It was difficult to select what to write on my blog about the recent 3-day trip to Berlin to run the marathon. So many things happened in three days (including a race!). But, also, the history of me coming to Berlin and how I ran my first marathon here together with my friend Angelike back in 2001, as she was filming bits and pieces for our documentary ‘Run Natasha run’, and how the city affected me back then, meant that coming back here was definitely going to be emotionally charged.
Back in 2001 I loved running in Berlin so much that I came back the following year and ran the whole course despite having fallen ill 3 days before the marathon.
And I understand that feeling now. More than three weeks after this latest edition of the Berlin marathon, I am still in a sort of post-marathon daze, and already looking forward to the next one.
Marathons do do that to you, don’t they? Make you want to strive harder in the difficult things and teach you the importance of pacing not just in running but in life.
I wrote a piece on the 43rd BMW Berlin Marathon for the web edition of Greece’s Runner magazine (thank you as always to Nikos for giving me a voice!) which can be found here:
For my non-Greek speaking friends, a short summary.
There were 5 things that struck me when running in Berlin this time round.
- Kenenisa Bekele’s amazing performance, in which he narrowly missed the world record by 6 seconds, crossing the finish line in 2:03:03. He was so vividly dissapointed with what is still an amazing performance on a hot day for marathon running, perhaps even a little bit cross with himself. A Greek link to his success is sport physiologist Yannis Pitsiladis and his Sub2 team, that have been working with Kenenisa for the past 3 years to help him get there (to a sub-2 marathon!) by 2020. Of course , now our expectations are high for his next attempt at the marathon distance.
- In case you were still in doubt, Berlin is an amazing city to run in. It is an expansive city, by which I mean that it is not crammed at all, it has wide leafy avenues, rivers and canals, parks, and even to this day wide open spaces right in the centre of the city. The transport is excellent and you can see a lot by using the tram or overground train. The support of the Berliners is amazing, the streets were bursting with people all along the marathon route.
- The Greek presence in the Berlin marathon this year was substantial as 60 Greek marathoners finished the race, and were accompanied by many friends, coaches and family. This all-ability group ranged from 2:37 to requiring nearly six hours to cross the finish line. Everyone was happy to reach the finish, even if they did not achieve all the goals. A lot of them were talking about completing all 6 marathon that comprise the World Marathon Majors.
- The Berlin marathon boasts an efficient organisation that manages to streamline more than 40k people around the streets of the city. It is still an impressive number of runners so expect a bit of walk to reach anywhere around the start line, queues in the bags drop off and pick up and queues to get to the pens. The adidas shop in the Marathon expo on the Saturday morning was a battlefield. My pen started a whole 12 minutes after the elites, but that is common ground with major marathons these days.
- Can you achieve a PB in Berlin? Many runners do, so of course the answer needs to be a very blatant yes! However, there are a few caveats that needs be considered. Because of the crowds, starting in a good block or pen does help a lot, as the front runners seem to run in less crowded roads. So, if you have recently ran a strong half marathon, it pays to get in touch with the organisers at the expo and try to move to a better starting block. Also, managing your drinks intake and having a good plan beforehand, will help you avoid losing seconds because of the traffic at the drinks stations. They get very messy and crowded, and they are quite frequent towards the end. You will want to avoid them entirely by staying on the opposite side or in the middle of the road. Also, try drinking from the last stations as they are often the less crowded ones.
Of course, no one can get a PB if they have not trained adequately. You cannot take shortcuts with the marathon as I knew beforehand and of course my marathon time proved it. My lack of long runs was evident in my running form after the 18th mile. Undeniably it was also a warm day for me. I think that my finishing time of 3:46:24 is a fair one and reflects the effort I had put in my preparation, although I would have liked anything under 3:45 to get the Boston qualifier.
As it is, I got the London marathon qualifier for 2018, so not a bad deal.
But I really hope that I can put in a more complete marathon preparation soon and complete a spring marathon in better shape. The time is now.