Berlin Marathon by Katie Green
It’s safe to say that me and marathons don’t have the best of relationships. I have just completed my third one and for all three of them I had every intention of getting the training in and doing myself and the club proud, yet for all three something has gone tits up in the run up and messed up the training! This time round was a combination of trying to get the time to do the long runs and having the god awful luck of waking up the day after a physio session and sports massage to find the nerve in my knee was trapped making it nearly impossible to walk as I couldn’t bear weight on my leg. It’s hard enough trying to work full-time time and train as most of us know but when you add in two kids and a husband who works nights its takes stupid amounts of planning to try to get training in for either of us. One day I’ll actually get to a marathon start line and feel confident because the training is there and I know I’ll get round because it’s beyond frustrating when you feel like you keep failing at something that you should be capable of doing better.
I can easily say that out of the three marathons I’ve dragged my ass round so far Berlin has been the best one. The expo was the most random one we’ve been too and they definitely have the strictest protocols on place to make sure there’s no cheating or number swapping. To get into the athletes are you have to present a QR code marathon pass that you get emailed along with a valid form of id, you then have a wristband heat sealed onto you, so there’s no way you’re getting it off without scissors, and then you’re allowed to go get your race number where you need to show another guy your race pass and id. It’s a bit off a ball ache but it does work and keeps things fair! If you go around the city on the Saturday you can watch the first day of the marathon which is a bit nuts and its people doing it on roller blades, these are serious athletes in speed suits with thighs that could kill you, they make it look effortless but I think I’d die on wheels about 5 miles in. It was when we came across the finish village watching this that it all hit home to me what I was attempting to do the day after and I came very close to breaking down, who doesn’t love crying in front of a couple of thousand Germans and tourists
Chris is the only reason I made it round this marathon, one because he’s a stubborn muppet who was adamant he was getting me round and two because he gave up his fast race to get me over the finish because he saw how much I was freaking out before we’d even got to race day morning and I can’t thank him enough for that. The night before race day was methodical checking of kit and race belts and obsessively checking the weather reports to see if the temperature was due to cool down any and to keep things fun of course it didn’t. He did his best to calm me down but a broken night’s sleep led to a stupidly early start to the day on Sunday as there was no way I was getting back to sleep. Races away from home can always be tricky, especially when in another country, as you can struggle to do your normal race morning routine but having an apartment made it a lot easier than London or Amsterdam as we had bought stuff in for breakfast so I would be able to eat properly. I am an odd runner as I can’t go out unless I’ve eaten properly, cereal, toast, fruit and a nature valley bar before the race meant I was feeling pretty good for a change. We set off from the apartment towards the race start which was only a mile walk away finding plenty of other runners along the way, I think we got 5 minutes away from the apartment before the first person stopped Chris to ask for a picture ha ha, this continued on through the whole of the race!
This is definitely one of the best starts to a race I have experienced! Who doesn’t love a warm up to some euro trance with a few thousand excited people, they get you really excited and in a good mood to race (even if it’s already 10am and getting warmer by the minute with no clouds in site). We set off at a pretty steady pace though it was a bit cramped for the first 3 miles with lots of weaving around those at a slower pace. Our first experience of the water station points was a little bit of a shock too. They are big on reducing waste so they promote the use of reusable cups or your own bottles but the station was just carnage with plastic cups everywhere and trying not to get elbowed out the way or go flying on a discarded cup! Chris was taking control of the pace as I’d already said I trusted him to get me round so I didn’t have to focus too much on what my watch was saying and I could just feel the pace and decide if it was comfortable or if I needed to slow down a bit. The support during the course was pretty consistent and really gave a boost, there were people cheering everywhere, bands dotted about the course and of course kids ready and waiting to give high 5’s (Chris was definitely targeted by the kids more than the other runners), one of the best atmospheres I’ve experienced at a race so far except for maybe iron-man.
We were pretty steady on pace up till mile 14 even including a pee break, though my hamstrings on my right leg had been tight since the start of the race and they just weren’t letting up. About mile 15 the tightness had managed to creep up into my glute and spread round to my quad and the pace started to drop. Chris was trying his best to coach me through the pain but stopping to stretch off just wasn’t making a dent in it so I ended up taking advantage of the on course massage though it would only help for about 3 miles. After that everything just fell apart for me really, I was hot, queasy and dizzy and my muscles were screaming at me. Being stupid and stop starting meant that they were seizing up and making the pain even worse. I felt so crap and knew that my actions were causing Chris’s legs to start seizing up too which was just making me feel worse. I had tried to make sure I had kept well hydrated and I took my salt sticks with me as these are amazing at keeping away muscle cramp but if you don’t do decent training for a marathon it will all fall apart at some point. I’d had to walk as I felt that bad even with Chris jogging backwards to wind me up and distract me I just couldn’t bring myself to get back into a stride. I stopped again at another massage point hoping to get some life back in my legs.
I spent the last 10k of the race desperately trying to run/shuffle/ hobble anything that wasn’t walking and it took everything I had to keep going but I still felt like I had failed as I caved in yet again and had to walk. We were so close to getting me a pb but I just let myself down in the end, I came so close to crying out of frustration and exhaustion but managed to sort of hold it together thanks to Chris just hugging me and keeping his arm around me while walking. There are points during a race where you usually see a loved one or family and those happy tears just force their way out, you can’t stop it it’s like sheer relief at seeing them and you usually look like a complete tit but its going to happen and in those last two miles it happened for me. Walking hand in hand with my husband who had tried his best to get me round a marathon I was petrified of, him trying his best to cheer me up and convince me I hadn’t failed or let him down after he gave up his chance at a good time to help me and I just couldn’t help it. Its points like this, especially if you’re a couple who both run and don’t usually run together because one of you is a bit crap and the others a speedy bugger, that you realise how much they really do love and support you. As we rounded the last corner and could see Brandenburg Gate I decided I had to have that one last push as I had never walked over a finish line yet and I wasn’t starting then, it was slow and hurt like hell but it was just so nice coming up to the finish line with Chris holding my hand making sure we finished together. I’m looking forward to seeing the race pictures when they finally come through as it will either look really sweet and romantic or really stupid with us holding hands during a marathon, no matter what though I finished the damn thing.
I can safely say I still feel like I let myself down massively with this race but my mentality is getting better, I had originally set out with the intention of not having a pb as my main goal ( it would be awesome if it happened but not the most important thing). The main thing I wanted was to get through a marathon and not have my knee give out on me or for it to go tits up. Well, it did go a bit tits up as I just fall apart in the heat and my poor training led to my muscles rebelling against me but at least my knee held up!! The physio exercises are definitely helping and I have one more marathon left to go next year at Manchester and god help me I will get round it, and train properly even if I have to give the sandbaggers permission to bully the crap out of me into going out for the long runs!