As you can see from my previous blogs my training for the Berlin Marathon resembled very few textbooks on the market but I was pleased with the almost textbook execution of my race.
The pre race food was far from desirable and included takeaway pizza, doritos, skittles, Babybel and Pringles but was saved by the soup, bread and Spag Bol that I had on Saturday evening. Lauren and I had some navigational issues from looking for our parking at Gatwick, to finding our way on the tube and by foot once in Berlin but we eventually found ourselves back at the hotel with full bellies and ready for an early night ahead of the race.
Lauren and I had done a bit of course recon the day before, and decided walking to the start was 2 extra miles my legs really didn't need and so we took the train and followed the masses up to the start. We were there before 8am a good 75 minutes before the off and already the crowds were massing. I took the opportunity to use the Portaloos twice before the real crowds arrived and then it was time for me and Lauren to part, me to the start line and Lauren heading for around the 6km mark.
I waited in the early morning chill with my fellow runners waiting expectantly for the off. My intention was to run at my own pace around 5:30 min km's but then I saw the 3:30 pacing runners and inched towards them, quickly turning back knowing the ridiculousness of trying to go with that pace. I then headed to the guys holding the 3:45 ballons and although I thought there was a chance I could go with them I wanted to run my own race so found a spot and was ready to go with the original game plan.
Today was all about buring the ego, with a longest run of 11 miles and having run a diabolical marathon at Edinburgh I knew I wasn't in ideal shape. I wanted to run a controlled race and not wreck myself early on.
The first wave of runners went off at 9am, I was in the second group and we set off 10 minutes after with a third wave starting after us. I took it steady during the crowded start running alongeside the park, unfortunately after just over a km I needed to pee and so took the opportunity to water the plants, something that a lot of guys and even the occassional girl also chose to do. Now comfortable I drifted back into the crowds as we ran along the wide roads using both sides of the road. The first couple of Km were dead straight bar the beautiful roundabout at the start and I felt good.
The first drama of the day came when a guy was tripped or clipped another runner and went down hard! I think his forearms and elbows took the brunt of it, but that definately wouldn't of been the start to my race I'd have wanted. He initially looked up for someone to blame but picking out the perpetrator amongst the throngs was impossible so he dusted himself off and got going again.
I had got a text from Lauren saying she was at the 7km mark and on the right hand side so I knew where to look for her. I often use up lots of energy looking for friends and family who come to support me, so it was great to have an idea of where Lauren would be. After 7km Lauren had mapped out her day and decided she would try to see me again at half way and then one final time at 37Km. Unfortunately 7Km came and went and there was no sign of Lauren, so at 7.5km I text lauren and said through 7km and she text back gutted that she had missed me. I was disappointed but I still had a long mornings work ahead of me so put it to the back of my mind and started to look forward to getting a wave from Lauren at halfway.
My race was going well and I had ticked through 5K in 28:30 and 10K in about 57 minutes so I felt sub 4 hours was on. The crowds were incredible all around the course and the course was so flat and the weather was pretty perfect for running. The biggest thing that was causing stress were the volume of runners, the drama continued as an older German Blonde woman and an Asian guy talking German had a good bit of verbal before she gave him a strong arm, cue some more verbal back from the bloke. I didn't understand the language but I think a 30 something guy has got to have a look at himself when picking a fight with a 50 something woman. Regardless they both carried on and hopefully both made it to the end without killing each other.
Thankfully I wasn't chasing a time today otherwise the wall to wall runners could have really started to frustrate me, but I was keen just to roll with it and run my own race. Which was going to plan as I went through 15km in 1 hour 25 minutes and then 20km in 1hour 53minutes. The first four chunks of the race had been run at a good even pace and my body was feeling good. Lauren and I finally got our first wave and smile at half way as I went through in 1hour 59 minutes and I felt fantastic, looking forward to my next pick me up at 37Km.
It was becoming apparant that my Garmin was way out compared to the Km markers at halfway I was out by over a 3rd of a km so by the end I was going to be nearly 3/4's of a Km out and so I grugingly decided this was going to be a 43km race on my Garmin. I'm sure the course was accurate but the average pace on which I would usually rely was now way out which was tough. I was still trying to doing my own 5k splits at the relevant K markers and was pleased to click through 25km right on target. I was waiting for the 26km point from which there would be 16km or 10 miles to the finish. I was feeling good and even started to dream of cranking it up in the last 5km and bringing it home strong. The problem with the Marathon is it is just so long! Within 2Km of those thoughts entering my head they were banished and thoughts of hanging on took their place. The pace had drifted through 30Km nothing too drastic but it was a downward trend, that once started can't really be reversed.
I struggled on, the crowds lining the route really keeping me moving forwards. My previous easy, free flowing running now replaced with more of a trudge, the feet not coming up so high, less spring in my step. The pace of just under 5:40 km now settling stubborningly nearer to 6:00 min km as I went through 35 km in 3hrs 20mins just 40 minutes to haul myself throught 7.2km and that is around 5:30 min km's and I knew then sub 4 hours was out the window, not far out the window but far enough that I wasn't going to be able grab it. Lauren text to say she was at 39km which was tough and I began to walk for parts with about 4km to the finish. I got my first "Go Simon" as I shuffled along, obviously looking in need of a pick up. It had the desired affect and I managed to pull a smile and a wave out for my new fan. The cheers of Simon became more frequent as my walking breaks increased and so insistent were the shouts I thought I'd better put on a spurt for my adoring fans but once out of view I shut down again. Thankfully Lauren caught me at one of my stronger moments and that was a great lift.
I got to 41km and I wanted to make it to the end running and was lucky to see Lauren one more time down the finishing straight before I went through the Brandenburg Gate and had the finish line in sight. I crossed the line with my Garmin telling me it was 4hrs 7 minutes and something. I was relieved it was done, and pleased with my 4 hours of graft. Unfortunately there was a hold up, so we were basically held for 5minutes, our tired and aching muscles grumbling with each passing second. We soon got moving though and I collected my medal and headed for the family reunion to meet Lauren.
Was lovely to see Lauren and after a good long hug. We finally got moving and brought some fizzy and some German sausage and went and got my medal engraved before heading for the underground and the hotel.
In conclusion I was very happy with my Berlin Marathon. It was probably the most even paced Marathon I have run even with the final 5Km blow up. I really felt I couldn't have given anymore and showed a lot more pace discipline than I have before. Berlin had originally been planned as a push for a big PB and following a regimented training plan, but once the plan was not followed I had to rein in my expectations. I have booked myself in for the 2013 Brighton Marathon and this will be my last crack at applying myself to proper Marathon training for sometime. Both the training and the racing of Marathons doesn't really suit my personality but I would love to really push it and see what I am capable of if I can apply myself to a plan. Will keep you posted, I think the 18 week plan starts from the 3rd December, but first races 2-6 of my 6 in 6 weeks bumper race programme.
Speak soon. X