It’s been a couple of weeks since the Berlin marathon but I’ve only got around to writing this blog now. I’ve been super busy at work and catching up with all the other little things I have neglected as a consequence.
Many will know the reason why I was doing Berlin, which was to raise money for Breast Cancer Now and in memory of my friend Jane Sherwood who sadly passed away early in May 2019. I asked my wonderful friend Chris, Jane’s husband, a couple of days after Jane’s passing, to guide me for the marathon. Chris and I go back many years and our friendship has grown in that time. We have travelled far and wide to do triathlons and many many other races from 5k all the way up to marathons.
We arrived in to Berlin on Friday 27th September. Lucy Neamz, another friend and someone who has also guided me this year, was also on the flight as she was also registered for the race. We decided to go straight to race registration as we had arrived early in the day. Once at registration I have to say it was quite chaotic. We couldn’t work out the queuing system. Probably not helped by the fact that we couldn’t speak a word of German. Jane, on the other hand, had she been there wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. She was a fluent German speaker. However, I felt Jane was there in spirit. After the initial confusion of which queue to stand in, it wasn’t too long before we got registered eventually and a number of hours later we headed to the food area to recharge the batteries. I was very hungry and thirsty which made me feel a little cranky. Now it’s not often I say that. If you want to put me in a bad mood don’t feed me for hours and deny me fluids and, I can guarantee I will get super grumpy.
Once we booked in to our hotel, we found a lovely Italian restaurant literally opposite where we ate that evening. Happy days.
The following day (Saturday) Chris took part in the fun run and got his doughnut and coffee. I decided to save my legs for the race. Mary, Ayeisha and I met up with Chris at the Olympic stadium and we all then headed in to Berlin to do some sightseeing. The little bit of tourism I did was just incredible. I always wish I could physically see my surroundings but I do get a good sense of the environment around me. At the Brandenburg Gate, for example, I noticed that there was a fountain in the distance I could hear.
I didn’t want to do too much walking around so in the afternoon Chris and I headed back to the hotel. We chilled for the rest of the day in readiness for race day.
On race day itself, Sunday 29th September, Chris and I got up early and went for breakfast. I really didn’t feel hungry at all but forced down some scrambled egg and toast. At 15 Euros each it was a very expensive breaky. We then headed to race start which involved taking the underground and then a tram.
Once we managed to find the bag drop off point and deposited our post race clothing, Chris and I had to jump over the barrier to get in to our pen. There seemed no other way of getting in. once in we were shoulder to shoulder with other runners. The mood was electric. I felt great, apart from the fact that my bladder felt full. This was even despite having gone to the loo 5 minutes earlier. Well, at least this meant I was hydrated.
It wasn’t long before The countdown began and at around 9.15 am we started to shuffle forward and then broke in to a run. The first couple of miles felt very comfortable for me (Mile 1 was completed in 7.26 minutes). The drink stations handed out paper cups so we had to slow down to a walking pace. I didn’t mind that as Chris had already told me that he had planned in the stops as part of our race strategy. The discarded cups on the ground in front of me crunched as I ran over them. At least with cups there isn’t the same slip hazard as bottles thrown on the course as in London.
I was really hoping to target around 3 hours and 15 minutes which meant that if we kept to around 7.20 minutes per mile this was doable. The 2nd and 3rd miles were slightly quicker.
However, it was becoming apparent to me that we were slowing down. The pace just felt too comfortable for me. We had been training our interval sessions at around 7.10 minute mile pace so I knew what that felt like. By around mile 5 I said to Chris that it felt a bit slow to me. He confirmed that we were doing around 7.30 minute miles at this stage and that he couldn’t go any quicker.
In my heart of hearts I was hoping that Chris would speed up. I was completely wired. Every time I took a gel it was like taking rocket fuel. So, I used my excess energy to encourage everyone around me. Of course they probably couldn’t understand a thing I was saying as most runners would have been German or other non-English speaking parts of the globe. I kept saying,
“come on guys, you are utterly awesome.” Or words to that affect.
We had learned the phrase for “look out, blind man.” In German from a waiter who worked in the café near our hotel, which was,
It felt as though we were telling everyone to move out the way for this blind superhero which I found rather amusing! But, the turn of phrase worked and people seemed to move out the way unless they were not German or had headphones in their ears. On one occasion Chris asked someone to move out of the way. The guy in front apologised and Chris replied,
“No, I wasn’t talking to you. Your OK it’s that bloke over there with the headphones on who I’m trying to communicate with.”
The road surface was fantastic and so flat. After a couple of hours it began to rain. But I didn’t mind, in fact I don’t even think I noticed. Soon we reached the 30 kilometre mark and I took another gel.
“Chris, do you think we can pick it up?” I asked expectantly.
Chris said that perhaps at 35 kilometres, after he took his energy gel he might be able to pick up the speed. That gave me a slight glimmer of hope.
When we did get to 35k Chris popped his gel and I waited. I could tell that Chris was getting frustrated with the fact that the gel was taking its time to kick in and do its work. After around 20 minutes Chris started to pick up his speed. However, this didn’t last long. I can always tell when Chris might be struggling. I start getting ahead of him and pull slightly on the tether to encourage him a little. But, Chris will always grab my wrist as if to say,
“steady on, don’t push your luck fella.”
As we reached the Brandenburg Gate we only had a few hundred meters to go. We passed under it and as we got to the last 100 meters or so both Chris and I sprinted to the finish. Despite the fact that I felt that I could have gone a lot quicker throughout the race it was still a wonderful feeling to finish with one of my best friends.
It’s been an incredibly difficult 18 months for Chris and Jane. I was so pleased to have completed this marathon with Chris beside me. We had managed to raise £1459 for Breast Cancer Now – £409 over the target we had been set. Undoubtedly this money will help to save more lives.
We collected our medals, went to fetch our kit and got in to some dry clothes. We then made our way back to the hotel. Unfortunately we had missed our stop and had to catch the next train back. As we approached the hotel Mary was just coming back from the shops. Both Ayeisha and Mary had been able to spot us about three times on the course which was wonderful from a spectating point of view. They don’t get such an opportunity at other marathons such as London.
I have to say that this was a brilliant experience and race. One which I fully intend to go back to and give another go, targeting a quicker time.
Two days after Berlin and I felt that my recovery was going remarkably well. Four days later and I was back on the treadmill. A week later and I was back to full training having signed up to the Nottingham marathon on 30th November.
The fitness I have gained from all the training, rehab and the fact that I was able to take it easy in Berlin meant that when I completed the Birmingham (not so half) marathon on Sunday 13th October I was consistently knocking out 6.30 minute mile pace averaging 6.39 for the 11 miles we completed. The half marathon was cut short due to Police concerns regarding a suspicious vehicle parked on part of the course.
So far training has gone extremely well and I am super excited about what I could do at Nottingham. Only time will tell.
A massive thanks to Chris Sherwood for doing a Stirling job in getting me around Berlin in a respectable time of 3 hours and 24 minutes. Quicker than Liverpool. So, all in all job done for now.
My mile splits for Berlin: