Monday, 23 January 2012

One from the archives

Today's Janathon post goes out to all the first time marathon runners.  Every marathon is different.  And everyone's first marathon is very different.  But here's a blog post that I wrote about mine that I originally posted on my Realbuzz blog back in September 2009.  I hope that it helps to motivate someone to get out there and train in some of the rainy weather that we've got coming, because it will pay off on race day.  Sit back and enjoy.......

I’ve been struggling with writing a post about Berlin – mainly as a good part of the race is a complete blur – is that normal? Regardless, I shall do the best I can!
My mum picked me up at 7am on Saturday morning and very kindly gave me a lift to Heathrow.  This was all remarkably stress free thanks to the fact that I had been able to check in online on Friday.  Very civilised, leaving me with plenty of time to wander about the shops – managed not to buy anything – phew!
After speaking to my dad and my sister on the phone, it was time to head to my gate and get on the plane.  One slightly dodgy sandwich (have no idea what the filling was – completely unidentifiable!) and a diet coke later I was in Germany!
Getting from the airport to the centre was ridiculously easy, thanks to some prior research online.  I already knew which buses to get and where to change, and the bus stop nearest to my hotel was only 300m away on Tiergartenstrasse, so only a short distance to wheel my suitcase too.
My hotel was nice, but overrun by an international dairy conference.  I’m sure if I’d been a bit more proactive, I could have obtained a lifetime supply of yoghurt, so that’s a missed opportunity.  My room was nice, but I only spent 5 minutes jumping on the bed before heading out to the expo to get my race pack.
I walked over to Potsdamer Platz, which was my nearest u-bahn station.  On the way I passed about a gazillion children all ready to take part in the mini-marathon.  I later saw plenty of those children proudly wearing their medals round their necks.
Got to the former airport at Templehof, and the expo madness commenced. Had to walk through a couple of hangars selling all manner of kit before finally reaching the registration section.  I then managed to accidentally request a male race pack, having failed to notice the giant F at the beginning of my number.  Oops.  An error quickly corrected – thankfully there were no queues for numbers.  I then had to go pick up my timing chip and then I did some shopping! I bought a Berlin Marathon polo shirt and a leg strap for my chip.  Then I decided to leave before my plastic got too much of a bashing :)
It was a beautiful day, so I took a little while to sit in the park outside the expo, to enjoy the sunshine and to decide how to spend the remainder of the afternoon.
I decided to head for Checkpoint Charlie, as it was in the same area, and surely you can’t go to Berlin without seeing it.  It’s something and nothing really, mainly notable for the enormous amount of souvenirs on sale!  So I took a few pictures and then headed back to Potsdamer Platz to catch the inline skating marathon.  Potsdamer Platz is at about the 38k mark, so the skaters were nearing the end of the race at this point.  I had to wait a little while for the lead pack to come through, so had a nice chat to a friendly Nigerian bloke while we waited.  Then the skaters zipped through to roars from the crowd.  What a fun event, it really sets the tone for the running marathon the following day.  After popping into Aldi to grab some supplies, I headed towards the start / finish area near Brandenburg Gate.  I wanted to see some more of the skaters, and I also wanted to familiarise myself with the area so that getting to the start would not be too stressful the following morning.  The atmosphere at the finish was great – they have grandstands on either side, which are accessible to anyone, so it really makes the crowd big!
After watching for a little while, I walked through Tiergarten back to my hotel.  I was a little tired to be honest – it had been quite a long day.  I had planned to go find some carbs for dinner, but in the end I just heated up some dried pasta that I had brought with me, read through all my race information, laid out my kit and headed for bed.
I woke up, and it was MARATHON DAY!  All manner of excitement.  I had a cup of tea, a couple of bananas and a couple of cereal bars for breakfast – had a shower and pulled my kit on.  I headed out of the hotel only to remember that I had forgotten my sunglasses.  Given the weather forecast, this seemed an essential bit of kit, so I went back up to my room to get them.  This was fortuitous, as I ended up walking to the start with another runner staying at my hotel.  This was her sixth marathon, although another Berlin first timer.  We walked through the park having a nice chat before splitting off to find our separate pens.  I headed over to the baggage area, dumped my bag, ate another banana and headed to the start pens.  I managed to go to the loo without suffering an enormous queue, and was in my start pen and ready to go by about 8.35 for the 9am start.
As I stood there watching everyone around me, I actually felt quite emotional.  It had been such a long journey to reach this point, I hadn’t been able to do as much training as I would have hoped – with Trailwalker training getting in the way until end of July – and what a disaster that was! Despite everything, here I was, standing at the start line, feeling confident that I would get round and finish this marathon.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I had a little cry.
Then before I knew it, they were playing Chariots of Fire, introducing the elites over the speakers (Go Haile!!!) and then BANG – the gun.  It took me a further 15 minutes to get over the line and then I was running the marathon!
My plan was to run the first half as strong as I could and then just keep going for the second half.  This plan came fully into focus on the way to the airport thanks to a conversation I had with mum.  I asked her if she had ever thought that I’d end up running a marathon.  She said that she absolutely did.  Right back when I was a kid, I never wanted to run the 100m at sports day – I’d always do the 1500m and when other kids where lying by the side of the track having given up – I’d keep going.  She knew even then that once I’d set my mind to something, there was no way that I’d give up.  I thought about it, and she was right.  Despite a hiatus of well over a decade in between running at school and running as an adult, this was something that had not changed.  Once I start something, I will not give up until it is done.  I would have crossed that finishing line if it meant crawling over it on bloody stumps, although thankfully it didn’t come to that!
The first half just flew by.  It really is a blur.  I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you much about it.  The only thing I can do is tell you my splits:
5k 32:39
10k 1:04:44
15k: 1:37:45
20k: 2:10:50
Half marathon 2:17:53
Given that my current half marathon PB is 2:15:14, I’m extremely happy that I was running to plan – to be at only a couple of minutes slower than my half PB at that stage of the race was exactly where I wanted to be.  Now all I had to do was keep going. 
By this point, my hips were starting to ache a little – something that always happens to me on longer runs.  I had taken a couple of ibuprofen prior to the race, but had also put a couple in my pocket.  Took them and they soon kicked in, making me feel much better.  I also had a few sport beans, which gave me a little boost!
And then it was just a matter of digging in and keepin’ on keepin’ on.  I knew that I was slowing down, but this didn’t worry me overly.  By this point it was getting really hot - about 25c, and I was really grateful for the firetrucks that had their hoses out to cool us down!  I was also grateful for the regular drinks stations – they were all less than 5k apart, and some had a massive array of options; water, energy drink, iced tea, apples, bananas.
The one thing about the drinks stations is that it was all in cups – no bottles. This meant an enforced walk break every 4k or so – only for a moment to get some water down, so it was probably enough to rest a little without seriously damaging race times.  All in all, probably quite a good thing.
The crowds were getting bigger and bigger as the race progressed – people were out making noise with anything they could think of – there were people banging on their cooking pots with metal spoons to encourage the runners! There was also a lot of music around the course – lots of drumming, but also jazz, and a brass band.
Everything is a complete blur really, all the drinks stations have merged into one, and the only thing I can remember clearly are all the kilometre markers that I passed.  I missed some, but I saw most of them.  Then, finally, I could see the Brandenburg Gate in the distance.  Wow.
So I aim for the gate.  Slowly, steadily it gets a little nearer, and before I know it, I’m running through it, on to the 42k mark and the finishing line is in sight.  With Take That’s “Greatest Day” in one ear, and the roar of the crowd in the other, I decide to sprint to the end, and am amused when I glance at my Garmin and note that my “sprint” is at the same pace as I was comfortably running at the beginning of the race – I don’t think I had much left in the tank!
Over the line.  A lady asks me if I’m ok.  I tell her I’m fine.  I think I may have looked a bit of a state.  Then as I realise what I’ve done, I burst into tears.  Happy tears.  Glad I’m wearing my sunglasses, so no-one can see. Knew they’d come in handy.  Then it was a slow, slow walk, queuing up for water, medal and finishers photo.  Still having a cry.  I eventually make my way back to the baggage tent.  Call up mum and dad.  Have another cry down the phone to them.
Then I head back to the Brandenburg Gate to get a bit of atmosphere and also to buy a finishers t-shirt.  Overpriced, sure, but it’s my first marathon, and I finished it.  Definitely a been there, done that, GOT THE T-SHIRT situation.  After eating a giant pretzel, some currywurst and a litre of (non-alcoholic) beer, I headed back to the hotel.  Had a much needed shower. Realised that despite putting Bodyglide on most parts of my body, the parts I missed are very, very sore.  Shower stings.  Ouch.  I put my pajamas on and examine my feet.  Poor feet.  I should not be a bit surprised if I lose both big toenails.  Poor feet.  Then I have a nap.  I feel like I earned one. There was a marathon afterparty in the evening, but I decided not to go.  My legs are stiff and tired, and it feels like too much effort to get there.  So after speaking to my sister, who despite being a little bit drunk at a wedding has remembered to call me, I go to bed.
The next day I wake up and my first thought is to wonder whether my legs are awake (or was I just wearing one big slipper? – that gag’s just for my sister :D).  They are not happy.  They are wondering why I expect them to carry me about everywhere.  Damn it, I just want to go to the loo.  It’s only a few metres.  I get my cossie on and head to the hotel pool.  A few laps, a sauna and a hydrotherapy jet applied to the legs later, I start to feel a bit better.
Pack up my bag, check out and then wander aimlessly about for some hours.  Don’t really feel as though I took anything in, so decided to give up, eat a giant pizza and then head to the airport.
And that was Berlin.  Oh, almost forgot to give you my second half splits:
25k 2:47:26
30k: 3:23:10
35k 3:59:40
40k: 4:37:31
Marathon 4:51:41 (yaaaaaay!)

Hope you enjoyed reading about my first marathon.  Today I ran 1.33 miles, not quite a marathon, but miles in the bank nonetheless.

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