As we made our way to the start line of the 45th running of the Berlin Marathon, Julie and I marveled at the weather: 100% sunny, not too hot; a perfect day for a world record.
I was overly nervous about running this marathon; yes I had completed seven prior marathons, but it had been three years since my most recent. That said, I was also tremendously excited and grateful.
After finally locating kit drop off points for each bib number, not to mention a long, winding, patience-testing lineup for the port-a-potties, we made our way to our wave. Finish line atmospheres are clearly a priority in races but I have to say that the start line of the Berlin Marathon was one of the most memorable I have experienced. Inspirational interviews with runners, motivational music, hands in the air everywhere; we were all pumped up!! I turned to my very good friend Julie, hugged her, and said good luck through my typical choked-up state.
And then we were off.
We ran out of the beautiful forest park that surrounded us on either side and around the Victory Column. I am definitely running a race in Europe, I thought!
With 40,000+ runners strong, Julie and I lost sight of each other right away. No question, the crowds kept me honest, allowing for little opportunity to go out too fast. At 3k I noticed lots of runners in front of me already sweating significantly; it wasn’t humid but the sun was high and mighty from the get go. I am always amazed at how many marathoners overdress.
Be aware of the plastic cups! The water stations are littered with them making it very easy to slip. I tried to keep to the far side as I had my own water and gels with me and was able to top up my water at faucets throughout the course.
I cannot remember where I was when I heard it announced that Eliud Kipchoge had broken the world record winning the marathon in 2:01:39. A pack of German runners just behind me announced it in German but I kept hearing “world record “in English and then they all started singing, “We are the Champions”! Throughout the race there were various spectators holding “2:01:39” signs. It was so inspiring. I kept looking down at the blue line, smiling and thinking what an enormous privilege it was to run in this event.
As I neared the 25k mark, my calves started to seize up. EVERY TIME! And, out of the blue, my Morton’s neuroma (compression of the nerve at the base of the toe) was flaring up; my right foot felt like it was on fire. The Berlin marathon has massage therapists every 5k mark starting at 25k. It was clear to me that I wasn’t going to make my 4:35 goal; plan B was to enjoy my run as much as much as possible. So I had a very quick, light massage that loosened up my calves a little and allowed my foot to recover a little. As I headed back out, hallelujah, what a difference.
The remainder of the race was tough as all marathons become but a mix of perseverance, inspiration and strategy got me through. Anytime I struggled, I looked up to the sky which always lifts my spirits. I thought of my husband cheering me on from home (OK he was sleeping at the time but I know he was still cheering me on); I thought of my parents who I imagined were looking down on my from above; I thought of Julie and how strong she is; I thought of all my other co- Berlin Toronto runners and how inspirational they are to me: Remy, Susan, Jacqueline and Isabelle; I thought of Duff and all he has done for running including being my first marathon coach ever in 2007 and finishing the London Marathon with me in 2015; I thought of Maureen who was cheering us all on and how she has achieved such marathon times that I can only dream of. I was grateful for the BRC Excelerate program and how it managed to recharge my motivation, making me stronger after a major knee injury last year.
Truthfully I also thought about beer, sausage and ice cream.
I thought of all this and much more for inspiration. It helped but it was still a struggle. I used Deena Kastor’s strategies of imagining that the ground was pushing me forward along with her strategy of imagining a lasso reeling in objects ahead of me, pulling me past them.
Finally I was at 38k. Oh look, there is my hotel. DO NOT LOOK AT YOUR HOTEL. DO NOT LOOK AT IT.
And then I was at 40k; then 41.
OK Beth, remember, the finish line is 500 metres AFTER the Brandenburg Gates. Keep running past them. Got it? Got it. OK, now where ARE the Gates and why do I appear to be running in the opposite direction? Where is the turn? Where is the f*&king turn? Oh good, we are turning. This must be the…no turning again, I see another big significant historical building…that must be the gates…but no not the Brandenburg gates..just another set of gates…why are there two sets of gates…FINALLY there they are.. the Brandenburg Gates…run through them….run…RUN…just run!!!
Oh look with 500 metres to go, Beth finally finds speed!
YAY! And with that I finish this beautiful, historic race, privileged and proud to say that I ran it in 5:03: 51. What an experience. And so grateful to share it with so many amazing friends and runners!