This weekend we travelled to Berlin for the Berlin Marathon.
The Berlin marathon is one of the Abbott 6 marathon majors which form a major part of our planned challenges and with this race being located in Europe it wasn’t too far for us to travel for the weekend.
We flew out separately on Friday morning, Jenni from Manchester and me (Helen) from London Stansted but our flights landed at Berlin within 5 minutes of each other. As they were early flights (departed at 6.30am) we were able to spend the full day in Berlin.
We got the train into the city from the airport which is a very quick and easy way to travel, soon we had checked in and left our luggage at the hotel and were on our way to the Expo. The Expo was easy to get to by train and after a short queue our entry cards and passports were checked then we could proceed to collect our race packs.
At this point we encountered a small hiccup… Whilst on the plane from Manchester Jenni had stood up to allow another person to access their seat, a passport had dropped to the floor and a fellow passenger alerted her to the dropped passport, she picked it up and placed it in her bag, when we arrived at the Expo Jenni realised she had 2 passports in her bag, both hers and one belonging to a stranger. We presumed they might be a runner so tried to get help from the officials at the Expo but to no avail, Jenni called the British Consulate in Berlin and advised them we had the passport. A little while later they called back to ask for permission to pass on our phone numbers, we were then called by an associate of the passport holder. The person who’s passport it was had travelled on to the Czech Republic but luckily they managed to arrange for someone to collect it from our hotel! Phew! Mini drama on day 1!
After collecting our race packs we had some photos taken with the Berlin Marathon signs in the background, and also managed to spot the mascots for a cheeky picture before we left the Expo.
We spent the rest of Friday wandering around Berlin looking at the sights, it was lovely weather and the city felt very calm and relaxing!
Saturday we had decided we didn’t want to do too much, we went to see the Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery and then on to the Tiergarten, where we strolled through the park back towards the marathon start. We got to the start area not long before the start of the Inline Skating marathon! This looks like so much fun! 26.2miles on skates! We watched all the waves set off before heading in search of pasta (pre race carb loading – that’s the bit we are really good at!)
Early night for us on Saturday, involved sewing our timing chips to our shoes (as no fasteners were provided and we didn’t want to re-lace our trainers), then attaching numbers and gels to race belts (one of Jenni’s gels exploded on her – not fun), then with kit laid out we were ready for bed!
Sunday morning started quite calmly, up at 6am, breakfast at 6.30, this allowed us plenty of time back in the room to get ready and make sure we weren’t too stressed. We left the hotel at 8am and walked to the start, our friend Janet had travelled with us and she walked to the start too she had kindly offered to meet us next to the start pens so we could keep our coats on as long as possible, we were really grateful for this especially as it was raining!
Once we were in the running village it took us a while to find our different bag drop areas and we then found ourselves in a reasonably long queue for the start pens.
Once through the queue we found a portaloo – last nervous wee! And then tried to find Janet, this was easier said than done as the mobile networks had jammed, but eventually we found her. She walked along the barrier with us until we were close to the start line so we stayed warm and dry for longer than most people. Then we swapped for foil blankets and had a quick pre race photo!
The start was staggered so the fastest athletes had set off 45 minutes before our wave, our wave started at 10am. The start was a long wide street but even so it felt quite congested, there were a lot of people on the course and it took a few kms to get out of the masses and settle into our race.
This time we had planned to run the entire way together. This hasn’t happened at our previous majors, either we haven’t been running the same race, or in the case of Chicago we both had various injuries and decided it would be better to run separately. For Berlin we were excited to run together. It can be so motivating having someone with you step by step, knowing you are going through it together, even if you don’t speak, it’s quietly reassuring!
We ran along quite happily until about Mile 11 when for some reason it felt like we had been out on the course for a lot longer than we had. We slowed pace a little bit, had a short walk and both took a gel. Neither of us had done much distance running as we had both been protecting injuries so our training had been mostly cross training (swimming and cycling) and the running had been minimal. Jenni had done one long run of 17 miles in training but I hadn’t run more than 10km as a training run, I had been concentrating on trying to ensure my ankle and hip injuries stood the best possible chance of making it through.
But despite our less than ideal preparation here we were and we were doing it together! Miles 11-17 felt a bit rough, not easy, and a slightly inconsistent pace but we made it through. Something happens after this point, I think it’s when mentally you realise you have already covered far more distance than the miles left to go, then the mindset changes to positive as you start counting down rather than up! 9 miles left to go! That wasn’t too far!
We kept on side by side the majority of the time, it really was nice to be on the course together. As the miles ticked by we started comparing the distance left to distances we knew we ran at home, visualising how far it was in terms of local miles.
The course was a good one, sufficiently wide for the most part and quite pleasant, there were lots of incredible bands stationed along the route that really lifted our spirits and made us smile! These were appreciated the most during the last few miles.
The only down side to the course was the water stations, the drinks were in cups which we always find quite difficult, and runners had discarded their empty cups all over the road which made running through the water stations quite precarious especially when the paper cups and plastic cups were mingled together, disintegrated paper combined with wet squashed plastic cups is unsurprisingly rather slippery!
Still, there were no disasters and we successfully navigated all water stations without incident!
The last few miles of a marathon seem to feel so different each time we run one, sometimes you literally feel like the last few miles are impossible, like you are never going to make it, other days it’s a feeling of elation as you count down the last few kms. Thankfully we were both feeling positive whilst heading towards the finish line of Berlin. Our pace picked up to that of our normal running pace, we started smiling and posing for photographers! We were offered a shot of Jäger from a spectator which made us smile (we declined the shot) we were going to make it!
Then the end was in sight! Under the Brandenburg Gate, into the park and across the finish line! Side by side, arms round each other, perfectly in step for identical finish times and a great final photo!
We had made it, another marathon major ticked off the list! We got our medals, had our photos taken, collected our bags and headed out to meet Janet. We also managed to purchase 2 giant pretzels on our way out of the park – obligatory silly post race photo can be viewed below!
On our walk back to the hotel we stopped at the final turn point on the course to offer some encouragement to those still on the course and let them know how amazing they were and that they had nearly made it!
We hope people found our encouragement helpful, I was pleased to spot Carl looking determined with only a few hundred meters to go. Well done Carl!
We are super pleased with our achievement and had a great time running together. We treated ourselves to a yummy dinner at a local German pub we had discovered on the first evening, then it was another early night for us! No partying on this trip!
We are already looking forward to our next challenges and look forward to sharing them with you!