Sleeping the night before a race is always an interesting challenge, and all I could manage in Berlin was a fitful broken night of trying to get comfortable while switching off my brain. We had stayed up to watch the Wales vs. England pool match in the IRB rugby world cup, which while being a great distraction was not exactly restful. I was on social media most of the time too, soaking up those sleep impeding wavelengths of light.
By the morning I was absolutely ready to get on with things wanting to turn my back on the lost sleep and meet the day. Breakfast was great, the food in the hotel was excellent, as is my way I indulged in coffee for race day. Still caffeine is limited to green tea before midday most days, so yes I was cheating a bit 'using' the caffeine to focus my mind and quash some of the effort feedback during the run. I'm not entirely sure it isn't a placebo thing, and really more of a pre-race habit like getting a hair cut, washing favourite kit, eating the same food, and so on.
We met up with my school buddy and headed into the middle of the city, to the start area. Underground and over ground trains ran like clockwork, and we were soon looking at the thronging masses of the Berlin marathon field. After taking the obligatory photos I left Mrs.H. to her day of stalking me on the Berlin marathon tracker app and coffee shop tourism. Going into the start area I was on my own and feeling the buzz of the event grow and grow. There were banging house tracks and aerobics demos to warm us up, and booming PA system announcements to keep us focused. The start pen was a fun friendly place, and I set about my pre-race kit check loops - a mild form of running OCD I think.
|Fresh as daisies before the start - fabulous to catch up with an old school friend :-D|
The main (elite) field left us behind with a fanfare, and one by one the sections of the field pulled up to the start line. Crossing the line was emotional for me, being back again, being fit enough to run, and being so charged with positive human spirit. The first 10k was to be all about clock watching and trying not to overdo my pace, despite not really knowing what my pace should be. I found a rhythm well and went generally with the flow. There were pacers just ahead with 4:30 balloons and I calculated I would try to catch them by the end of the first 10k and ease away from them in the second.
Atmosphere! I love a run with a happy atmosphere!... apologies for butchering Russ Abbott song lyrics, but the Berlin course really does have some great support, music, and vantage points. I was enjoying myself by the time the distance began to get 'real'. I was looking for Mrs.H. at all the points she had said she might see me, was happy with my gel strategy, had gotten used to water in plastic cups again, and was pleased that I had caught and eased around the noisy pace group.
At this stage I was a little unsure of my pace, but felt it was not too excessive. The lack of a full training base meant I didn't have enough points of reference. It was becoming an adventure in what would be possible.
The steadiness of pace was pleasing but it was getting harder and harder to maintain. I found my breathing was a bit hard for that point in the race I knew from experience and by now I was busy convincing myself that it was okay, that all would be fine. Passing halfway was a boon and all signs seemed to be I could squeak a 4:25 out of the race.
During this phase I was double stalked though - my wife found me and we had a good wave at each other - my other stalker turned out to be the pace group. It was increasingly obvious that they were back, the distance between us was dwindling and the signs pointed to me slowing.
All I can really sum it up was is 'ouch!'... the wheels as they say "fell off". First the pace group caught and slid past me, and then I became increasingly aware that the slowdown was biting. To be fair to myself I held out until 34 km before everything really got hard. On reflection going through halfway in 2:10 was simply too hot. I fought myself and had to pull all motivation out of myself between 35 km and 40 km, pushing and pushing as best I could.
Final 2 km
My fade was only halted by finish line fever, and the elation of finishing a second Berlin after what was a flawed training / preparation period before. Heading towards the Brandenburg gate I got so giddy I was waving my bandana around above my head like a flag. After patting the gate on my way underneath the madness returned and I started waving my arm about again. Seeing the finish line I worked out I might get in under 4:45 and managed a final surge to do it.
|Apparently I'm in there somewhere over the far side|
|My race by the number thanks to the Berlin marathon race tracker app|
In the end even with the horrible and painful fade I was chuffed to bits to have completed, to have enjoyed it, and to have had so much support and good will from family and friends. The time was not earth shattering but I was very pleased. The walk back to the hotel was interesting as my legs were in pieces, so much so I had to start the staircase shuffle straight away (not the next day like usual). Shower facilities were kindly extended to runners by our hotel and happily (though awkwardly) I had time to take up on it. The end of the trip was a pair of flights home which went smoothly - if a little painfully.
|Super pleased and proud of my race being :-D|