Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Berlin marathon

I personally prefer trail runs over road runs but when it comes to marathons Berlin is special. And it was great to be part of it, especially this year when three of the world’s best marathon runners challenged each other in attempt to break the world record. Kipchoge came close, probably as close as one can get on a rainy day, but Dennis Kimetto’s world record time from 2014 still holds. Surely there will be new attempts.

There’s always hype around big city marathons but in Berlin it gets into another level. It’s a city with deep history and a lot to see, but yet, on the fourth weekend of September there were only two things: Berlin marathon and parliamentary election. And definitively in that order. Despite huge Angela Merkel posters staring at you in every corner, marathon took over the elections in the street view. Runners were everywhere and the atmosphere was electric. It was very difficult not to get overexcited.

Before I go to the race I must mention that it was a big moment for me when I ran my first half marathon in Birmingham in 2011 and got to run it together with Haile Gebrselassie (okay maybe not really together with him but at least in the same event). Now, six years later, I got to stand on the start line with Kenenisa Bekele, Eliud Kipchoge, and Wilson Kipsang, and of course 43 852 other runners. What can I say? Definitively the strongest start field I’ve been part of even if Simone Niggli and Minna Kauppi were not along.

Ok, to the race then… It’s a great race and a fast course. Of course the rain made it a bit more challenging, but personally I prefer +13C and rain instead of +25C and sunshine when it comes to racing. I didn’t mind the rain; it was water on the road that was mildly disturbing. But still, the external conditions were excellent. It’s a flat course that passes many of Berlin’s famous landmarks. There were also all sorts of music and entertainment along the way and we got to enjoy cheering of hundreds of thousands of spectators. I have no words to describe the atmosphere. Right after the start, when I was eagerly observing everything, we passed the huge Victory column and a bit later came Bundeskanzleramt and the Parliament house. Then the route went around Spandauer Vorstadt before coming back to the south side of the river Spree. A few kilometers after half way we passed Sch√∂neberg City Hall but I was already in trouble and more or less focused on myself. Kilometers from 25 to 35 went in a blur and all I could think of was quitting. The partially ruined Ged√§chtniskirche at 35k I couldn’t pass without notice. I was in great agony at that point but knew that there wasn’t much left. Next we passed the National gallery and the Philharmonie but all I was waiting for was the Brandenburg Gate, the gate that used to separate east from west before the fall of the wall. It’s a massive landmark that waited for us just before the finish line. When I finally saw the gate I knew I had made it.

My race was very good up to half way and went according to plan quite effortlessly until my stomach suddenly let me down. Everything had been perfectly well but after two gels my stomach got so upset that I could barely continue. It’s something that has been bothering me for some time and got slightly worse recently but still it was hard to accept that my race was over so early. I can handle pain and small niggles but bad stomach is something that takes over and there was nothing I could do except slow down and jog home. I was totally helpless in my battle and lost over 10min to myself on the second half but at least I managed to finish. Thinking back now it was kind of achievement per se and I most certainly worked on my guts (ha-ha!) and persistence! After all, marathon running is so cruel that you have to try to find something positive in your run each time to keep going. 

Watch the highlights of the event here

Made it!
Victory column
Post race gathering in front of the Reichstag

Cheering the last runners in front of the Brandenburg Gate


Angela watching over you
Best way to see the sights after the run

Berlin Cathedral