Race Recap: Berlin Half Marathon

Are you still allowed to post a race recap a month after the event?! London Marathon article prep (and life) got in the way of the Berlin Half recap…oops! The race took place on 8 April 2018.

After what felt like weeks of absolutely gray, rainy, miserable London weather, it was nothing short of a miracle to step off the plane on Friday into a sunny and warm Berlin. We were all immediately singing our praises to Leo, our resident Berliner, who had convinced us to sign up for the race with him!

As the race was on Sunday, we had a few days to putter about and get to know the city – and most importantly, soak up the sun in parks and beer gardens!

Even though we were there to run, we still wanted to explore Berlin and make sure we at least got in some of the main sights. Steph suggested a walking tour on the Saturday morning before the race expo to get in our tourist activity quota, so several of us signed up to go along for what ended up being the longest walking tour in the world (3.5 hours, even with us bailing before the end!)

Our reason for leaving was to head to the expo, where everyone is required to go in person to collect their race numbers. It was held in Flughafen Tempelhof, which used to be an airport that they’ve now turned into a museum/expo center/park. It was weird walking through the museum section, with all of the check-in desks and baggage carousels still in place! The expo was in the old airplane hangar, and wasn’t actually as busy as I expected. Before entering, we had to get a cloth bracelet sealed around one wrist (presumably to avoid number transfer on the day) but it was then a breeze to show our IDs and collect our race numbers.

Hanging out on the old runway

I didn’t actually get to look around the expo much, as we were all eager to soak up the sun outside. I did stop to look at the official Adidas race shirts, which (annoyingly) weren’t included in the 55 Euro entry fee. I was pleased I didn’t pre-purchase one, as they were 30 Euros and not very attractive! I ended up buying a nice screen-printed shirt that said ‘Run Berlin’ with the cityscape a few stalls down for only 15 Euros.

After gathering some much needed vitamin D, Leo had kindly invited us to his parents’ home in the suburbs for a ‘pasta party’ and pre-race bonding. His parents were so sweet! They had cooked loads of pasta, so there were several mountains of steaming spaghetti and tomato sauce to be devoured. Even with Farid and Casey having at least three heaping portions each, there was no way we could finish it all. It was such a fun evening that kept us from stressing to much about the race the following day. I’m all for instating them before any big City Runners race – good friends and good carbs, what’s not to like?!

Race day dawned, sunny and clear, and maybe just a touch warm. Considering the fact that we had been training through rain, cold and snow in London, it was definitely going to be interesting. Personally, I was quite looking forward to the race – it was a glorious day, the sun was shining, and thanks to some subpar training and racing the last few months, I decided to let any time goals or expectations go out the window and just enjoy the run.

We got underway about half an hour after the inline skaters (so random! I’ve never seen another race with a category for inline skating). I was in one of the first waves, so it didn’t take me too long to actually cross the start line. I know some of the others had to wait about 20-30 minutes longer to start, which is an annoying but fairly typical fact of large scale races like this.

Pre-race selfie from Steph and Raymond

I was cruising happily along when the 1:45 pacer passed me shortly after Mile 1, and as I was feeling relatively good, I thought, I’ll just try to stick with him as long as I can and see what happens. I’d never used a pacer, but thought that maybe I could rely on him to pull me along.

To be perfectly honest, as the course zoomed by, I didn’t actually spend that much time looking at the famous landmarks. I glanced at some, like the Brandenburg Gate or the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtnis Kirche, but I couldn’t actually tell you half of what we ran past! I just kept my eyes on the pacer and felt surprised at the sub-8 minute miles that kept popping up on my watch. They didn’t feel hard, but I couldn’t help but wonder if I was going to implode at some point…

Leo, happy to be running through his hometown!

Imagine my surprise when I didn’t! It was hot, so I made sure to keep grabbing cups at the water stations (which I normally never do) and to drink a sip and pour the rest over my head and neck. The only complaint I would really have about the race were the unwieldly plastic cups at the drinks stations – trying to take a drink essentially felt like you were just chucking some water at your face and hoping some of it went in your mouth! They even served warm tea at some, which I wasn’t brave enough to try in the middle of a race, but elicited plenty of jokes from us beforehand about accidentally throwing scalding tea into your face. (Don’t worry the water/sports drinks/tea are clearly separated and labelled!).

Having not done a long run of more than 11 miles since the Big Half, it was definitely a struggle to push through the pain of the last two miles. This is where the motto of the trip really came in handy – “Relax your face!”

Jesse said his running coach at school used to shout this at them (with a second half of “and drop your arms!”) to remind them to run smoothly and not to tense up – it’s amazing how much harder your run feels when you have a massive grimace on your face!

Constantly reminding myself of the silly “relax your face” bit really helped to get me around the whole course, not just the last two miles. It did all sort of go out the window though on the last finishing stretch – I so desperately wanted to go under 1:46, and as the time was slowly ticking away from me, I threw the hammer down as hard as I could…1:45:58! I was thrilled to finally get that PB I’ve been chasing for more than a year.

All smiles after a big PB

The race medal probably ranks among one of my favorites – a little outline of Berlin with the cityscape. And the non-alcoholic beer served at the end was actually great! As much as I didn’t feel like beer in the moment, it was a surprisingly good recovery drink once I got around to it.  (Thank goodness it wasn’t alcoholic; could you imagine all the tipsy runners stumbling about?). After collecting everyone again, it was time to freshen up and then head to a beer garden to celebrate our achievement, German-style!

I would really recommend the Berlin Half to anyone, and would certainly be happy to do it again! The race was really well-organized – for being such a major race, it didn’t feel like there were thousands of runners there. The baggage pick-up and drop-off was a breeze (as they had an abundance of trucks there was no queue) and as the roads were so wide, you never felt like you were being boxed in by other runners. It was also fun to see everyone’s name and time printed in a special section of the Berliner Morgenpost the next morning. You feel properly honored for your awesome accomplishment!

“All runners, all finishers, all times”

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