Where to start with my weekend in Berlin!?
A week ago today I was running around the streets of Berlin alongside some 40,000 other amazing and inspirational runners.
A week later and I’ve still not stopped talking about it. The inevitable post marathon race blues came but once they’d gone I was left with the overwhelming urge to continue planning my next one!
Similar to planning my next marathon (London 2016 by the way), I’m jumping ahead again and I’ll start from the beginning of my Berlin 2015 journey, well at least from the airport.
After a pretty sleepless night Dane and I headed to the airport at 4am on Friday morning for a 6am flight to Berlin. As you may have read from one of my previous posts I had actually planned what I was going to wear months in advance but Dane surprised me with the best present ever. He’d got me kitted out in Hannah’s Happy Pace gear which included two race tops and an amazing hoody! I love, love LOVE them!
Once we’d arrived in Berlin we headed to our hotel which was a short walk away from Potsdamer Platz and an in excellent location in terms of the race and getting around the city. The early morning start got the better of us and we had a nap in the afternoon as opposed to our original plan of running to the expo to pick up my race number. The following day we did just that, headed out for a little leg loosener to the expo which was just a few miles away.
When we got there we were somewhat underwhelmed by how small it was. Little did we know at that point we were just in the entrance rather than at the main bulk of the expo – whoops! It was actually enormous! Stands selling everything from Garmins to FitBits and personalised trainers were packed in to the aircraft hangars but before we let ourselves loose with our credit cards I picked up my number.
You’re given a BMW Berlin Marathon band which is heat sealed to your wrist before you collect your number and information bag. This was when it all started to feel VERY real.
Afterwards, we might have made a few cheeky marathon purchases including two Adidas BMW Berlin Marathon t-shirts – pictured below. Super cheesy smiles optional.
Due to little sleep the night before, on Saturday afternoon I was grumpy, tired and hungry – and that’s not a Hannah you want to encounter! Luckily we stumbled upon Vapiano’s, an amazing Italian restaurant. I won’t write much else about it on this post other than what we had as I’m saving it for a blog post of its own – trust me, it’s worth an entire post! I had wholemeal spaghetti with chicken and sun-dried tomatoes in a lovely orange/chilli oil. It was delicious!
Luckily I slept pretty well on Saturday night and strangely enough I didn’t wake up feeling too nervous. Breakfast was porridge and a banana and a cereal bar shortly before starting the race.
It was quite a walk to the start pens and Dane wasn’t allowed through to the start line so we had to say goodbye quite early on, something I’m not used to in a race. At this point it took all I had not to cry when I said bye to him, despite knowing I’d see him at the 7k mark – get it together Hannah!!
The start pens were crazy! Despite running a previous marathon time of 3.38 I’d been placed in pen G which was for 3.45-4.15 hour runners. I tried to squeeze in to F but was sharply told this wasn’t an option. The pens were packed. I jumped over the steel barrier and squeezed in between a pack of people. It was a good 20-25 minutes before we even crossed the start line but despite the wait and the packed pens the atmosphere was amazing, the entire pen was buzzing with energy, singing, clapping and cheering as other runners/pens ahead of us set off.
The first few miles were spent weaving in and out of people and I didn’t really pay much attention to the beautiful landmarks I was passing. It was all eyes on the ground to avoid clipping someones heel or crashing in to someone. I managed to see Dane ever so briefly at the 7km mark quickly shouting “I’ve only been going for 35 minutes!”
I didn’t have a plan going in to the race but Dane said try to stick to under 8 minute miles and still go for a 3.30 finish – he was convinced I had it in me – at least one of us was! Either way I thought I’d give it a go and just go with how I was feeling in each mile. Run the mile you’re in! I soon realised that averaging around 7.35 – 8 min miles felt comfortable and decided to stick to that for as long as I could, a risky tactic in the first half of a marathon I know. I passed the halfway mark in about 1.41 and was still feeling good so decided to stick with it although there was part of me that worried I’d gone out too fast and wouldn’t be able to sustain that pace for the latter part of the race.
The elite runners!
It’s weird that strength tends to come out of a struggle and a struggle was exactly what I was expecting in the latter stages of this race. I knew I’d be fine up until mile 20 but having only ran 18 in training (due to no fault other than my own!) I knew my legs would be feeling it by then and I’d need to dig deep and find that strength to push on. Mile 18 came and went and in my head I said to myself, get to 20 and you’re practically done.
20 is where the fun starts though! Except in this case it was mile 23 when I felt as though I literally couldn’t puhsh any more! My mile splits were s l o w i n g quickly and even though I could hear Dane’s voice in my head telling me to lean forward and push on I felt as though I literally couldn’t!
The finish line wasn’t even in sight when I hit 26.2 miles on my Garmin in 3 hours 28 minutes. WHAT, don’t do this to me I thought, I should be finished!! Finally the finish line was in sight and I crossed the line in 3 hours and 31 minutes.
One of the things I dislike most about crossing that finish line is that there’s no one there to hug instantly haha – needy Han! Despite congratulating other runners in the vain hope of a hug, I knew I’d have to wait until I tracked Dane down. I cursed myself for not running with my phone so he could come and get me as our meet point was at least a good 10 minute walk away. At our meet point I collapsed in a sweaty heap on the floor before Dane arrived thrusting the GoPro in my face and FINALLY I got my victory hug!! WOOHOO! 3.31, my victory hug, the marathon was done and a huge bowl of pasta was in sight – happy Hannah!
Not only that but I’d somehow managed to secure myself a Boston Marathon qualifying time!! 2017 here we come!
If you’re thinking of entering the ballot for Berlin – do it is all I can say. It’s an amazing city (blog post to come on what to see do and where to stay/eat soon!) and the race is one of the world majors – need I say more!?
In terms of organisation I think the water stations could have been more frequent and it was at least 5 minutes before I was offered a bottle of water after crossing the finish line. Also, there’s no free finishers t-shirt so I’m glad I bought an Adidas one from the expo.
I’m thrilled with how the race went but of course I’m gutted I didn’t officially go under 3.30. That said, I’ve learnt a LOT from this race and from my training leading up to it. I’ve learnt just how important a solid strength and conditioning programme is and the vital importance of speed work and there’s plenty I’m going to be changing for London 2016 which will hopefully be the chance to well and truly nail that sub 3.30 which I absolutely know I’ve got in me. It’s quite exciting really.
I’ll be writing something on how I’ve recovered since the race later in the week but for now I want to be super cheesy and thank everyone who’s followed my training journey, my friends and family for always being so supporting (look at me, it’s like I’m doing an Oscars speech haha!) and of course, Dane, for putting up with my all to frequent running meltdowns, 6am starts on a Sunday for my long runs, for pacing me on speed sessions and for keeping me fit and healthy with my strength and conditioning programme – I love you all!
For now though I guess it’s time to park the Carb Queen crown and get back to the track…