Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Berlin Marathon 2013 - my second marathon - done! pt1 (to the start pen)

It took me a few days to digest the whole experience and frankly to find a moment to sit down to type it up... and then even longer to get my images together and then sit and post this thing. So anyway here is my Berlin marathon 2013 -

The Berlin marathon was my first experience of a major city marathon, and while I have nothing to compare it to I found it an incredible event all round. So here is how it all went...

The weekend started with traveling over to Germany, via Amsterdam on KLM which I had initialled thought would be a draining journey (with the transfer, lots of sitting on awkward seats, and general worry about flying without the kids). Happily the journey went very well with flights on time, good leg room on the aircraft, reasonable food in the transit lounge and so on.
Possibly the most glamorous view of Schiphol airport you'll ever see ;-) 

When we got into Berlin we managed to find the hotel pretty easily, although we realised afterwards we could have taken one bus rather than a bus and a U-bahn. The hotel was brilliant in as far as they were super welcoming of marathoners, had good standard rooms, and a great restaurant. We took a quick walk then settled for a meal in the hotel, which was yummy - I indulged in Currywurst and a small beer calculating it was two days from the race and I knew the dish well enough to know it wouldn't upset my system - oh wow, it tasted amazing!!
Hmm, naughty food and a very naughty (small) beer - what was a boy to do?

The day before the race our sole mission was to go get my race number at the expo, but I also wanted to have a look around the start / finish zone so we would know the best spots to meet up post race and so on. We didn't have an early start to the day, it was still pretty chilly when we headed out which made me think the weather on race day might be fairly good for marathoning. The Brandenburg Tor was bathed in sunshine when we got there (via a coffee shop for a cuppa to revive my wife - I do enjoy that I don't rely on caffeiene to get me going of a morning - sorry, I digress) under clear blue skies, we took a couple of tourist 'selfies' just cause you kind of have to really.
We woz... oh, yeah we woz at the Brandenburg Tor (squinting aside not a bad 'selfie')

From the Tor we headed off to the Expo, wherein I made a navigational error that cost us an hour and a half and a little too much walking. It was just one of those silly things and all I hoped at the time was that it wasn't taking too much out of my legs. The Expo itself was absolutely huge (!) spread across six or seven hangers of Templehof Airport. My feelings of the event were coloured by the amount of walking we'd accidently done - having to walk the length of the place to get the race pack and then back again made commercial sense in that it made all enterants walk past the stands and displays, but rubbed with me as I'd rather have grabbed my number and chilled out. The pick up went pretty smoothly and the lady who gave me my number was super smiley despite the fact that she'd undoubtedly served countless people all day, in fact she was a pretty good example of what I found throughout the event from the organisers and support team - super friendly, super helpful, and super understanding!
The biggest expo I have ever been to, though happily not the biggest queue I have ever been in (different story)
Still tickled that both me and the race were in our 40th years and I get to be 39 because I started a zero not one (ah-ha!!)

The plan then was to head back to the hotel via the route we would take to the race in the morning with a stop for a good dinner (pasta) along the way. Unfortunately with some works to the U-bahn we ended up on our feet a bit too long again but eventually we settled on a pizza restaraurant near a main station. The least said about the service in the place the better (it was diabolical, the first time ever in my life I refused to leave a tip), but the food was good at least (despite starters and main arriving at the same time, yes, it was like that!).

The night before the race and I set about putting everything out for the morning - writing on the back of and then pinning on my race number, installing energy gels in my running belt, putting post run kit in a bag, and working out just what I might need to wear down to the start pen. Within myself I had a plan for the actual race, it was the getting it done that was troubling me a little - running amongst 40,000 other runners was to be a new experience after all. As my head hit the pillow I could feel the nerves were going to rob me of sleep, but in the end I managed always 5 hours of decent shut eye.

Breakfast was awesome, sitting eating a tried and trusted meal (I hadn't noticed my tastes had vered quite so close to a continental breakfast until the trip). We enjoyed a good people watching session noting all the runners in their various old and new kit, and spotted a couple of the pace runners had been staying in our hotel too. My nerves again weren't too bad though the coffee I had with breakfast turned me into a bit of a chatterbox - yes, thats right, coffee (!) which I had planned into my race strategy, I only consume caffeine for racing given the body of literature about its effect on performance and given the positive impact it has had on the few races I have used it for - why not for the big one?
A posse had formed outside our hotel as the sun came up - as we left a group (including pace runners) gathered to set out  across town to the start zone

Setting out down to the U-bahn for our trip to the start compound it was heartening to see that near enough every runners we saw was going the same way. The trip across town was silky smooth, and despite a short queue I availed myself of toilets in the station (ceramic better than portaloo any time). The weather was cool, clear and crisp and I was happy that I brought a plastic poncho to keep warm under.

In the next long overdue post I'll get to the story of my race (from start area to finish to journey home)...