Previously on Run Claire, Run … Just kidding.
Of course we know how this story ends so we know I didn’t back out. I walked forward and before I knew it I was off! I thought the first mile or so would be be crazy with people weaving in and out of each other trying to get going at their own pace but I had more than enough room to relax and settle in. Once I got going I felt fine, and all the nerves disappeared as my mind concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. Everyone was in good spirits and I could even hear singing. There were so many flags attached to runners it was great to see all the countries that everyone had travelled from to take part.
I could already see people walking a few miles into the course which made me think about my marathon in Brighton. No walking early on for me this time! The first 10km flew past and I even managed to see Dan at the 7km point. When I saw him in the crowd I got hounded by a women running next to me to kiss him insisting it was good luck … is this a thing?!
I tried to make sure that I took absolutely everything in while I was running. Running in a new city is great for distractions as your mind can wander to taking in the scenery rather than thinking about your legs or the miles still in front of you. Berlin is particularly nice as you start off in Tiergarten, Berlin’s most popular inner city park, before working your way through built up, modern areas as well as the more traditional streets with amazing buildings and street art for you to look at.
As I passed each mile mark I started to grow in confidence. 9, 10, 11, 12 … more and more miles passed by without stopping, walking or slowing down my pace. The support along the course was phenomenal and there was a live band every half a mile or so which added to the atmosphere and kept my legs ticking over. Eventually at mile 14 I had to stop and use the portaloo (Damn bladder. If I hadn’t stopped here who knows what my time would have been! 😂).
Once I got going again I realised how much my left hip was beginning to hurt. I tried to ignore it (unsuccessfully) and pushed on. At this point I started to feel very smug about the fact that I was wearing what my work team call my utility belt. A big, grey Bumbag with two pockets for water bottles and a pouch at the front for my sweets and snacks (FYI Jelly Tots work a treat!). I say I felt smug as the water stations were carnage! Normally people throw empty cups and bottles to the side of the road but not in Berlin. There were several pathways lined by plastic cups where everyone had just dropped their cups where they ran so I nearly slipped on them at one water station! Having my own water was a life saver as I didn’t need to get in amongst everyone to grab water from the table and I could concentrate on picking my way delicately through the sea of plastic!
I’d heard lots of stories about the amazing moment in Berlin where you turn a corner in your final mile and see the Brandenburg Gate ahead of you. Unfortunately, there are many corners on the way to the finish line and I thought each one of them would be the last! Just when I thought that final turn would never come, there it was. The best finish line I’ve ever run through. When runners say this moment is breath taking they’re not lying! It’s an absolutely stunning sight and it took my mind off my ever tightening hip. Just for a second though. I so badly wanted a sprint finish but that was a bit ambitious so I just chipped away at those last few hundred meters. I crossed the line in 5 hours, 37 minutes and 10 seconds, a personal best of 28 minutes! I wanted sub-6 hours and I’d done it! All that hard work had paid off.
I had my medal placed round my neck and immediately found the free beer. I tried to resist sitting down but couldn’t and then regretted it when I did. Bending down to take my timing chip off my trainers was nearly impossible and I was clueless as to where the exits were. I managed to find Dan and escaped through the entrance like a slow, limping rebel where I proceeded to tell him every detail of the race without taking a breath.
I’m ashamed to say we got McDonalds after the race … not exactly the best marathon recovery! We got lost in the biggest train station know to man (think Clapham Junction on steroids) and headed back to the hotel.
What followed the next day was a whirlwind tour of Berlin. I wore my medal all day as we visited the zoo (they have a polar bear!), Check Point Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (it’s beautiful and a must visit if you’re in Berlin), the Topography of Terror where the walls of the headquarters of the Gestapo still stand and the Reichstag. Of course we also found a bratwurst stand where you could get bratwurst, chips and a beer for 7 Euro. Don’t mind if I do!
By the time we were finished I was exhausted but so happy that I’d done it. I’d be heading back to the UK with a huge medal and a PB in the bag and I couldn’t be more proud of myself. The ballot for the 2018 race opens today (the 18th of October) if you fancy a go at 26.2 miles in Berlin. It’s a flat, fast course so great for first time marathon runners. If you get in you won’t regret it!
As for me? I loved running Berlin but I have other races I need to get to before I’ll return to this one. One down, 5 to go.
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