This past weekend whilst most of us were partying the night away the Berlin 6 were having a sleepless night before they took on the 26.2 miles on a memorable world record breaking day. If you missed it Eliud Kipchoge’s ran 2:01:39 a performance distance fans may be talking about for a long, long time. Unless Kipchoge himself betters the record, one would think his mark will stand for a long time as his 78-second destruction of the world record marked the biggest single drop in the men’s marathon world record in 51 years.
As time goes on, records are supposed to be harder and harder to break, but he destroyed the old mark. Alas I digress. A few of the runners from the club have written their own reports. Some great reading and times. Get your extra cup of coffee on a Friday and a few extra biscuits. Top of the bunch were Ciara and Martin with Sedanand hitting sub 3 and Diarmiud, Paul and Tom all running well.
I woke at 05:30 that morning,breakfast at 6am then ready and off to the race. I arrived there about 7:20,so plenty of time to drop off my bag and find the starting area. There is 8 starting groups broke up in letters A-H.I was in group D, 3-3:30hrs finish. There was a separate path for each group to their coral.It moved smoothly and well organised. Anxious not to get hemmed back to far to far in the group I got up the front at 8:15,an hour before the start.It filled up quite quick,but an hour wait standing there felt forever.
So this is the fastest flattest marathon course in the world.I didn’t know what really to expect and was very anxious to try make the most of the opportunity. In Dublin last year I played it safe and stuck with a pacer most of the way.Today I was on my own not really knowing what I could achieve or how fast or slow I could pace the race. I decided to aim high and just see what happens. 9:15 the gun is heard and a huge wave of people move slowly forward over the mat.I could see the 3hr pacer about 300m in-front of me in the the crowds.This seemed to make me panic a bit as I need to definitely be in front of him. The first 5k was really packed tight with little room to move.I checked my Garmin and was happy
With my progress of just over 19 mins but my heart rate was souring,I needed to settle down a little. Onwards to 10k still caught up with excitement and over eagerness to push on I reached it at 39 min.Heart rate still high but I didn’t feel I was pushing hard. There are water stations with cups every couple of kms. I made sure to hydrate at each one. On to the 10 mile at 62 min still happy enough doing calculations over and over in my head of what I could achieve. The course has a lot of long straights of wide streets that can feel like you are not making much progress and are tempted to surge in from time to time,which is not a good idea.I found it hard to find a group that were sticking to a steady pace. Half way point 1:22,I thought great still on track.As we passed through the check point people started picking up the pace, I thought I’d slowed and got caught up with this mass move,then around 26k it hit me!
Between the heat and some fatigue the pace I was finding easy suddenly started to feel a bit more strenuous. I pushed on the the 32km thinking 10k left,I’ll get second wind and push it in. Second wind never came and mentally I was finding it tough as I could see my ambitious time slipping away. I just started counting down the kms one at a time, giving 100% effort but not getting the pace for the effort.
My breathing was fine but just hadn’t got the power to go any quicker. Trying to feed off the crowd I found I just couldn’t connect with them, they seemed distant compared to previous marathons. Onwards I pushed really finding it to be a struggle, constantly look for the Brandenburg gate as a sign I was close to the finish. The last km you turn and a long straight run through the gate to the finish. With it in sight I picked up a little an gave it one last push. I was there 2:51:23. I was never so happy to be finished a race. I found it the longest marathon I’ve done. Maybe it was the long straights and lack of variety,it felt like running on a treadmill for 3hrs at pace! I may of started off too anxious and over reached from the start. Still you gotta try. End of the day it was a pb and a learning experience !
Diarmuid Ó Súilleabháin
Berlin is one of my favourite places to see in the world. Its history, its left wing spirit, it’s music, and built fabric have fascinated me for a long time. The marathon here is a massive event. This year they would have 44,000 runners, and Eliud Kipchoge had made his intentions clear that he would be trying to break the world record. I had run it in the past and really enjoyed it, so I was very happy when my application was accepted last December.
Convinced by arguments read during my research and nerdery of running, I decided to make some changes to my training for the marathon and include strength and conditioning training, and also train more by heart rate.
First of all I started going to a strength and conditioning for runners class on Friday mornings before work. I’ve really enjoyed this class and I would recommend you to give it a go if you think you might like it. It took awhile for me to start feeling the effects of it but after a few months I definitely felt that I was stronger in races, recovering faster, and that I no small niggles any more.
Secondly I went to Trinity to get my lactate threshold (LT) and V02 max tested. You’re lactate threshold is important when it comes to the marathon as you run just below the ceiling of this point of lactic acid generation for the duration race if you do it right. Increasing you LT should allow for improvements in your time at marathon, half marathon, and 10 mile distances. I have never targeted improving my LT I know that it is something that I will need to get a handle of with my future training.
At the end of the test I was given my training zones based on my heart rate and a program which I intended to follow as best I could until Berlin. In retrospect, it takes a long time to see improvements from this and 3 months before a marathon isn’t really enough time to see the real benefit of it and is something one needs to do over a longer time.
Come race day I was feeling good, I thought that I had prepared pretty well and the conditions were favourable. Come the start of the race I settled into the first few kilometers alright. I stuck to my plan of going out a little slower and then speeding up. From 3k onwards I started to get into it but before long I could feel that I really wasn’t getting up to where I should have. I pushed ahead hoping that that feeling would pass. Coming up to the half way point, I could feel I was pushing more than I should’ve been and once I went through 15 miles I realized that I was going to blow up if I didn’t cool my pace as I felt like as was at mile 22. I ended up spluttering through the last 10 miles and stumbled in at 3:17. I’ve no idea what went wrong, but there you go. When things don’t go the right way for you in a 5k you might be 30 seconds off goal. In a marathon you get to have the abyss stare back at you.
After the finish line outside the Reichstag I was very happy to meet Sadanand, Ciara, and Martin who all had terrific races. All of whom made a big improvement in their marathon time.
After Dublin and Paris, Berlin was my third marathon adventure. We arrived on Saturday and went straight to the expo. Expo’s aren’t really my thing but if they are then you won’t be disappointed as there were plenty of things to see, try and buy.
Race day was fantastic experience even if I didn’t have the race I wanted.
A couple of things stood out to make it a memorable starting naturally enough with the start itself. It had the best atmosphere I have witnessed at a race start. The music, the introduction of the elite runners and the sheer volume and noise of people built the tension and the excitement.
Once you set of though, as I found as in Paris, you could be in any city in the world as you are concentrating on the race itself. There was good support from the Irish in the crowd and the Germans themselves, but I would have to say that nothing so far has compared to the support and atmosphere you get in the Dublin Marathon from your home crowd.
As for my race the first 36km were all going to plan and then I just fell off a cliff and struggled home.
As I said the start of the marathon was the best start I had witnessed but the finish was even better. You turn a corner with about a kilometer to go and in the distance the Brandenburg Gate rises to meet you and once you get through the gate the finishing 400m is a wall of noise. I managed to pick out my wife in the crowd who was having a great time cheering all the runners.
However by far and away the best element of the experience was being able to share it with my fellow Sportsworlders before and after the race.
We spent the next couple of days as tourists and Berlin is such a cool city. We did a cycling tour the next day with the Sportsworld team, which was great fun, and I would recommend. Other places to visit if you are in Berlin that I would recommend are:
- DDR Museum – A cool interactive museum that shows you what life was like in old East Germany.
- Topography of Terror – A look at the crimes of the SS. It really is terrifying to see what humans are capable of and you can draw parallels to what is happening around the world today
- Klunkerkrainch – A really cool rooftop bar (too cool and hip for me). You have to go through a shopping center and walk through a parking lot to get there but it is worth it.
Also make sure you eat plenty of Currwurst and Kebabs. I would recommend the Berlin Marathon to anyone. It’s an iconic race in a great city and even better if you can share it with club mates and friends.
Late Friday evening I arrived in to Tegel airport (which makes Dublin’s Terminal 1 look like the Taj Mahal) and began the 40 minute drive/train ride to the hotel.
Noticing how smooth the journey was brought home how famously flat the Berlin course is.
The next morning I headed south to a different Berlin airport, Tempelhof, where the marathon expo was being held.
It’s a massive venue with lots of history and a WW2 Allied Troop Carrier plane on the runway but the expo itself was probably too spread out over the numerous hangers.
There is more than enough provided for pre-race fuelling/preparation (Gels, electrolyte tablets, tapes) and post-race merchandise (t-shirts, hoodies, jackets, shoes…).
After the expo the rest of the day was spent wandering the streets, watching the Liverpool Spurs match with Paul and Tina beside Checkpoint Charlie and then carb loading with Diarmuid, Adrian and Paul in the Mall of Berlin food court.
There was a long walk to the bag drop area entering Tiergarten Park by the Brandenburg Gates. Wave sections were already crowded 40 minutes beforehand.
The start line was one of the best I’ve seen right by the Victory column in the center of the Tiergarten with the music blaring and the excitement at fever pitch.
Once the race got started it was pretty packed for the first 10km (note: try to aim for a wave of A-E for less crowded) so it was tough to get in to a rhythm.
It was hard to take in much initially as you were just concentrating on the feet of the runners in front of you but it soon opened up.
There were three lines along the route which indicated the most efficient way to run the course so this helped to cut out the additional meters usually clocked up during a marathon.
After 30km I began to struggle and slowed up so just tried to take in a bit more of the sights and support looking forward to that turn in to the Brandenburg Gates to the finish line.
Lots of international and local support along the route.
Flat course (concentration needed and a few long flat runs for training).
Very scenic and impressive start and end to the race.
Nice to share the race with World Record setting Eliud Kipchoge.
Quite a few spectators crossed the road during the race bumping in to runners (myself included).
The water stops were crowded with plastic cups that were dropped in the middle of the road and could be a slipping hazard.
Overall disappointed with the time but enjoyed the marathon race experience as always and could now concentrate on exploring the tourist attractions around Berlin.
Well done to all the Sportsworld runners(Ciara, Sadanand, Paul, Martin, Diarmuid and Adrian) – a great representation this year.
We had a nice night out afterwards and enjoyed a 4 hour cycling tour of the city at 11am on Monday to loosen up J
A parting comment.
The next morning when walking/shuffling along to get some breakfast I got talking to a fellow marathoner(Peter from London) who mentioned that Berlin was the 128th he’s run.
Of those, 60 have been with a replacement hip, so there’s the motivation for those of you considering but haven’t run a marathon yet 😉