Berlin Marathon - Review

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It's Wednesday in Germany and after 3 days I am getting to a point when I can put into words why Berlin Marathon left a bitter after taste. At the start

The facts are that I trained a very hard segment of 18 weeks, hitting my highest mileage at 70 miles/ week and staying healthy. I traveled to Germany and thought I had the jetlag under control, I was moderately anxious, more excited because I knew my fitness was good.

I ran a 3:17 which was an improvement by almost 15 minutes, but wasn't close to the potential I thought I had and had shown in training, ahead of time.

First of all I have to thank, several people who helped me get to the start line healthy and with only minor niggling pains and aches.

There is one person who has tolerated my mood whether it's been up or down, day in and day out and that's Chris, my husband. Best supporter I could ask for in circumstances that I have chosen purely for "selfish" reasons. He understands and gives advice and always thinks of my happiness first.

But there have also been a slew of people that I have come across without whom, I would not have toed the line healthy last Sunday:

  • First and foremost: Melissa, my amazing coach of the Hansons Coaching Services. She has led me through the most intense year since I was a professional athlete, with expertise, experience, calm, patience and fun! I am so grateful already.
  • Jason from Finishline Physical Therapy. Even though I wasn't there long, his knowledge and assessment of my plantar fasciitis has helped me tremendously.
  • Brittany from Biota Acupuncture. "Roma, it seems you are anxious about the fact that you aren't anxious." Pretty much sums it up. Intuitive, kind and fun!
  • Yves: massaging healer! She takes one look at my body and knows what I've done. I wish I could see her more!
  • Chiropractor extraordinaire, Dr. Scott Keller! The person who healed my sciatica in the first place and told me that surgery on my lower back was not just unnecessary but total nonsense. Setting me straight since 2009!

All these people devoted a lot of time and showed me so much empathy when I had moments of doubt and have helped me to the best of their abilities as well as celebrating my milestones along the way.

Now for the pros and cons of the race itself.

Pros:

  • Everything you have heard about Berlin and its conditions, is true. The weather is perfect, the course is straight and on asphalt and there is hardly any change in elevation. 
  • The Berlin organizers send out a lot of emails with detailed information throughout the 3 months ahead of race day.
  • Race fees are a lot cheaper than for any of the US Major Marathons ($90).
  • There's no better place on earth to carbo load than Germany :)
  • Free massages post race and (alcohol) free beer.
  • Security measures compared to the US are low so it's a big friendly gathering and its easy to meet friends and family post race.
  • Berlin has 40 bands along the way which pose a great distraction.

Cons:

  • Porta pottys. I will make a wild guess that there are maybe 300. I stood in line for 25 minutes and then asked a Berliner if there were any at the start. He told me to "shit find a spot in the woods". Everywhere I looked on my way to the corrals I saw naked butts and the seasoned runners all brought toilet paper. What's a girl to do? Ask a stranger for paper, make sure not to step on anything and join the unisex party. Very German...
  • With 41,000 runners, the waves all got sent underway in approximately 30-45 minutes total. In comparison: NYC sends people on the course between 9:30am and 11am. In Berlin this causes, MAJOR congestion. What appears to be fun at the start line is runners being packed into corrals that will not hold everyone. At the start people start climbing the fences into the corrals, people push the fences out of the way and it's a general feeling of panic. There is literally no space to kneel down and make sure one's laces are tied. That is if you are anyone starting further back than with an official time of 3:29 hrs. The first three waves may have been better. 
  • The streets in Berlin are a lot narrower so the congestion lasts until km 10. WTF?! I have never said "excuse me" or "sorry" as many times in one race. It's frustrating and ultimately tiring.
  • EVERYONE is trying to run the blue tangent. It's like the world's biggest conga line. People get so occupied with the tangent that they will veer sharp to the left and right to stay on it. Clipping heels and tripping others.
  • At km 38 the congestion starts again as one rounds the corners towards Gendarmenmarkt and ultimately Brandenburg Gate. Also, the water stand at km 40 seems unnecessary and creates a major commotion on a street that doesn't allow for it.

KM 6 - no space in sight

So the bottomline is, that I've learned many lessons. I personally made one mistake (maybe because the toilet situation distracted me) which was not to apply any body glide. Until yesterday I was peeling every pair of pants from my inner thighs each time I had to take them off. I will NEVER forget again. Diaper rash cream helps.

Until I run so fast that I can run in the front corrals, I will steer clear of major marathons. I don't jojo well. It's hard for me to break and surge and constantly pay attention to where I'm stepping in a race. I run my best races when I'm in a position to race and do that in a straight line.

So for now, I'm taking time off from running. I'm recuperating both body and mind and plotting my next steps carefully. I'm indulging, spending time with family and enjoying the fact that I don't have to do anything.

Roma Brandenburg Gate

Berlin has shown me that the marathon is a cruel master. A lot depends on what race day brings and being adaptable helps but is no guarantee.

xx Roma