Thursday, 6 November 2014

Berlin Marathon 2014

Although I'd built a long weekend in Berlin around the race, you'll be glad to hear I'm not going to bore you with tales of my tourist efforts I'm going to stick to the race related information just in case you're tempted to enter Berlin yourself. 

Oh who am I kidding, its a brilliant race, don't fanny around just enter it, you'll love it.

The marathon expo is held in the old aircraft hangers of the now unused Templehof airport. I had to exercise uncharacteristic financial restraint to restrict my purchases to one compression top, admittedly I'd pre-paid for both the finishers t-shirt  (cotton, dark blue) and the event t-shirt (technical, yukky grey colour). I think I described the expo at the time at pure running porn, you could honestly spend a fortune and although it was very busy, number and chip collection was very quick with no queues.
I was pretty tired from some intensive travelling and work events the preceding week so an early night on Friday was followed with some light sight seeing on Saturday and an even earlier night, with 2 good nights sleep banked I set my alarm for 6:30 on race day.
My hotel on Striesmannstrasse was about a 25 minute walk to the start area and although it was chilly at 7am, the clear blue sky heralded what proved to be a lovely warm day.

Fannying around mid-race
With every step closer to the start the number of runners converging on the Reichstag grew, with around 35,000 registered runners this is a BIG city marathon. The organisation and sign posting is very good and I quickly found my bag drop and joined a queue for my pre race poo. There was a bank of 12 or so portaloos, and having inevitably picked the slowest moving queue, a mere 30 minutes later I reached the front, having overcome the nauseating stench to get in, I turned round to discover..............yes no bog roll, after 30 minutes, fume fume! Contenting myself with a pee and a firm instruction to my colon to learn to suck I headed for my start pen. Pen E was probably around 150 meters from the start gantry, but it still took around 3 minutes to cross the timing mats.
I'd decided to pace myself at around 7:45 - 7:55 minute miles, which if everything went well would put me close to my marathon PB. I felt this was optimistically realistic given the last 2 months training mileage has been pretty low and almost devoid of road miles. I'd like to moan that the first two miles were ridiculously congested and full of slower runners who held me up, but i can't. Yes it was fairly congested but I managed to hold my target pace relatively well without too much dodging round other runners and well....what do you expect if you run a marathon with 35,000 other runners?

I can't actually give much of a mile by mile breakdown, because pretty much the entire route is billiard table flat along identikit similar wide Berlin boulevards, with support varying from good to thunderous, in fact I cant actually recall any sections that had no support at all.
There were ample water stations, all on the right hand side (water in cups) and after the first couple where runners were cutting wildly across the road, I'd figured to position myself left or right well in advance of the station.
Despite trying to ignore my bladder for the first half, by mile 15 I'd decided I really did need to pee, spotting 5 portaloos on the left I veered across only to find 3 of them occupied and the other two padlocked shut, quickly deciding I wasn't waiting I rejoined the stream (no pun intended), by mile 17 I could ignore it no more, with no loos in sight I'm afraid I resorted to an alfresco wee on the central reservation, glad I did, but it still cost me around 45 seconds.

Thereafter it was all pretty uneventful, every time I saw a camera I'd execute a flawless Johnny Fling jump, and on the big wide corners I'd be milking the crowd to make a bit more noise. Because I'd not gone off too quickly I was able to maintain my target pace and was feeling as comfortable as one can feel when trying to run 26.2 miles. Running through 20 miles I still felt good, wobbled slightly at 22 and 23 miles, my only miles (other than pee mile) which were over 8 minutes, gave myself a talking to and sped up a bit. Running back through Potsdammer Platz I reckoned there  was about 2.5 miles to go and sub 3:30 was borderline, so I tried a bit harder, dodging round a guy at mile 25 who was being stretchered away by medics, I made the last two turns onto the famous Unter Dem Lindem. Under the Brandenburg gate, quick check of the watch, Oh this is going to be close so turn on the burners across the line in 3:29:21 only 1 hour and 26 minutes slower than Dennis Kimetto, although I did run 26.5 miles rather than his 26.2!

Post Race pint & bling
You may have just run a marathon, but there is no stopping allowed with marshals keeping you moving through the finish funnels, collect your medal, right turn to grab some water, keep moving, grab a plastic sheet, keep moving, grab a goody bag, keep moving all the way back to the baggage area, bag in hand I was at last able to slump on the grass.
Grabbing and downing 2 pints of the complimentary non alcoholic lager (actually tastes quite nice) and a change of top I headed back to my hotel for a shower and a full change of clothes.

Iconic Finish
Duly changed and with such lovely weather in hand i headed back to the Brandenburg gate to see the later finishers from 5 - 6 hours 15, the atmosphere was great as was the support, and as the number of runners thinned right down towards the 6:15 cut off, the final 2 finishers walked hand in hand through the gate, followed by the sweeper bus. As soon as they were through the timing mats were switched off and the finish straight taped off, there were a few beleaguered souls came through after this, I suspect they don't get a time or a medal.
There was a marquee where you could get a race certificate with all you splits and another where for a mere 10 euros you could get your name and race time engraved on your medal, again pretty much no queue.

Relaxing post race
All in all a fabulous race experience, one I'd thoroughly recommend I've already put my name in the hat for next year, fingers crossed.


  1. Liking the sound of this (apart from the toilet facilities!)...maybe one for 2015/16....

  2. Amanda its a brilliant event, I cannot speak highly enough of it