Little Runner Gal

Running, eating, sleeping and all the bits in between

Berlin Marathon

on October 27, 2014

Berlin Marathon. The flattest, fasted marathon course in the world. The PB course.

Going in to 2014 this was my A race and I was aiming for a sub 4 hour time. Having got London under my belt in 4:15 in April, I’d kept up the training, pushing myself harder and harder, faster and faster, and sub 4 was looking good.

If you’ve read my blog before you’ll have seen how this fell apart. I picked up numerous injuries in my right leg (glute, hip flexor, patellar tendon, calf, and nerves in my foot…just a few) and 5 weeks before Berlin I could barely walk. I stopped running and worked hard on rehab. I stupidly went into a half marathon 3 weeks before and made the decision at 10 miles that Berlin would be a marathonless city break instead. By the finish line I was the limping wreck I’d been the previous week. All rehab work wiped out.

The next 10 days was back to the rehab – mental and physical. I started doing a little running on grass. Slow, short and just looping about the local park. It was frustrating, but better. I could run Berlin, just not how I’d hoped. So, with the help of my coach, Plan B was formed. I wanted to get SOMETHING out of this marathon that would help me in the future, not just “get round”.

Plan B
– Practice a carb-depleting / carb loading strategy the week leading up to the race – there’s glycogen store science behind this!
– Run the marathon at a comfortable pace but aim for negative splits – the dream!

Sounds simple right?!

Here’s how I got on…

On marathon day we set off for Tiergarten, to the start. It was only a short walk from our hotel and as we got closer the throngs of people grew. And there it was, the start line.

I made it to my pen in plenty of time and waved off my boyfriend who was off to wait for me at our agreed waving point number 1! All was looking good until I realised that the bag drop was over the other side of the pen. No worries, I’d go through the pen and drop off my bag. Oh no, it was WAY over the other side of the pen. And the park. And my number was the furthest away. Mild panic ensued.

Bag eventually safely deposited (although I was close to just abandoning it in a bush!) I got back to my pen to hear the elites being announced and the waves in front of me started to go. I felt calm. I took it all in and was ready to get my race underway.

Crossing the start line and heading up towards the iconic Victory Column was amazing. The crowds and other runners were so supportive.

What struck me straight away was how wide the roads are. Everyone who has run it tells you but it’s amazing, you have so much room almost immediately, there’s no tripping over others or struggling to get your pace. I was still really calm and settling into a comfortable pace. The route was lined with supporters but not stifling amounts. There was a lot of cheering and banners (very little of which I understood) but it didn’t feel too crowded or claustrophobic. Just perfect.

As ever, my tried and tested gel strategy was going well. An hour in and I was still feeling great and my pace was consistent. I wasn’t even looking at my watch too much, just happy with how everything with feeling. Knowing I wasn’t going to be pushing it too hard, I’d taken my phone with me and called my boyfriend as I was coming up the mile markers we’d agreed he’d be at. Not that I needed to, the tracking on the app was spot on, and my pace was so consistent that you could pretty much guess my position at any given time and be within about 30 seconds! Even I was pretty impressed with me.

2 hours in and I was feeling great. Gels going to plan, no pain and pace spot on. I was enjoying it as I said I would and taking in the sights. The great thing was that every time I planned to see my boyfriend I could see him and he could come and check I was OK, bring me water, and run alongside me for a bit. That added to the enjoyment massively for me. The anxiety I felt trying to scan the crowds looking for my family during the London marathon earlier this year added to the panic of the race.

Despite my pet hate, the water out of plastic cups situation, the fuelling stations were actually really well positioned and organised.

I managed to chat to a few other British runners when I saw a club or charity top I recognised. It helped to keep my pace steady (knowing I could talk) and made the race more enjoyable, especially when I could barely understand any of the supportive words being shouted by the crowds!

3 hours in and I was still feeling strong. I’d started to get a few twinges in the base of my back, from my piriformis and glute issues I think, but as long as I kept my body upright (no slouching) it was fine, which served as a great reminder to keep my form good.

30km was where it got dark at London. I’d never known pain like it. The wall in every sense possible. But this, Berlin, this was going swimmingly. I was smiling, I wasn’t in any pain, I was still chatting to people where I could. Whether it was the slower pace or the nutrition plan the week before the race, it was working. I like to think it was a bit of both.

I got to 40km in 4:15, the same time I’d completed London, but feeling on top of the world. 2km to go and this was quite literally the most enjoyable run of my life.

Running through the Brandenburg Gate was, as you’d imagine, incredible. Everyone was stopping to take selfies! Although I wasn’t that bothered about my time, and had my phone with me, I still wanted to get to that finish line. My finish was a full on, arms in the air, big fat smiley finish.

Then I stopped. And my glutes seized up. And I couldn’t walk. Not even to get my medal 10 metres away!

When I finally got to it, the beer helped.

So, how did Plan B go….

– Practice a carb-depleting / carb loading strategy the week leading up to the race – I feel like this went well. I would definitely do it again. I didn’t hit the wall, which could have been for many reasons (I was fit enough, in stamina, to run a lot quicker), but I do feel, and did feel through the marathon, that my energy levels were super consistent. I’ll definitely do it again for my next marathon.

– Run the marathon at a comfortable pace but aim for negative splits – well it was extremely comfortable. I wouldn’t have pushed it any harder, I’d have risked the injuries kicking in and it could have fallen apart. Negative splits, not quite, 2:14:13 & 2:15:00 for the first and second halves respectively, so close, and all in all a bloody consistent run – see below.

Berlin split

And here’s how London went, so you can see to difference and how, I think, I’m learning as I go through these things.

London split

The ballot for Berlin 2015 is still open. If you fancy an international marathon then I would highly recommend it. It was fast, flat, well supported and more relaxed than London. It’s a bit pricier than others, and you don’t get much in the way of finisher gear for your money (medal, 700 leaflets and an apple in a bag and the beer! No t-shirt of any description) but I had a great time, so it was worth it.

I’ll be back one day to do Berlin properly on that PB course, and get the time I deserve for the training I put in. But for now, Berlin, you were awesome!




7 responses to “Berlin Marathon

  1. Well done! You did so well to come back from all your injuries and still finish in 4.30 and you did it with a smile on your face! I fell apart in Amsterdam last weekend, it was a long slog to the finish line for me! Sub 4 for the next one 🙂 x

    • Thank you so much. I just loved it and it’s all about the enjoyment now for me. I’ll get sub 4 at some point but if I can’t enjoy it then I’ll be happy with just finishing! Well done on Amsterdam, still a fantastic time x

  2. Yay glad it went so well 🙂 We made it out the other side with smiles on our faces! I really enjoyed Berlin too and, like you, just tried to enjoy it without any real time goals. I really love marathons and for me it’s not about the time it’s about the experience. I just hope my next one is as good but it will be hard to beat Berlin!

  3. Blimey, that’s some list of injuries there but well done for putting them behind you & finishing the race. I’ve always wanted to do Berlin and judging from your post, I think it might be going on the list for 2015. Again, well done & good luck for your next race!!

  4. Well done. You clearly put your injuries behind you and just enjoyed the day. It sounds like a great race and one for my bucket list!

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