Thursday, October 15, 2015

Der Berlin-Marathon, Ja!

At the end of September I had the privilege of running the Berlin Marathon. It was my second of the six World Marathon Majors. All of the Majors are difficult to get into. Berlin registration works as a lottery, and Scot was selected via the lottery. I was not. I chose to gain entry through the tour group Marathon Adventures. Our travel package included the hotel and a walking tour of Berlin, along with my marathon entry. We decided to plan for the weekend in Berlin, then some additional time in England and then run another marathon the following week on Jersey, one of the Channel Islands that is part of the UK.
After flying all night from DC to London, we changed terminals in Heathrow Airport and then flew to Berlin. Our bags did not make it. We went on to the hotel and got checked in, then we headed to the race expo. We met up with Jc and Jeanette at the expo, which was huge, and took place at the old Tempelhof Airport.
With Jeanette and Jc at the expo
It was a beautiful day at Tempelhof Airport
Leaving the expo - by balloon?

Outside Tempelhof Airport

We spent a fair amount of time at the expo just walking through all the vendors before getting to the packet pickup. We picked up both our participant shirts and our finisher shirts. It seemed strange to get the finisher shirt before we had even run the race, but that's how they did it. My shirts were a size too small, which might have been a mix-up since I didn't complete my own registration form. Luckily, they were selling the same shirts at the expo and I was able to swap mine. After the expo, the four of us went to dinner at an Indian restaurant.


This was supposed to be the vegetarian platter for two - tons of food!
Scot and I hoped our bags would be at the hotel when we returned, but they were not. We had our toiletries with us, but no change of clothes or shoes. Normally I try to carry on my bag, but for this trip I decided to take a chance and check a bag. I was regretting this decision. We went to bed hoping for the best in the morning...but our bags were still nowhere to be found. We were getting frustrated because of the frequent flights between London and Berlin. Why was it taking so long? 
The next thing on our agenda was the walking tour of Berlin arranged by Marathon Adventures. This was a good tour. Our guide, Pip, was English and filled us in on quite a bit of German history as we walked around the city. We saw major sights like the Brandenburg gate, the Holocaust Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie and the Reichstag. We passed the US Embassy along the way. It was a beautiful day and I truly enjoyed the tour.
Our first glimpse of the Brandenburg Gate

Our tour group listens to Pip's info on Berlin history

The US Embassy with a Statue of Liberty bear statue inside

The Holocaust Memorial

With one of the bear statues; I liked the international theme
Brandenburg Gate, which we'd be running through the following day

When we got back to the hotel, our bags were still not there. We were given a status that they would arrive by 9 PM. The marathon was the next morning. We had to assume they would not arrive that night. We went to a mall and shopped for replacement running gear and shoes (for me...Scot had worn running shoes on the airplane). We had to buy everything: shirt, shorts, socks, hat, sports bra (also just for me). Neither of us was thrilled with the items we found. They were not clothes that we would have bought at home, and not what we really wanted to wear. But we had to be prepared. We spent  300 on stuff we didn't like. But at least we would be equipped to run, in the event that our bags didn't arrive. But guess what? When we got back to the hotel, our bags were there. And yet...it was too late to return the items we had just bought, and stores were closed the next day (Sunday), so we were stuck with them. We had some dinner near our hotel and got to sleep.
The next morning we woke up ready to run. Our hotel was a 15-20 minute walk to the start/finish area. It was a zoo! It was very crowded and difficult to find the bag check. Apparently the men's and women's bags were in different areas, and the tents were not all lined up and easy to navigate. We had to push through crowds heading to the start corrals. Finally, we found the spot and I dropped by bag. Then we made our way to the last corral. All runners with an expected time of 4 hours or more were in the last corral, so that was a LOT of people. We had time to wait as the faster corrals took off.

The River Spree as we walked to the marathon start
Scot and I ready to race...almost...if I could only find the bag drop

The Reichstag, a historic government building 

Dropped my bag, ready to roll wearing my Marathon Globetrotters shirt for the first time

Immediately upon starting the race, we ran toward the Victory Column. The road curved to the left and the right of it, and was jam-packed with runners. It was quite a sight. The crowd was thick for several miles. There was a lot of energy and I could hear many different languages being spoken by the runners around me. It was great! I was planning to do my run/walk intervals from the beginning, only skipping the first walk break where it was just too crowded to slow down and walk. I was able to move to the sidewalks for most of my walk breaks early in the race. This way I didn't feel like I was slowing anyone down. 

Scot and I crossed the starting line together, I think, but we didn't stay together. Yet, I found him a few miles into the race. He was with Kate and her friend Jeff, who was running his first marathon. They were doing different intervals, so we were soon separated.

Ready to start, with Victory Column way up ahead

Early in the race, the crowd was thick; several of us used the sidewalks
Scot, me, Jeff, Kate, and part of Magenta the Road Trip Flamingo

Some of the aid stations, especially early in the race, had hot tea. I found this odd. Not being a tea drinker, I skipped this. I took water from the tables, and I also carried my own electrolyte drink, as I usually do. I also carried my own gels, but at one point I tried a Powerbar gel that was handed to me on the course. It was Green Apple flavor and was one of the most disgusting things I've ever tasted. I've had Powerbar gels before, and I didn't think they were that bad. I wonder if the ones in Germany are different?
I was on my own for most of this course, but I did find Scot again about halfway through the race when we both stopped at a port-o-potty. Again, we weren't together for long. I leap-frogged with several other runners who were at about my pace, but I didn't know any of them. Then I came across Michelle, a fellow Marathon Maniac who I'd met the previous weekend at the Navy Air Force Half Marathon. I chatted with her for a couple minutes and then moved on. Normally I'm quite bored in the second half of a marathon, especially if I'm running alone. But here, there was still enough of a crowd, and on-course entertainment, to keep me occupied. I was enjoying the experience of running through all parts of Berlin. It was a great course, and it was pretty flat, as it is famed to be.

I've never seen this musical act on a marathon course before

Scenery from the course; that's the TV tower at Alexanderplatz in the background

Here I am, following the shortest tangents on the course (the blue lines)

I found Michelle

This was my first marathon since my 50 states finish at Newport Marathon in May. I had planned to train moderately this summer with a goal of doing well in Berlin. My training didn't go as well as planned, which was my own fault. But I was at least feeling prepared. I knew I could do better than I did during my spring marathons, and I did. I didn't need to worry about course time limits, and that was very refreshing. The finish of the Berlin Marathon takes the runners through the Brandenburg Gate at approximately Mile 26. As soon as I had a clear view of the finish line, I saw that Scot was there waiting for me. And so were Kate and Jeff. I didn't expect anyone to be in the finish chute waiting for me, as this was a big marathon, but it was really nice. 
Coming in for my finish, having just run through Brandenburg Gate (you can see a bit of it on the right)
Scot and me at the finish, Brandenburg Gate over his right shoulder

After taking some finish photos, I needed to find my bag, which was another challenge, as the bags had all been moved. Finally, I had my bag, my medal, my post-race food. There was only one thing missing: my post-race beer. My feet were killing me and I just wanted to sit down, take my weight off them, and drink my beer. We found the beer...but there was a surprise: it was non-alcoholic! That was a shocker, this being Germany...the land of beer...during Oktoberfest! But I didn't care anymore. I took that non-alcoholic beer, made arrangements to meet up with Scot at the hotel room later (he wanted to take more photos, while all I wanted to do was sit), and found a place to relax. I struck up a conversation with a runner from Belgium, and then another runner from Belgium came by. These guys didn't know each other, but it wasn't long before they started talking only in French, and I was out of the conversation. I didn't care. I had finished my second Major, It was a sunny day, I was off my feet, I had a "beer" in my hand... I was content...until I was ready to go. On my way out of the finish area I started chatting with more folks: a fellow Marathon Globetrotter from England, and a Marathon Maniac and her friend.

It may be non-alcoholic, but at least it's cold

With fellow Maniac and Globetrotter Donna from England

The walk back to the hotel was longer and more painful than the walk to the start. I got back to the hotel before Scot and took my time relaxing. He came back with some good photos, and with a Berlin Marathon jacket that he purchased in the finish area. They weren't selling the jackets at the expo because they were pre-order only, but there must have been a bunch of unclaimed jackets. I guess this means the marathon sold them twice. Well, at least Scot got his.
Scot fell asleep while I was in the shower. He was too tired to go out to eat. But I wanted to get out of the hotel and have a good meal and a real beer. I went to a restaurant called Berliner Republik along the river very close to our hotel. I ordered a dunkel, a German dark beer. It was delicious. And to eat, I ordered vegatarian currrywurst. Yes, that popular sausage of Berlin, made with tofu. It wasn't the greatest thing I'd ever eaten, but it seemed fitting to cap off the marathon day with something uniquely German. I enjoyed sitting outside along the river, with a heat lamp to keep me warm, and the Super Moon in the sky. After a while, I was joined by some English travelers. The two men had also run the marathon, and the women had come along to support them. We talked about the US, London, and marathons in general. it was a good night.

My dunkel beer, and my vegetarian currywurst with fries

Scot and I got up early the next morning to see the lunar eclipse over the River Spree

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