It’s been almost 3 weeks since I ran the Berlin Marathon and I’m still not sure I even know how to process it all…
So I’ll start with the flight over. Standing at the gate on Thursday before the marathon at O’Hare I found myself eavesdropping on a group of people who were talking about running. Curious and also assuming that they were on their way to Berlin, I nudged my way into their circle and ask them if they were going to Berlin for the marathon. They nervously smiled and nodded. And so we all began to talk about past races we’ve done and a little bit about how our training cycles had gone. When it came to talking about our longest long run I felt myself take a large and nervous GULP. Everyone went around and talked about how their 20 miler felt comfortable or that their 23 miler went really well or that 18 miles felt like their sweet spot. Then it came for me to talk about my long run…I nervously smiled and told everyone that 14 miles was my longest run. 14 MILES. Their reaction was my worst nightmare. Everyone around the circle went big-eyed and one person even asked ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?! I didn’t judge them for their reactions because I felt the SAME WAY about my longest run. Was I seriously going to run a marathon with 14 miles being my longest run?!
Thankfully the group quickly changed the subject and before we knew it we had made it to Berlin. As soon as I landed Friday night I headed straight to the apartment my friends and I were staying at. We quickly got dinner and then I headed straight to bed so I could get a good night’s rest. Saturday morning I went out for my shakeout run. I could feel all my nerves on that run. But thankfully my legs didn’t feel too heavy and I wasn’t feeling too many of the effects of jet lag! Afterwards, we headed to the EXPO (but first we got some DELICIOUS coffee at Double Eye).
The expo was actually very cool. It was held at the former Airport Tempelhof (History nerd fact: It was the center of the 1948 Berlin Airlift!) which was very unique for a marathon expo. Being that it was the day before the race, most of the merchandise had been picked over, but I was still able to find a cool shirt. NOTA BENE: If you want the official BMW Berlin Marathon shirt I highly recommend purchasing it upon signing up for the race. Otherwise, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to find one in your size at the expo! Anyways…I didn’t spend too much time there. I quickly got my bib, took a few photos and was on my way!
The rest of the day I was a bit of a ball of nerves. But my friends and I kept busy and were sure to have a pasta dinner (carbonara made by yours truly) and an early night. Of course I really didn’t sleep. I know myself well enough to know that I never sleep well (or sleep at all really) the night before a marathon. After tossing and turning all night the 6:30am alarm went off and I quickly got myself out the door. It was quiet as I walked to the metro station and it remained quiet during the first leg of the metro ride. I noticed a man sitting next to me looking at my my bib. Being nervous and shy I pretended not to notice. As we were switching metro lines he began to talk to me saying that we were both in Corral G. At first, I wasn’t interested in talking too much, but I’m really glad he was persistent and kept asking questions. Derek from Hong Kong would become my pre-marathon buddy for the next 2.5 hours and I was thankful not to just be alone with my own thoughts.
We quickly found our way to gear check and lined up for the porta-potties. TIP: Bring your own toilet paper. I should’ve known to do that after having done 5 marathons… if it wasn’t for a kind German woman…well let’s just say it wouldn’t have been pretty. ANYWAYS…the journey from gear check and the bathrooms to the start corrals was a bit of a trek so I was glad to have Derek with me. We got into Corral G and stretched. All of a sudden I realized I really had to pee…(sorry TMI). I noticed there were porta-potties along our corral just over the fence, but it was pretty crowded and was scared that if I left the corral I wouldn’t be able to get back in. I debated for a solid 10 minutes and finally decided I would just have to risk it. SO GLAD I TOOK THE RISK haha because doing a marathon while having to pee the entire time didn’t and still doesn’t seem like a fun idea. I took care of business and as I looked at my options of getting back into the corral I saw that going in the regular corral entrance was NOT an option. So…I hopped the fence and managed to not fall over in the process. I found Derek again and right after the first wave went!
One very cool thing about the Berlin Marathon is that they have huge screens in the middle of the starting area so all the racers can see what’s going on! Loved that touch. Wave 2 went and finally it was our turn at 9:45am. I plugged in my headphones, wished Derek luck and we were off! As we started I told myself that my 14 mile long run would not be my undoing. Training didn’t go as well as I would’ve liked, but I worked hard and deserved to be at the Berlin Marathon. I told myself to go for a PR against all odds.
The first few miles I focused on staying calm and settling into a solid pace. I focused a lot on taking in my surroundings while also keeping an eye on the blue line.
Miles 1-4; 8:34, 8:44, 8:42, 8:45
The first hydration stations came and it was chaotic. I had read in blogs that the Berlin stations got pretty jammed up so I tried speed up at the beginning of a station and catch the last people handing out water so I wouldn’t get trapped in the crowd or slow down too much. It worked pretty well, but one time I had to run a few steps backwards…(not sure I have ever done that in marathon before haha) because I knew I needed the water early on in the race and I had somehow missed the person trying to hand me the water in the first place.
Miles 5-10; 8:34, 8:43, 8:34, 8:39, 8:42, 8:46
I was feeling really good during these miles and just kept telling myself to stay light on my feet and enjoy the race. Then, all of a sudden around mile 7 I felt chills go through my body and I felt myself get a bit emotional. The day of race would’ve been my uncle’s 51st birthday and I swear I could feel his presence. In my head I was like, Ok save the emotions for after the race because you’ve still got a long race ahead of you. I knew my friends were waiting for me around kilometer 23 so I focused on seeing them at that marker.
Miles 11-14; 8:40, 8:46, 8:40, 8:40
I finally saw my friends and I was SOOOO happy to see them! They were killing it cheering all the runners on!
With them was also a bottle full of Nuun which I definitely needed since I opted not to take the sports drinks that they had on the course.
I kept the bottle with me for about 3 miles and tried to drink as much as possible without getting too full. It was really good to have it with me because I was able to cruise through a few water stations without getting caught up in the mess of it.
Miles 15-20; 8:32, 8:41, 8:57, 8:59, 8:49, 8:41
When I got to mile 20 I was amazed at how good I felt. I remember thinking Wow this is the best I’ve ever felt at this point in a marathon and my longest run was only 14 miles??? How is this happening?! So I kept the positive vibes and kept visualizing a PR.
Miles 21-24; 8:57, 8:53, 9:01, 8:56
I saw my friends again around 36km and their enthusiasm certainly gave me a boost, but soon after I hit THE WALL. BOOM. It was probably because of a lack of electrolytes that I did. I felt like I was running through mud and even started swerving a bit because I lost my sense of balance at certain moments. I told myself to keep it together, visualize the finish line and maintain a good pace to PR. I kept telling myself that the pain was only temporary. I also offered up the pain as a prayer: This next 5 minutes of running will be for those who struggle with self-love and self-worth, the next 5 is for my grandparents, etc. I highly recommend this tactic! It’s a great way to get yourself out of your own head and give the pain purpose.
Miles 25-26; 9:04, 9:05
The final 0.2; 8:28
I went under Brandenburg Gate and gave it everything I had until the finish line. I crossed at 3:51:14. Over a 3 minute PR. I immediately gripped the tops of my thighs and started crying. I’m not sure if it was because of my uncle’s birthday or his presence during the race but I couldn’t help but cry tears of joy! Or perhaps it’s because I proved to myself yet again what a badass human being I am! I overcame my own doubts after a bad training cycle and the fact that 14 miles was my longest run since…well since the Dallas Marathon back in December…to freaking PR at Berlin against all odds.
I guess that’s the beautiful thing about this sport…There are SO many moments of doubt, but the second you start to believe in yourself and your capabilities…you become unstoppable.