Stepping out of your comfort zone is not always something people find easy to do and I would probably class myself as one of those people but towards the end of 2013 I was at a low point after the end of a long term relationship and me hating my job, I was not my normal happy self and I was going to be the only one that could do anything about it, this is where my “Road to Berlin” began.
After resigning from my job I needed something to keep me occupied whilst searching for a new job and also to help clear my mind as when I just stayed at home I was thinking about things that I had no control over and this only made feel worse so I decided to give running a go and I haven’t looked back since. When you start running there are many things to take into account, for most it’s getting the right kit and more importantly the right footwear, fortunate for me I have the knowledge about getting the right shoes as I’ve been selling running shoes for years, the advice I needed is was how the best way to get going, one person came immediately to mind and that is Charlie Dark, founder of London’s Run Dem Crew, I don’t think that I’ve ever met such an inspirational person and someone who has the natural ability to get the best out of people!
I emailed him for advice and the best piece of advice he gave me was to set myself a goal to aim for, Charlie set that goal for me and invited me to join the Run Dem Crew family in Berlin to compete in the 34th Berlin Half Marathon, a challenge I excepted.
Not working at this time I had no excuse about not having time to run so I had to make sure that I trained enough to be able to run the distance of 13.1 miles and for me not to let Charlie and more importantly myself down, I just wasn’t going to let this happen.
So after 5 and a half months of running I had covered nearly 700 kilometres in distance and I was ready to take on Berlin, what I wasn’t ready for was the amount of support and love from the rest of the Crew none I had ever met before and this gave me even more confidence that no matter how I felt during the race I would cross the finish time. Flights and hotel booked all I wanted to do is go to Berlin and run!
I arrive in Berlin on the 28th March around 4pm and check into the Michelberger hotel and decide to go for a wonder around the local area to stretch my legs and grab a bite to eat. No matter how short a flight is I always seem to be tired so went to bed around 10am the next morning I woke up at 7am and seeing as there wasn’t my usual Saturday parkrun available I took my myself for a 5k run, the run felt good and I knew I was ready for Sunday.
The Run Dem Crew and other crews from around Europe had been invited to a Nike event at German shop Firmament for the Genealogy of Free Exhibition to highlight the journey of various Nike silo’s. But before I could attend this event I had to get there and my sense of direction is terrible and I knew had I tried to find the shop I would get lost so with the joys of social media and Facebook in particular I reached out to the rest of the crew in Berlin to see if anyone else would be going from the same hotel as me so I could travel with them and of course there was and I started to meet other members of the family. The best thing about the event other than the free beer is that I got to meet people I have only known through Instagram, it’s so nice to meet people who you’ve never met but have been a source of encouragement through a simple “like” or a few words of encouragement on one of my many posts of runs I have done, it is fair to say that I met some top class people who were also running their first half marathon. People started drifting off around 11pm and I knew if I didn’t leave soon I would have been tempted to consume more of the free beer so I went back to the hotel, set my alarm for 6am and tried to get some sleep!
I didn’t get much sleep that night partly due to the excitement of what was going to go down the next day and also the nagging doubt in my head if my phone would automatically change time as the clocks went forward that night. I was awake at 5.30am so got up and had a shower and got ready for breakfast. The breakfast looked mighty tasty but I controlled myself and had a smaller than usual portion, I knew I would make up for that the next day when the run was out of the way.
The rest of the Michelberger Crew gathered in the hotel chill out zone, we were ready and after a quick photo outside we started making our way to the race this is when I found out that we had our own hospitality area curtesy of Nike, we had coffee, fruit, water and all the correct foods we should be eating to give us energy and keep us hydrated for the race. This is also where I also found out how big the “Bridge the Gap” movement is, we had our hosts the Berlin Braves and others crews from around Europe and America, Runpackberlin, NBRO, PattaRunningTeam, Moskva River Runners, Black Roses NYC, Bridge Runners and I can’t forget the Still Waters Run Deep Crew from Manchester there were others and I apologise for those I have left out. All the team Captains gave us words of encouragement for the run and we all made our way to the start of the run. I managed to get split up from everyone else in my start area but that didn’t bother me to much as I was in the zone.
10am came and the the run began but it was another 30 minutes before I would cross the start line and start what the last 6 months had all been about, the 13.1 Miles of a Half Marathon.
It was hotter than I had expected for that time of the morning and for the first 6/7k’s is wasn’t a problem but then I couldn’t wait for each water station, doing all my training over winter months I hadn’t run in this heat before and I was hoping everything would be ok and luckily it was. After about 10k’s the 31000 field had spread enough for me to get into a rhythm and I started to enjoy the vibe and the buzz of competing in such a large event. I was buzzing between 10-16k’s and when I need a little pick me up I ran passed Cheer Dem Crew and their LOUD words of encouragement gave me a pure shot of adrenaline and made the hairs on my neck stand to attention, such a great feeling that you have people that have your back who aren’t running, a true family! The adrenaline was pumping now as I ran the 18th kilometre in 4.44 my fastest km for the run and then I knew the rest of the distance was just a mere formality!
The finish line was in site and a grin began to to form on my face, a grin that would remain for many hours to come, I finished my first half marathon in a time of 1.53.51 which I am so proud and after grabbing as many cups of water I could at the finish I went back to our hospitality area,all I could see were smiling faces, with so many people competing their first half marathons there was plenty of celebrating to do! Music was pumping and more food was available for us to charge our batteries in preparation for the after party! I headed back to the hotel to shower and refresh before finding food, I could eat what I wanted for the first time in a week and all I wanted was a juicy burger which I found.
And now the After Party was next, this is where the crews would regather and celebrate the day we have all just had, I can’t think of a word that describes how good the atmosphere was in the club and I can honestly say I have not danced (if you can call it that) so much in many years.
1am came and my “Road to Berlin” had come to an end, a journey that took me out of my comfort zone and has given me the mentality that I can achieve anything if I put my mind to it. I am a happier and healthier person than I was 6 months ago.
So finally a few Thank You’s, a huge thank you to Charlie Dark who set me the challenge and giving me the belief that I could do anything If I set my mind to it. Thank you to everyone on twitter who favourited a post and everyone who liked and commented on my many running posts on Instagram, there are so many people who have been a constant support and I thank you all.
My next race will be the Wimbledon Half Marathon on 11th May and then the Hackney Half June which will be the Crew’s home race and one race that no one from Run Dem Crew will want to miss, I can already feel the atmosphere building!
I’m out of words now so it’s onto pictures!