“Ich bin ein Berliner”, said JFK and my sentiments echoed his words after I spent a week in Berlin that culminated in the Berlin Marathon.
- Mr. FauxRunner and I ran a marathon together, and we are still married. We can get through anything together! I think I need to get this on a T-shirt.
- I like running in the rain. I do NOT like running in humidity.
- I came into the race after a miserable summer training season and with a sense of dread. Race day was very uneventful.
- I don’t know if I necessarily pushed myself, but I know that I held on by persisting with my run-walk intervals and not giving up to walk completely … well, atleast until almost the very end.
- I didn’t cry (I’m a very predictable finish line crier), but I was out of the world emotional at mile 22 and I think it took it all out of me. The whole thing felt surreal. I was probably completely spent at that point and the rest of the race was on fumes for me and the last half a mile or so was an eff-this cooldown.
- Nausea was my kryptonite and I can’t help thinking that I may have brought it down on myself with all the gels and the paracetamol (2 x 500mg) on top of a very minimal breakfast of 2 slices of toast 3hrs before race start.
Race morning dawned bright and cool. I wish I could say that … but it was 57F and cloudy with a humidity of 95%.
Our wave H (everyone with a time of 4:15 or slower or first marathon) was starting at 10:10am, so Amy and I made plans to meet at the Zoo station at 8:15am. We got to the Berlin Central Station (which is one of my favorite stations in Berlin with its open architecture!) and walked down to the start with a pit stop. All of which took less than 40min and we were in our start wave by 9:00am!
We sat down to wait and then joined in one of the best start line party moves about 20min before the start. I danced some to make sure my hips were lose.
As we started moving at 10:10am, I was hit by panic and made a beeline for a very very nasty portapotty on the side of the corrals – looks like subconsciously I did not want to have a repeat of the Tokyo marathon 😉
Mile 1 – 8
I quickly settled into a steady easy pace with a 1min run :: 30 second walk intervals inspite of Mr. FauxRunner’s best ability to try to get me run more or run faster – I run by feel and do NOT let anyone mess with my pacing. We lost Amy as she stopped to tie her shoelaces around mile 4, and came across Kim at mile 5 or so.
The rain soon started, but it was a welcome respite from the humidity and it didn’t bother me. After the Tokyo Marathon’s cold monsoon rain, Berlin’s rain in 65F temps was welcome!
The weirdest thing about these miles were how lonely they were. There was no indication that 40,000+ runners had started the race, I had never been so alone so early in a race this size! I was talking about it with Mr. FauxRunner when another runner overheard me and said that we’d soon pass them all after the half way point – how was I going to pass people if there was no one left to passs!!
Mile 9 – 14
I remember not being happy, and I’d always said that if I can get to mile 10 without already wanting the race to be done, I’d think the race a success. Mile marker 20km frustrated me – it was not even halfway point yet.
I knew instinctively that I was slowing down and told myself that as long as I kept up with the run-walk intervals I’d still be moving along. That is just what I did. I did take an extra walk break once in a while to stretch out, but for most part kept moving along at the intervals.
Mile 15 – 21
I thought about how I did not run more than a 1-2 of 14 miles in training at all (even those were miserable. Not for a lack of training commitment but because something was messing me up and I was just unable to progress.) but then came up the Mantra “Surprise Yourself” inspired by Mark telling me that I might find that I would surprise myself on race day. Maybe it was second wind hitting me or maybe the caffeine gels were taking effect or maybe the mental countdown with the mantra … all of a sudden I could FEEL myself running easy again compared to dragging my feet earlier.
The girl who had reassured us earlier that we’d pass people later was right – we started passing a lot of people. Mr. FauxRunner, not normally a talker anyway, was shaking his head while I was talking to people around me. I can’t help it – I get my energy from people around me.
I don’t know if this was my wall in the true sense, but everything in me rebelled. And it rebelled all at once. I told myself that the mental thing I WOULD get through – I was going to just keep going at the 1min:30 sec intervals and surprise myself. The physical pain was starting to hit but I told myself that the paracetamol (don’t flame me!) I had sneaked in and those caffeine gels would be taking the edge off soon. The nauseous feeling in my stomach however, I could not shake off. I stopped for a bit to see if I could throw up and feel better. Nada.
We passed the hotel at which we were staying and suddenly I burst into loud ugly sobs. Poor Mr. FauxRunner, he was probably suffering and he was faced with me going full on cry mode. Sure I was suffering, but it wasn’t anything in particular that triggered the cry, it just started suddenly and I couldn’t control it.
Mile 23 – 24
Something about the tears helped emotionally and I was back to running. But the nausea persisted. I knew I had to take just one more gel (my last one was at mile 19), but I wasn’t thinking straight and I didn’t 🙁
Mantra – keep going with the intervals and surprise yourself.
The nausea was … well … pretty nauseous. Every step was making my stomach go whirls. I dropped down the run-walk intervals to 30seconds run: 30 seconds walk.
I asked Mr. FauxRunner if that was going to bother him, but he gave me a grunt and a thumbs up. And we kept moving.
Mile 26 – End
When we passed Gendarmenmarkt, a very open and beautiful square that we’d spent time hanging out at earlier, I distinctly remember the feeling of Eff-This and I warned Mr. FauxRunner that I was going to curse and borrowed from Peter Capaldi saying “Fuck-Fuckity-Fuck”. He tried to encourage me through his own haze but that was it for me. I didn’t have the strength to fight the nausea and the blackness and anything else anymore.
I was surprised how close we were to the finish and how I was just so out of it. I didn’t care anymore. I was power walking so I was still going ahead and not death marching but I didn’t have any spirit left. The only other time I’ve felt so in the last mile of a marathon was in Marine Corps Marathon when I gave everything I had until I didn’t have anything anymore in the last mile.
I did however have the presence of mind to get a great photo in front of Brandenburg gate.
Finish line and Beyond
Finish line was about 300ft from Brandenburg gate. It was a relief, more than a relief! We quickly got a plastic sheet (that we hated since it was sticking to us unless a heat blanket) and went looking for the poncho we had signup for instead of bag drop.
I bumped into Latha who I’d met at NYCM. And Amy found us at the Berlin Central station to ride back together.
As we got off the station and hobbled back to the hotel, I dry heaved and “threw up”. It helped with the nausea but then the waves of dry heave didn’t stop. Mr. FauxRunner forced me to eat a few bites of a banana and that seemed to settle my stomach a bit. A shower and more food later seemed to definitely help; the nauseous feeling persisted but was manageable and the dry heaving stopped.
Shower and stretching and room service dinner got us in a much better position for some great nighttime photos at the Brandenburg gate.
Mr. FauxRunner took an ibuprofen and slept the night while I was up until 12:30 am and then up again at 3 am. I can never sleep the night after a marathon – I suspect all the sugar from the gels and the caffeine for someone who never takes any caffeine does a number on me.
Berlin has an official published time limit of 6hrs 15min from the time the last person crosses the start and in the past people had reports of finishing up on the sidelines and still getting a medal. This year, we heard of people being asked to get on the broom wagon and those finishing on the sidelines after the 6:15 official finish (about 4:50-4:55pm) finding the finish line blocked after the Brandenburg gate. I am glad I didn’t know this until after – I would’ve certainly freaked out and would not have left the corral in the beginning for one last portapotty visit (unnecessarily freak out, I know but the way the summer training went for me I know I would’ve been nervous all throughout)
My mind and heart is ready to get back running as soon as my body has recovered. After Tokyo, I was mentally exhausted and took a month (or two) off. Maybe going into the race with zero expectations except to finish officially helped.