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Back at the end of last year, during a very enjoyable 30th I was at, the subject of marathon running came up and, having had one or two beverages, I readily agreed to run Berlin with a friend Louisa. I quickly roped in another of the guests, a Mr. Alan Burke and we laid our plans for a showdown with Haile Gebrselassie.

Unfortunately once all the planning was done, flights booked and marathons entered, all three of us suffered injuries. Louisa was first to go due to a knee injury. Alan's was also quite serious and stopped him training completely. I was a little luckier and although I injured my hamstring in August and missed six weeks of training, I was confident I would make the start line after getting a 20 mile run in 3 weeks before.

The last three weeks passed in a blur and we flew to Berlin on the Friday before the race and picked up the keys to the apartment we had rented. After a little confusion we headed out to collect our numbers and check out the expo. This year the expo was moved from the Messe area to the Kabelwerk further out of the city and a shuttle bus from the nearest station. This apparently created some confusion and delays although Alan and I experienced little of this. The only delay was gaining entry as we had not been sent a copy of our official entry. After queuing for a few minutes behind some irate French runners, we got in and quickly collected our numbers, chips and T-Shirts.

We wandered around the Expo for a while and soaked up the atmosphere, as well as getting an upgrade from my starting position in the last wave to the middle wave (Berlin had 3 waves at the start, for elite, regular and over 4h 15minute runner). After a long day of travel and a quiet beer, we decided to call it a night.

The day before the marathon was a relaxing one for me while Alan collected friends of ours from the city and showed them around. That night we enjoyed the first of the delicious and inexpensive restuarants that Berlin seemed to have in abundance (1 starter and 2 main courses for €17).

The next day I arose early and headed to Friedrich Strasse U-Bahn station. A quick stroll up by the Reichstag and into the sectioned off area for runners. I had a stroll around and then dropped in my gear and joined the queue for the toilets. With about 10 mins to go, I headed to the start and jumped into my section at the start of the race.

I was a little far back to see the start and my rival, Haile Gebrselassie, race off on his way to victory and the new world record but I'm sure he knew I was there. It took about 10 minutes for me to reach the line after the second wave started. The first 4 to 5 km passed by quickly in a large crowd. As we entered the city proper I started running for a few kilometers with some English girls running for Leukemia research but I lost them at one of the first water stops and this was to be a theme for the rest of the race. Not far down the road I fell in with two Irish girls, Val and Dervla, and we ran together for a few kilometers and swapped stories. Over the course of the conversations, we discovered that Val (Fogarty) and I had actually met a few years before at the Connemara marathon and ran a few km together and I had tried to persuade her to join Athenry-- however, having just moved to Craughwell, she had signed up with her local club. For the next few kilometers having a few people with me really helped me pick up the pace but then at another water stop, I lost them again.

I continued on, unaware that I was ahead of them and determined to keep my time up. I had planned originally on aiming for 4 hours but after missing so much training and I would have been happy with 4:30. I got a boost at the 19km mark as we passed the apartments where we were staying and my team of supporters, were there to cheer me on.

Loyal supporters:Michael, Donna and Alan with their banners of support

Loyal supporters:Michael, Donna and Alan with their banners of support

Around the 20k mark Val caught up with me and we continued together. She was aiming for a sub 4 hour time and having company made it easier for me. We passed the half marathon mark just over 2 hours and Val was a little disappointed to be behind schedule. We stayed together until about 27km when I lost Val at another water stop.

I plodded on until the 32km mark, which was as much as I had ever done in training and started out into the unknown. In a lift for my spirits, the theme of the marathon celebrations was the 70s and they had UK rock band The Sweet over for a concert on the Saturday. As I went through the 32k mark, their (only?) hit, Ballroom Blitz was playing and it gave me a lift and I rattled off a few quick (by my standards) kms. The sun was now shining clearly and I was still feeling good but by km 36 reality had hit me again. I resolved to keep plodding along and the multitude of bands and flamenco dancers and cheerleaders distracted me from pain and tiredness. At this stage the crowd had thinned out for the first time in the race and I finally had some open road around me (mind you, not very much).

Finally I reached the 41st km and turned onto Unter den Linden, one of the main boulevards of Berlin. I could see the street stretch out in front of me to the Brandenburg gate and I knew I was almost home. There was a massive crowd out lining the streets and cheering us home. I passed under the gate and had a rush of adrenaline and sprinted the last 200m (or as close as I could manage at that stage). I finally crossed the line at 4:14:36 and I was thrilled-- not quite 4 hours but a 28 minute improvement over my previous attempt and without really enough training.

As I reflected after the race on how it had gone, I was pretty happy with how I got on and the general organisation of the marathon. I especially liked the kilometre markers as these made it easier to judge your speed and came around much more frequently than mile markers. The only down point for me was the water stops, which were only on one side of the road in most places and this caused a large crush and slowed you down every time you needed to get a drink (and that was most stops as it was a very warm day and the Irish summer didn't give me much of a chance to practice in hot conditions).

Once I collected my medal and my gear I met Alan and my supporters and headed home on to recuperate before some celebrations. I checked the results back at the apartment and was delighted to discover that Val had made up the time over the second half and had made it home in 3:59:43. It was a really great performance. Oh, and some guy from Ethiopia had a pretty good run too.

A well deserved beer:First of many post race beers

A well deserved beer:First of many post race beers

For those that are interested, here are my splits from my watch:

6:05

5:30

5:48

5:49

5:48 5km

6:15

5:53 (missed a split here)

5:53

5:56

6:13 10km

5:29

5:45

6:28

5:11 (missed another one here)

5:11 15km

5:36

5:39

5:40 (missed one here again)

5:40

6:07 20km

5:29

5:45

5:55

5:54

Pete Strange

15 years 8 months ago

Well done with the run - I enjoyed reading your report.
I bet you enjoyed that beer!