Following a delicious team pasta dinner on Saturday night, Alice and I arrived at the start line the next morning with only 50 minutes to spare, which was cutting it a bit fine since it took ages for us to find where Alice needed to drop her bag and the portaloo queues were absolutely massive! They were much shorter by the starting blocks (but the less said about the loos, the better – note: you might want to bring your own loo roll). The blocks themselves were quite a ways away, so we ended up having to jog to make it on time.
I’ve done the Berlin Half Marathon twice before and was impressed with the starting pen organization, so was disappointed to see that the blocks for the marathon, which is run by the same company, were much more chaotic, although I suppose that would be a given when there are about 10,000 more people running. No one seemed to be checking the start block on everyone’s bib, which was obvious when the first several miles were spent weaving around other runners. The pens were so overcrowded that late comers like us had to climb over the barriers to get into the road. But at least if you’re late, there’s no time to get nervous, and so with a wave to the cameras on the start line, we were off!
To be honest, after running past the Siegessäule at the start, I couldn’t tell you what else we ran by! All of the streets blended together, especially because you had to be really focused on navigating around the other runners on the course. It was probably the most crowded race I’ve ever done, and I don’t think it really spread out until we were well underway, maybe about ten miles in or so. I was grateful to be carrying my own water and fuel in a hydration pack, because the water stations were absolute chaos! For the first part of the race, they were on both sides of the road which was definitely helpful, but there were always people abruptly cutting across the road at the last minute for a drink, almost ploughing straight through other runners to get there. Hand gestures to indicate direction of travel are definitely appreciated!
It was when we were about halfway that the rain which had been promised finally decided to make an appearance – and in epic fashion! It chucked it down for pretty much the remainder of the race, but it certainly didn’t dampen the spirits of the spectators who turned out. Perhaps there would have been more had it been a nice day, but I never felt that any spots on the course were devoid of people. I was glad that I understand German so I could fully appreciate all of the signs and cheers. Say what you want about the German sense of humour, but they like a funny sign just as much as the rest of us! Mein Fernseher läuft auch (my TV runs too); Lächeln, du hast dafür bezahlt (smile, you paid for it); and Du siest gut aus (you look good) were some of the ones the stuck out. There were also plenty of bands and entertainers spread along the course to pump everyone up, and I found that the miles just seemed to be ticking away effortlessly.
The whole race, you’re waiting for one thing to appear in the distance – the Brandenburg Gate – and to turn that last corner and finally see it is an incredible high. But deceivingly, the most famous Berlin landmark isn’t quite the end! The exhilaration of running underneath it is quickly replaced with slight despair at how far away the finish line seems. It’s probably only about 0.2 of a mile, but it felt like forever, especially since my watch had reached 26.2 quite some time before!
When I hit the finish line at 26.5 miles and collected my medal, my first thought was immediately: I can do that faster. But I crossed the line in 3:53:30, a massive 80 minute PB(!) so how could I be anything more than ecstatic?!
I have to say, running the Berlin Marathon was the most fun I have ever had during a race! I think the attitude I had going into it made all of the difference. After a year of bad luck, including overcoming an iron deficiency, a concussion, and a Morton’s neuroma in my foot, I was determined that I was going to enjoy my 26.2 mile ‘victory lap,’ and I did! Despite the fact that I could barely walk afterwards and that I had said this would be my last marathon, I honestly cannot wait to do it all over again.