2016 has without a doubt been the best year I’ve had as a runner, not only have I ticked off my first ever marathon, the London Marathon, but a few months later I completed my second, in Berlin! This post is all about my Berlin Marathon experience.
Having run the 2016 London Marathon, I think it’s fair to say that I got the bug and straight away went hunting for number 2, with the Berlin Half Marathon in 2014 being my first ever half I knew that I had to return to race the full. When my search for a place begun I fell at the first hurdle by finding out that it had in fact already sold out, scheisse!
All was not lost however! I found out that a friend of mine works for a Sports Tour company called Disfruta Sports Tours – I saw that they were doing a tour to Berlin, and a few messages later, I was IN!!
Having not really stopped running after VLM, training couldn’t have gone better. No injuries, no niggles, nothing! What could go wrong in my quest for a sub 4hr marathon?!
I got a surprise phone call from Adidas, asking if I would like to attend the Berlin Marathon as a ‘Friend of Adidas Running’… all expenses paid. No prizes for guessing my answer! My excitement levels went off the scale, everything was falling into place.
Fast forward to race weekend! After checking into my hotel, I opened the door to my room to find an Adidas wheelie bag on my bed! Christmas had come early for me, and within a minute I had it all unpacked and all laid out on the bed in my room for the inevitable Instagram posts!
As a Friend of Adidas Running “FoaR” I was invited to take part in workshops where we had a sneak-peek at future product, and a chance to give the designers and category leads some feedback in what Adidas are doing right, and more importantly what they are doing wrong. We spoke about what we as runners and retailers think that they can do to improve the customers experience when purchasing their products, something that I really enjoyed, and will go into more detail about in another post. There is one moment that I have to mention though and that was meetin Wilson Kipsang and Emmanuel Mutai, the picture below was taken just after I’d ask them in they would pace, Wilson replied “If you can keep up I’ll pace you” that made everyone other than Emmanuel laugh. A shame I left my signed pictures behind.
Saturday had arrived and it was time for me to got to the Expo with the rest of my Adidas running friends to collect my race number, and to have a look around. Having recently been to the London Expo, I was interested to see what, if anything, was different. To be honest, there wasn’t much different other than some of the companies that were on show. With our race numbers collected, we then went to a basketball match to rest our legs! I found that being overseas turned it into a completely different experience for me, the crowds couldn’t have been more different to the UK and there was very much a football match atmosphere in the arena. The match finished and it was time for the final supper before race day. We were treated to a delicious Italian meal, introduced to us on adidas’ branded menus… naturally one came home with me.
With dinner finished, we headed back to the hotel for a good nights sleep… but not before my kit lay down, with my newly acquired kit!
On race day, I looked out of the window and the conditions looked perfect – on going outside, they were. There was a nice chill in the air as Sam and I made our way to the starting pens and placed our race bags into the holding bays. I was still nice and relaxed thinking everything was going to plan, Sam and I split up and made our way to our respective starting areas. I was a bundle of nervous energy and all I wanted to do was start but there was still 30 mins to go, there were big screens showing highlights of previous starts in Berlin.
Bang! The gun goes and the elites were off, it wasn’t long before the start line was in sight, I had begun! Full of confidence I tried to set off a the pace I needed to hit the sub-four time. The first 5k went to plan, well if you looked at the time it did, but what my stats dont tell you is the toilet stop- so in reality I was probably two minutes too quick over the first 5k. I felt that good and confident I continued at what felt like a similar pace, in fact in I was quicker. The third 5K was only 14 seconds slower than the second, I knew I had to slow down but I had to push myself to try and possibly get a quicker time than what I set out for. What an idiot I was. One highlight from the first 5k was a loud “Howzit Bru” from Fallas from Disfruta who was amongst the crowd near the start of the race, I hadn’t seen him for a fair few years since our Indoor Cricket playing days.
The half way point had come and I was still feeling good with a first half time of 1:54:47. Everything was still in working order as far as my body was concerned but one thing that I had noticed was that the morning clouds had disappeared and it was getting warmer, I was hoping that it wouldn’t get much warmer but unfortunately for me it did. 30k had arrived in a time of 2:52:49, surely I would get my my target time of a sub four hour marathon? I wish I was right, around 32k my right quad turned to concrete with the worst dose of cramp I had ever encountered. Luckily for me it was by one of the on-course massage areas, the guy looked at me and I knew by the look on his face that what he was about to do was going to hurt. It did, but it also managed to kick start me again. I had thought about calling it quits with how much the cramp hurt but the fact that my belongings were at the finish I knew that I had to go there anyway so I continued. This is when it became really hard. Having just checked what the temperature was in Berlin on the day, Google shows that it reached 23 degrees, but I can tell you it felt much hotter than that. The last 10k was mental torture for me, I was so dehydrated that I was feeling nauseous and I had a banging headache like I’d been on the wobbly juice the night before. Every water station became a finish line for me and the only way I was going to finish was to break the final 10k into mini segments. I chose every water station as my next goal as I knew I would be rewarded with liquids and fruit. It didn’t get any easier, any shade I could find I ran in. I was very lucky that the route didn’t go past my hotel as I fear I would had stopped at that point and given up, BUT, I wanted that medal and wanted to finish my second marathon. The crowd were willing me on which helped immensely, if you’re reading this and preparing for your first marathon, get your name printed on your shirt!
The picture below shows my splits, not the best way to run a marathon, learn from my mistakes!
I could finally see the Brandenburg gate and beyond that the finish line, music playing and crowd cheering I mustered the energy to go for what felt like a Usain Bolt sprint in the last 100m but more than likely looked like I was going backwards. None the less, I had finished my second marathon in 4 hours 26 minutes.
For a day or two afterwards I was disappointed with my time. My training had gone to plan and I was fully fit unlike when I ran the London Marathon earlier in the year. However, fully fit I go and run Berlin 10 minutes slower. On reflection, I know I should have run slower in the earlier stages but I didn’t. Control the controllable and you should be OK. However, you can’t control the weather so should I be so hard on myself? One big thing I have learnt from running Berlin is that I probably need to start taking on board energy drinks and electrolytes at every water station. My problem here was I was too far gone before I started taking them, I took water but not energy. To be honest, I had gone to 20 miles+ in training without taking on fluids so I thought I would be OK, but I was definitely wrong. You live and learn, I will take my errors on board as I train to run the Paris Marathon on the 9th April.
A final thank you for those of you that ran with me on those long training runs, and a huge thank you for the good folk at Adidas Running for the invitation to join you and your other running friends from across the globe. It was a great experience and I am truly grateful to have been given the opportunity to run with you.
Next stop on my marathon journey is Paris Marathon on the 9th of April.
Thanks for reading and happy running!