Berlin Marathon

Berlin wasn’t the first destination that came to mind when I started to think about which marathon to do next. My friend Luke had already decided he was going to attempt it so I said I’d do it with him.

Some months later and Luke had to drop out, he had back issues and they weren’t getting better. It was a shame, I’d not run an event side by side with him so I was looking forward to it. I decided to stick with it anyway though.

I’ve been running all year on and off with the knowledge that I’d have to start training seriously for the marathon in around May. That was far from reality though. I’d been struggling with Posterior Tibial Tendon (PTTD) issues for a while. Last year I had a pair of custom orthotics fitted to try and get over it which had worked to a certain degree. I really find them pretty uncomfortable to run in though, they support my feet but they’re hard. They don’t breathe at all either so my feet get hot and sweaty and that results in blisters.

I ended up buying a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 15s which have quite a bit of mid-foot support. They seem to be a bit softer than my previous shoes too but they are still fairly light. They have a very breathable upper so my feet stay cool and dry although I don’t think they would be too good in the winter—cold and wet feet.

I also took the plunge and bought a GPS running watch this year instead of using an app on my smartphone. I think that’s helped quite a bit, it’s much easier to see your average pace etc. I think that has helped me improve my pace a bit, it’s always there in front of you so you push harder when you start slowing down (well, most of the time!).

I had a training plan and was doing OK until the last couple of months. We had lots of social engagements and busy weekends. Between that and my PTTD problems I was well behind on miles. Fortunately some more visits to Oakham Sports Massage got me back on track in terms of PTTD but I was running out of time. The longest training run I managed was 14.65 miles in the end. The marathon was getting closer and I didn’t feel very comfortable at all, I wasn’t ready basically.

We decided to drive to Berlin due to a limited budget. We set off on Friday night straight after work, got the ferry to Dunkirk and stayed a night in Brugge. A few hours sleep and we were back on the road again, on to Berlin. It was a long day though Belgium, The Netherlands and finally through Germany. Germany had an advantage though—the AUTOBAHN!

I was carb-loading along the way, stuffing my face with pasta, rice, breakfast bars etc. I was sick of it in the end but I think it helped massively in the race. We arrived in Berlin just in time. One hour to spare to collect my race number at registration. It was cutting it a bit close so I was pretty nervous at that point. We’d come over 700 miles and I didn’t want to miss out by being late! It was fine though in the end and I’m pretty sure they would have been accepting registrations beyond the 7PM cut off time. We got to the hotel and checked in, a quick shower and out for dinner to stock up on more carbs. I got all my stuff ready back at the hotel and went off to sleep.

6AM the next day and I was up. I got all my kit on. I had waffles with honey, some multi-vitamin juice and about half a litre of beetroot juice which is supposed to be good for endurance sports because it reduces the amount of oxygen required. We walked to the start area and had about one hour to spare before the start. Karis couldn’t get beyond a certain point so I said my goodbyes and joined the queue for the toilet. I was mega nervous by this point. There’s a ton of people walking around the start area and it’s all a bit confusing which doesn’t help. I ended up waiting 45 minutes to get to the toilet which really didn’t help, being accused of jumping the queue didn’t help either. Fortunately I made it to my starting block in time.

There’s 8 starting blocks in total based on estimated finish time, I was in H because I didn’t really know what time I’d finish in—if at all. I chatted to an English bloke at the start. He was doing 15 marathons in 2015, this was his 11th. Pretty amazing really. I think chatting to him helped, it took my mind off what I was about to do. The gun went and about half an hour later our block crossed the start line. I hit the go button on my watch and started to jog at a very steady pace.

The first few miles were amazing. My pace settled at about 8:45min/mi and I felt really good. I wasn’t out of breath at all and I didn’t have a single ache or pain. The crowds were awesome, the general atmosphere was amazing. All my training has pretty much been between 7:30 and 8:30min/mi. I think this really helped. If I could maintain my pace for the whole race I was on for sub-4 hour marathon. I knew I couldn’t count my chickens yet though.

I covered about 17 miles before my pace started to suffer. I though this was pretty good since I’d only run 15 once in training. My water and gel intake had been fine so far, no cramp or lack of energy, but my feet were starting to ache. I’d passed many people in the first half which felt really good. I think that was quite a boost in its own right. In the next few miles I started to drop back though, more and more people were passing me and I was having to try harder and harder to put one foot in front of the other. I’d take a 10-15 second walking break at some of the water stations now, it seemed to help a bit but didn’t last too long. I managed to keep running until mile 25. My time was 3:50 at this point so I knew I’d done pretty well but I simply couldn’t carry on running. My legs were in seething pain. It took all my mental and physical strength to put one foot in front of the other. It felt like the slowest mile I’d ever travelled in my life. Part of me wanted to give up but it was overruled by the fact that giving up at this stage would be completely stupid!

I kept plodding on and eventually caught sight of the finish line. At least I thought that’s what it was. Turns out it was just an inflatable banner over the course. I was near enough though. I started a kind of jog again. My frame of mind had changed now I knew the end was near so I was able to jog over the finish line. I’d done it!

I was exhausted and couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes at a time but I’d finished my second marathon in 4:18:08. I was happy with that.

I now had to try and find my way back to Karis though. I picked up my medal and finishers bag and started walking around. I was confused and didn’t really have the mental capacity to work out which direction I’d come from just 5 hours earlier. Fortunately we’d agreed to meet up at the Victory Column. I was able to ask for directions and got there after an hour (frequent breaks along the way of course).

It was an awesome event. The atmosphere was brilliant and I loved the snippet of Berlin that we saw. If I could choose the next marathon now, it would be New York but we’ll see.

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