It all started back in October 2016. The Berlin Marathon had been and gone for that year and they’d just opened up the ballot for the 2017 race. I’d decided in September that I wanted to run all six of the World Marathon Majors, and I had to start somewhere so I entered. Berlin isn’t that far away so it would be a good way to see how travelling abroad for a marathon would feel but, having tried the London Marathon ballot three times with no luck, I didn’t hold out much hope for Berlin. With around 75,000 people entering and 40,000 actually getting a place the chances are much better than London but that’s still a lot of people to go up against. Imagine my surprise when I got a congratulations email at the end of November telling me that I was going to be on the start line!
Aside from Ireland, I’ve never travelled abroad specifically for a race, which I insist doesn’t really count as it took us longer to get to Newcastle for the Great North Run than it does to fly to Cork! Nearly a whole year after I got the email and with lots of training done, we were on our way. When the alarm went off at 3am I did briefly wonder why I wanted to do this though! For those who read my previous blog I actually trained this time so, although I felt nervous, I was in a much better place than I was for Brighton in 2015.
We arrived in Berlin and got a bus from the airport to our hotel. We stayed at the Savoy (posh!) which is just three U-Bahn stops away from the start line. Public transport in Berlin is really easy to use so we were able to get around before, during and after the race with ease. With a big race like this we just had to follow all the other runners on the day knowing that they were also heading to the start line! I decided to head to the race expo straight after we arrived so that I could relax the day before the race. The expo was well organised on the outside as I got in, had my start line wristband placed on my arm and picked up my number within minutes. Inside was a different story …
The expo was spread out through multiple rooms which got very confusing as they all seemed to have a different theme. I had to get right to the back of the building to pick up my t-shirt and by the time I did this I just wanted to leave! The finisher t-shirt (which you pick up before the race … weird) was dark green and red which isn’t a great colour combination. I don’t think I’ll be wearing this one.
The next day, we took a short walk through the park so I could get a look at where I would be starting the race from. I knew it was fairly easy to find but wanted to put my mind at ease that, come race day, I would know exactly where I was going. I’d had a few butterflies before this point but as soon as I saw the gold topped Victory Column in the middle of the park they turned into full blown nerves. I trusted my training though so I tried to push those nerves to one side. It didn’t quite work because I woke up in the middle of the night asking in a panic if it was time to go yet!
When it was eventually time to get ready the next morning, the nerves really hit me and I ended up crying. I can’t describe it but whatever adrenaline I’m feeling just comes out as tears. We ate breakfast (barely as my stomach couldn’t cope), drank coffee (which was easy) and left the hotel. We assumed that the U-Bahn would be packed but I was actually able to get a seat so, if you’re not close the start line, this would be my recommendation to get there.
The start area was well secured with security guarded gates and bag checks. It’s really well organised with quick access and more than enough staff. However, this meant that my long suffering boyfriend Dan, couldn’t actually come through with me. I think this is the first time he hasn’t been able to properly see me off. Did I face this like a pro? Did I march toward the start line with confidence? Not exactly … I cried. Again.
We eventually did say our goodbyes and I shivered my way to the start line. It was a pretty miserable day but I’d forgotten to bring an old piece of clothing or a bin bag to keep warm, so I almost cheered when I saw that the organisers were giving out ponchos. I happily took one and waited my turn to cross the start line. At this point I actually started to feel excited about the run ahead of me. OK, maybe excited is a bit optimistic. I wanted to get going. The downfall of the slower runner is that, at events like this, you are the last to cross the start line. You have to wait at the back for the faster runners to leave first. Of course all the cool kids sit at the back of the class room or on the back of the bus so I like to think this makes me cool …
We didn’t get a warm up (or rather I couldn’t see one taking place) but we did get a Viking Clap going. For those who are unfamiliar with what this is, think back to Euro 2016 where the unusual celebration was introduced by the under dogs, Iceland. The noise when all those people clapped was incredible and it gave me goosebumps! Of course the cold rain wasn’t helping with that and once the ‘warm up’ had finished my mind wandered back to the fact that I just wanted to start. Then all of a sudden we were walking. Walking towards 26.2 miles of running. Was there time to back out now?!
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