Normally when I send in a race report it’s with quite an upbeat theme, however the Berlin marathon has given me cause to be deflated for a change – so much so that I’m now going to have to do a report on the previous weeks Hull marathon, where things went slightly better for me to make up for it.
The story of a marathon however, does not start on race day, but months before when the long training runs begin (unless you’re like Guy Gibson, Dan Newton and James Pearson, who’s attitude of running marathons to train for marathons is mind blowing to mere mortals like me).
So back in June, Julie Salvidge, Dave Cracknell and myself, started ramping up the miles for what was at the time a far off dream. We had all been running quite well at the time, Julie and Dave both having completed the Manchester marathon a couple of months earlier in sub 4 hour times and myself hitting good form in the shorter distance races at the summer league, getting several pb’s on the way. The first longer run for myself and Julie had been a 15 miler, which on completion left us both on our backs wondering where the hell we were going to find another 11 miles from. Still as the weeks went by we stuck to the task and although the runs were never easy, my confidence was high and I was feeling strong, with pretty much all the long runs going to plan. I must say here that Julie unfortunately had a flare up of Plantar Fasciitis three weeks before the race, that stayed with her right through until the day itself, so great credit goes to her for seeing it through.
Onto Berlin and after a pleasant couple of days viewing the City and visiting the expo for numbers, we met on the Sunday morning accompanied by Julie’s daughter Carmel, who had been doing her training separately in London. The organisation on the day was done with typical Teutonic efficiency and the slightly fractured English of the announcer, trying to encourage people to hurry up in the toilet queue and get to the starting pens, brought the first smiles of the day (I must say how much I appreciate our German cousins taking the effort to announce in English as well as Deutsch).
The race itself is a fantastic experience and although the course takes a route that maybe doesn’t take in as many sights as it could, we were there as runners not tourists. The support from the side lines was fantastic ( Thanks especially to Sharon, Mike, Josh, Jasmine, Sylv and Jamie) and the variety and number of bands/dancers took in almost every genre you could imagine – Metal, Jazz, Blues, Pop, Classical, Opera, Alpine Horns, Icelandic drums, the whole caboodle, it seemed that there was music playing every step of the way and not that I noticed of course, but I’m told there were some very attractive cheerleaders and ballet dancers.
Time now though for a bit of self-pitying whingeing. My race started well enough, running with Julie and Carmel along Strasse des 14 Juni towards the Victory column, I resolved to catch Dave who I knew had similar aspirations to myself, aiming at around 3:45. I knew Julie had had to forget her timing plans due to the Plantar issues and Carmel was an unknown quantity to me. So it was that myself and Dave ran in sync for the early stages, Carmel soon catching us and making a formidable trio (again great credit to Julie, running a long race in a foreign country with a painful injury takes real resolve), unfortunately though due to a real bottleneck at the first water station, we lost Carmel, although we later found she hadn’t been far behind.
Dave and myself kept each other going, talking and really enjoying the experience (apart from the odd pillock deciding to cut right across our paths. This was met with some fine examples of “Anglo Saxon” language, that left the guilty parties with no confusion as to what was thought of them.
My race unfortunately started to fall apart at around 21 miles, Carmel by this time had caught up with us and gave a cheery “Guten Morgen” as she forged ahead, I’d had a warning sign that the cramp was going to strike and unlike Dave who had himself felt a twinge at 10 miles but managed to run the rest of the race issue free, it really decided to bite me. I stopped at a water station and told Dave I was going to have to hang back for a bit, but within another mile it struck, having had cramp on my previous two marathons I’d feared that this would be the case, however I’ve followed my training plan much more rigidly this time, taken advice from others, notably Bernie regarding diet and salt tablets and as stated previously, been confident that I was stronger and better prepared this time. So it was massively disappointing to me that after trying to start running again a dozen or so times, all with the same outcome of the cramp biting on straight away, I had to concede defeat and walk the last three to four miles, I was so pissed off that I even turned down a mouthful of sweet, sweet beer from a friendly onlooker. When I finally got onto the home strait at Unter den Linden Strasse, I saw my wife, who had started to worry just a bit as to why I was taking so long and she later told me she could see not fatigue, but disappointment in my face. I say all of this fully in the knowledge that many people are delighted with 5, 6, 7 hours and longer for a marathon and rightly so, but it’s all relative and I don’t mean in any way to be condescending when I say I know what I should be capable of and to fail three times to reach my goal is very disappointing. I did have one final attempt at running as I passed Julies spectating husband Mike who shouted, “c’mon you’ve got to run under Brandenburg Gate” and he was right, but alas it had the same outcome and I pulled up again within 20 metres or so. In fact if the bloody Berlin wall was still there, it couldn’t have been more difficult.
My finishing time was 4:21:25 and the injury stricken Julie 4:37:35, but congratulations to Dave, who slowed slightly after we separated, but still managed to finish just outside his best with 3:54:11 and Carmel who was top performer on the day with 3:53:23.
Consolation was found afterwards, in the form of food and beer, but I can say without any doubt, that me and marathons do not get on, so that will unfortunately be my last one.