite my efforts, I continued to tack on an additional .1 almost every 5K.
My plan was to negative split (run the second half faster than the first). I intended to run between an 8:40 and a 9:00 mile for the first 5K and get slightly faster each 5K until I hit 20 miles and then let myself run as fast as I wanted for the final 10K (hopefully 8:00 miles). My plan was going great until my legs turned into tree trunks at mile 18. I quickly realized I would not be running any faster in 2 miles (let alone 8 miles) and maintaining my current pace became my new goal. But all in all, I still felt strong, despite not having the leg speed I desired.
I felt strong, that is, until my watch hit 25 miles and I saw a sign saying that I was at the 39 KM point of a 42 KM race. I didn’t know precisely how long 3 KM was, but I knew that is it was longer than 1.2 miles. My mind went into overdrive. What’s the conversion?? I initially thought it was .97 miles to a kilometer and I began to panic – I was NOT about to run another 3 miles! (A reminder not to attempt math while running.) Then I remembered that it was .6 something (it’s .62) and I started to calm down. But I was still not thrilled that I was about to run 1.86 miles when my watch was telling me that I only had 1.2 miles to go. Half a mile may not seem like a lot until you have run that distance 50 times.
If the race ended when my watch hit 26.2 miles, I would have qualified for Boston. But I am not complaining about missing a qualifying time by less than three minutes. Quite the contrary. I ran a smart and consistent race. And despite all the pre-race travel stress, and starting a marathon at 1 AM Denver time, I ended running my fifth fastest marathon. I am more than satisfied.
I was also more than sore. My calves started cramping 30 seconds after finishing and I couldn’t wait to get out of the finishers area. My heavenly husband greeted me with a calf massage. We shuffled back to the hotel, quickly showered, and headed for Berlin’s Oktoberfest at Alexanderplatz, where I had my first banana weiss and fleischpflanzerl-semmel, which were my favorite discoveries in Germany.
Here is a video Running Crazy created. You can catch me at 2:12 (I’m the one in a garbage bag) and 3:44 (6K mark).
It’s been long enough since the race that I am ready to start planning my next international marathon. What race should I run? London? Le Marathon du Médoc?