Berlin Marathon #92

This was my first International Marathon, the fourth of the Major marathons, with 2 left (London and Tokyo).

My training this summer leading up to Berlin went really well, but I have to admit this is the most unprepared I’ve been leading up to a marathon.  I would start to look at logistics and then shy away when I had to try to figure out the subways, restaurants and basic logistics. The time difference frightened me as I had no idea how this would affect my running. Kim and I were using Berlin to Boston qualify for 2024.  There were definitely some nerves going into this marathon.

The flight: We flew out of Boston and had a layover in Paris. It was around 45 minutes.  Typically, that is plenty of time, but not when you’re flying internationally.  Our first leg from Boston to Paris went well with minimal turbulence.  I didn’t even know that we took off!  It was a pretty smooth flight. We had to take a tram to get to our terminal.  At this point we had 35 minutes to get to our gate.  In Paris, we had to go through security again with no TSA precheck option.  After the screening I asked, “How do we get to our gates”?  The guard said, “through those doors after the police check”.  I looked at the long line and my heart sunk.  We are never going to make our connection.  We asked people is we could cut in front to catch our flight and people let us move towards the front of the line.  We got our passports stamped and took off running.  We were running full speed through the terminal dodging people.  I felt like I was hyperventilating with my mask on. After the sprint, we then had to go down 3 flights of stairs to the gate.  As soon as we got there, I looked at the board that said “Madrid”.  I said, “Wrong gate”!  The woman at the counter gave me the correct gate and we took off running again.  This time UP 3 flights of stairs, then dodging people and finally we got to our gate where they were already boarding.  I was drenched in sweat!  We ended up sitting on the plane and waiting ½ hour for our luggage to catch up with us.  We later referred to this as our pre-marathon shakeout run.

We finally arrived in Berlin, exhausted and so dehydrated.  We initially were planning on taking the train to the hotel, but we were so exhausted trying to figure out the train system that we ended up getting a taxi.  The driver didn’t speak English and said “Destination”!  We gave him our hotel name and he said “Address”.  We were scrambling to provide it and since the street names have what looks like a backwards Z at the end and we weren’t sure how to pronounce them.  Reggie leaned over and gave him her paperwork.  The driver was trying to read and drive at the same time.  Being the extreme backseat driver that I am, I was starting to sweat as he was swerving, and other drivers were beeping at him.  We finally got to our hotel and checked in.

The Expo: Getting to the expo was tough.  Let me first say, the subway system is pretty nice once you figure it out.  Sleep deprivation made for a very frustrating experience.   We initially got on the correct subway but got off the next stop thinking we got on the wrong one.  Then, we waited for the next and finally made it to the expo.  We had no idea where to go, we just followed the line of other runners.  To get your bibs, you needed to walk to the other side of the building that seemed forever.  I had forgotten my water at the hotel, and I was so thirsty!  We got in the first line to go through security, then the next line to get our wrist band, then the next line to get our bib, then the next line to get our finisher shirts. Then we went into the Adidas shop at the expo to get something “Berlin”.  I was so disappointed to find that pretty much anything I wanted was sold out. Also, if I did purchase something I would have to get back into yet another line!  We decided to leave to go back to the hotel and relax.  We were just about outside after walking what seemed like an hour only to realize that I had given Kim my timing chip (that goes on your sneakers – old school) and he put it in his pocket for safekeeping along with his timing chip.  All of Kim says, Oh Shit! I put your timing chip in my pocket. Now we weren’t sure who’s chip belonged to who. So back we went inside the expo for the long walk back to the marathon support booth to get them scanned and separated.  Finally, we were able to leave!

Pre-Marathon dinner:  Our good friend Henryk recommended that we get a reservation in advance.  That’s one thing that I had taken care of in CT.  Our meal was quite delicious.  We headed back to the room to prepare for the marathon the next day.  Kim and I spent some time trying to figure out race morning logistics; when to leave, where to go, and which trains would get us there.  After what seemed like an hour, we had a solid plan for the next morning. 

Race Morning:  Finally, after a very sleepless night, Kim and I got up at 6:30 and started to get ready for the marathon.  We had our throw away stuff and headed out the door.  As we headed for the subway, more and more runners were starting to join us.  When we arrived, a sea of runners started to exit the subway and head up to the starting area.  We met up with our CT Fleet Feet friends (The Berlin Legends) for a group photo and headed to our corrals.  I was taken back by the number of runners in the corrals.  Looking ahead was a sea of colors. They had a huge Megatron so people in the far back could get a look and feel of what was happening at the start.  They even introduced the elite runners.  The runners were cheering on Eliud Kipchoge who was trying to beat his own world record. When he was announced the crowd went wild and cheered.  The elite runners were off!  My heart was pounding knowing we would soon follow.  Finally, our corral started to move!  

The Race:  We finally started to run!  The first thing that we saw was the angel - Goldelese that was on the top of the Victory Column. It’s quite beautiful.  All I could think was this marathon is going to be epic.   We also made a point of running on the blue lines on the road to make sure we were running all the tangents (the measured course) making for the shortest course.  It was a nice way to stay focused and act as a distraction to keep my mind occupied.  It seemed like the course had long straight aways with some amazing historic landmarks to run towards and then you turned.  The course was pretty flat with minimal uphill’s that were bridges.  The music on the course was so diverse.  There were marching bands, jazz, blues, rock and roll and so many spectators with pots and pans and noise maker.  I don’t recall hearing any cowbells!  It must be an American tradition! I felt strong and the course seemed effortless.  Kim and I ran together, and he kept asking “Is this pace okay” and answered “yes” as I was feeling pretty good (so far).  We hit the different mile markers (Kilometers in Germany), 5K, 10K, 15K, 20K and I was still feeling good.  I noticed my lower back felt like it was chafing.  I had my new iPhone that was slightly bigger in my running belt, and I was nervous about running with it.  It was bouncing around, so I kept moving my running belt a bit until the pain went away.  The water stops seemed very far away from each other in the first half.  The water cups were not user friendly.  They were plastic so I couldn’t squeeze then to get a good mouthful of water.  I could only get small sips.  I remember hearing some guy choking on his water.  Kim and I both thought he was going to choke to death!  Also, the tossed cups made for a very unsafe course.  The Maurten electrolytes were in brown paper cups.  I didn’t even notice them until the later miles.  I couldn’t figure out why the water stops were so slippery!  Then it occurred to me that the Maurten electrolytes made the road both slippery and sticky.  After each water stop, all you could hear were sneakers squeaking. 

The crowds weren’t as powerful as NYC but were closer to the Boston Marathon with certain sections very congested while others not so much. There is something to say when I’m trying to Boston Qualify vs. running a marathon.  I missed a lot because I was trying so hard to stay focused and not to lose my pace.  I think it was around mile 22 when I started to drop back from running with Kim. He also was trying to BQ.  His time was more aggressive than mine and we both knew that we may have to break apart if I couldn’t keep up.  I noticed him looking for me, but I felt horrible.  I was starting to nauseous.  I think if I drank more water, I wouldn’t have felt so horrible. Kim slowly pulled away. At this point I tried everything I knew to keep my pace.  I was dedicating miles to my friends, counting steps and when all else failed, I sang the ant song.  Those last 2 miles were the hardest.  I knew I was so close, and so many people were walking.  I would just chug by them.  Finally, I turned the corner and saw the Brandenburg Gate!  It reminded me of running on Boylston Street at the Boston Marathon.  It’s close, but not really that close.  I finally reached it and thought, where the hell is the finish?  It was still around 350 meters away, which seemed like a lifetime!   I crossed the finish line and immediately saw Kim waiting for me.  When I stop running it takes a long time for my breathing to get under control.  I have to keep walking until I catch my breath.  I’ve found if I stop immediately, I can’t breathe. We got our Berlin medals, food bag and ponchos and met up with our Fleet Feet friends.  We took some photos, but I just felt horrible.  Kim and I left to go back to the hotel.  We got near our hotel, and we could see runners on the next road over from ours. Kim said, “let’s go see if we can see anyone coming in”, and all I wanted to do was to get a ginger ale and lay down!  So, of course we headed over to cheer our friends on that were coming in.  We looked up and immediately saw Reggie!  We were screaming “REGGIE, REGGIE, REGGIE”, and she looked up and gave us the biggest smile! 

We headed back to our room to clean up.  I have to say, that new iPhone didn’t chaff me, it caused a welt on my lower back!  OUCH. That’s my only post marathon pain.

This was my 4th of the majors.  The course was not hard, but with no hills it was difficult.  Kind of like Chicago.  I like the give and take with the hills.  Would I run this again?  Possibly, because I really loved Berlin, but I would arrive a good week in advance to get used to the time change.  I am grateful that I completed the 4th major and that I Boston qualified for my 11th consecutive Boston. Kim also Boston Qualified for his 16th consecutive Boston.  Oh, and Kipchoge did set world record 2:01:09, so every blue line that I ran over on the course was the same blue line that he had just touched.  Pretty cool to be part of his historical journey too.

Never, and I mean NEVER did I ever expect to be able have done this in my lifetime.  I am truly grateful and so amazed that my old body is still able to carry me through.  Never ever give up.  My mom always told me that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.  She is the strongest woman I know, and I am pretty sure I get this from her.

Now off to London to run my 5th Major marathon next weekend.

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