60 minutes before the start of the race and we are looking calm and happy. That of course is 60 minutes before the leaders go off. I soon found out what the people who pay the running bills in the industry have to endure. Painlessly Mary and I dropped off our bags and headed to the start. One mistake Mary made on the way to the start line was stopping to pee in the woods and not giving me things to hold. One of her two Power Gel packets fell out of her pocket and we were not going back into the woods to find it. There was a guy very close to the spot Mary had just departed having a problem!
So we lined up in H Block, the last block on the starting grid. It was roughly 15 minutes prior to start. We didn't want to be the last people on the line. The gun goes off promply at 9:00 for Haile and his group. Nobody in front of us moves. We stand and wait. 10 minutes later they start the next group. Nobody in front of us moves. We stand and wait. 5 minutes later they start the next group. Nobody in front of us moves. We stand and wait. Finally some 25 minutes after Haile goes, they releas the hounds. Our group begins to move. From the time our group started it still took Mary and I 6 minutes to cross the starting line. The orignal goal for Mary and I was to get Mary across the finish line. It had been a few years, before the Doctorate, since she had run a marathon. So just running it was the goal. My job was to coach her and since she said I couldn't run with her it was to keep her motivated at the start. At the start line we parted ways. I to run my pace and she to run hers.
For the next 21 killometers I weaved around, side stepped, ran on the sidewalk, ran on the trolly tracks, ran on the ever so narrow curb and even sometimes had an open space on the road. By the way, I like running killometers so much better than miles. More time to adjust pace in my book. My pace for killometer looked something like this: 5:30, 4:15, 4:30, 4:45, 5:30, 4:45, 4:05. At the 1/2 way or 21 K mark I was only 6 minutes off my goal pace. My goal pace was 4:30K or 3:10 for the entire race. That pace during training was comfortable. I figured I could run 4:15 for the next 1/2 and easily make up the ground. I also figured that the 1/2 way mark would be the point where the streets thinned out. So Killometer 22 was an easy (feeling) 4:15 and I was on my way. I turned a corner and saw down the road for roughly 3K that there was nothing but people. The weaving would have to continue. My body was ready to do it but My head was dissy. I decided right then and there that I could not hold my pace and tactics any longer. I moved into the crowd and began running their pace. Well that was worse because now it was going to take me longer and for me running slow hurts more. So by the 35 K point I was really hurting. At the 37K point a girl in front of me was tripped up. She took a long slow motion stumble then splat on the pavement. 3 guys passed her by before I got there. Me and another guy stopped and picked her up. We made sure she was ok before we continued on. Finally at the 40 k point you could see the Brandenburg Gate. The most beautiful sight in running. Well at least for that day it was. The last 2K flew by as they always do and boom I was across the fininsh line. 3:40:27
Some Reflections along the way.
- If you have a goal time start in the block with the rest of people aiming for that goal. Running a 3:10 marathon surrounded by people running 4:30 marathon pace is not the best.
- Aide Stations - Pay attention before the race to where the aide stations will be an have a plan. Of the first 6 aid stations I managed to hit one. If you are on the other side of the street as an aid station comes up and there are 500 people between you and the station you are not going to get water.
- Aide Stations - Hit table 3. Most people for some reason go to table 1. By the way, for all of you that run the front of the race, you pick your water up off the table in the back. They do not hand it to you. Anyway, while a crowd gathers around table 1 you can easily get to the open table 3.
- Help Someone - If you you see someone who needs help, Help them. Your race is not that important.
- Spectators - Stay off the course. Yes, I should stay off the curb you are standing on but please do not try to cross the street in the middle of the mass of runners. I know it doesn't look like they are running all that fast but they are still moving.
- Shit happens - Mary by the way finished her marathon. As usual she hit her goal. She did have something totally freaky happen though. There was a guy at some point of the race, on a bike with some kind of pain relieving heat spray. He would ride up to a runner ask if you wanted a spray and then oblige your wishes. Kind of weird if you ask me. Well this guy, on his bike, ducks behind Mary as she is running by. His front wheel and her foot (as it was coming off the ground behind her)hit the same air space at the same time. The tire catches her shoe just right, pulls it off her foot and flings it. Over the guys head it goes and lands under an aide station table. Mary one shoe on and one off stops, freaking out of course, goes to the table, gets down on her hands and knees (you try that in the middle of a marathon next time and see if you can get up) to retrieve her shoe. The guy did say he was sorry but can we please keep the bikes off the course next time.
Finally, the Berlin Marathon is big. They say something close to 41,000 ran it this year. If you get the chance, run it. Berlin is one of the coolest historical and otherwise cities in the world. Getting the chance to run on the roads through all those historical areas is really fun.
It's a good life....