I haven’t really raced a distance road race since Canberra marathon in April so I came to Berlin with an open mind about race day.
Berlin Marathon 2017 hosted 44,000 runners from 120 countries. Whilst the Germans are known for their efficiency, the magnitude of the event combined with voting in the German Federal Election on the same day made the event a little more chaotic than usual and not the most organised of the majors that I’ve run. I won’t take away from the amazing event that it is and I certainly would recommend it to anyone who wants to try a world major. The course is the fastest in the world, and the only marathon where seven world records have been broken.
My day started early because I didn’t sleep much. At 7.30am we took off on our 20 min walk to the start line in cold and wet conditions. The atmosphere was already abuzz and the excitement of my 3rd world major was building. Today, along with runners from all over the world I would run through a historical city and soak in the German hospitality of 1 million spectators.
When you finally wind your way through the crowds at the starting village to your block the emotion becomes overwhelming. Music is playing, languages from all over the world are spoken excitedly and it is very hard not to cry. Cry from relief that you’ve made it here uninjured, cry for the sacrifice you and your family have made, and cry for the incredible experience you are about to have. So with tears in my eyes we were off, running in the rain towards the Brandenburg Gate.
After leaving Brandenburg Gate, the course loops through both the former East and West of the city and passes all the major tourist attractions. The beautiful green historic city that Berlin is makes every twist and turn on the course spectacular. Despite the rain, over 70 bands lined the way and the Berlin people braved the conditions to make us feel at home in their city.
My race was going well and I was on target and focussed. A couple from Perth on similar time goals ran with me and kept me on pace. I was lucky enough to see my friend Jenny at the half way mark and it really lifted my spirits. Taking my fuel and drinking water at the stops, everything was going to plan.
At 29km I got a cramp up in my ribs. It took my breath away and I struggled to catch my breath again. I don’t know if it was being wet or cold or just unlucky. I was quite unwell with a long way to get home. I composed myself and thought through what I needed to do to get through. In one of the most beautiful cities in the world I could keep pushing through the acute pain, or I could take it back a notch and enjoy the last 13 km. So I cut back and whilst still not feeling great I consciously made the choice to enjoy the experience. I started to dance at each band, sing along and high five the children. I Aussie Aussie Aussie oi oi oi’d and yelled out with fellow Australians, and I relished the incredible experience I was having.
My watch was way out because I didn’t run the line so at 42km there was no sight of the finish. Finally as I clicked over to 42.8km I turned the last corner and there it was the beautiful Brandenburg Gate. I started to cry. With cheers and music getting louder I knew this was it. 43.12 km and I was home.
A marathon is hard. It’s unpredictable. It’s scary. They don’t get easier. Every marathon I have run takes all of my being to keep going to the finish.
As they hung the medal around my neck I thought about how I got here. 4 years ago when I started running I would never have dreamt of this moment. My beautiful friend Nicole made me believe that anything was possible and together with the unwavering love and support of my husband and the friendship of so many RMA I have been living my running dreams and I’m so grateful.
I guess I can’t really end my story here. It would be remiss of me not to mention the beer at the finish line. I am in Germany after all. Also I have forgotten to thank my hero on the day. As I meandered the streets lost (as always), wet, cold and tired I was starting to despair. Suddenly a tuk tuk comes around the bend – a dude riding a bike where I can be the passenger. I jumped in front of his bike and begged him to take me to the hotel. I didn’t have his asking price but I must have looked so deranged he accepted my 20 euro. So up and over footpaths and across roads we went and eventually I got back to the hotel alive. Thanks mate you really were my hero. I had Nicole on FaceTime during my ride and she was laughing with every painful bump I went over.
So there it is Berlin Marathon 2017. Couldn’t recommend it more. What an experience!