Sunday morning, September 30th, 8:30 am. The starting gun was to go off in half an hour, thousands of runners had gathered to run. And run. And run some more. I’d dreamed of this moment for months, I’d longed for it, I’d agonized over it, I’d cursed it. Finally, the time had come to run the beast: A full marathon.
The whole Saturday I’d been a wreck, horrible migraine, lady cramps, nerves. On Sunday morning however, I felt fine. Hal had put together a training plan, I’d followed it to the dot, I was ready. I ate my trusted pre-run breakfast of oatmeal, banana, and greek yoghurt. I put body glide onto strategic places, and I pinned my race number onto my favorite running shirt. On the train to the start at the Brandenburgertor we overheard someone saying ‘Everyone looks so much fitter than me’, maybe that person had meant us. Why not?
After standing in various lines for quite some time we made it to our corral (the last one, 4:15 and over, I think everyone ahead lied about their time…).
About to run a marathon, about to cross the starting line. I felt like a winner already!
We slowly moved forward, I ditched my upper layer, and with a little beep I moved over the timing mat at 9:27 am. I just heard the speaker telling people to get going because the start would close in a few minutes, and off we were.
For the first couple miles the programmer and I ran together but it got too bothersome to pass people, stay on pace, and keep together all at once. So pretty soon I was cruising along alone. My legs felt fresh, the weather was cool, sunny, with a slight breeze. Ideal running conditions.
I was pretty unsure about what pace I should be running, I really didn’t know what kind of a time I had in me for the whole 26.2 miles. So, I thought to myself, screw time, just run a comfy pace and enjoy it. I consciously didn’t check my Garmin for most of the first half, and was pretty happy and surprised to see a 2:13 half, particularly since my pace felt easy enough, no different than training pace.
There were tons of runners, spectators, and bands providing distraction. Although one had to be careful. Once I almost got hit by a bottle that someone threw away, it actually bounced off the head of a guy running next to me. The woman who threw it just said ‘Come on, it was empty’ when the guy complained. Germans, one has to love their grumpiness. Anyway, most people were friendly and happy (at least in the beginning). But since we’d started in the back I was passing people constantly, which gave me a boost of confidence. My legs didn’t appreciate the dodging though.
When someone next to me said ‘Just two more hours’, I wanted to punch him. Then I thought ‘2 more hours, no way, I’m gonna be much faster than that’, and I passed the guy.
I ate 4 Hanutas (chocolate-hazelnut-wafers), about one each hour, they kept my energy up, and I never felt like hitting the wall. Sure, my legs got heavier and heavier with every mile, but I knew that they’d keep carrying me. I remembered finishing tough training runs, and told myself ‘you ran many miles on dead legs before, you can do it’. So, I kept going. I knew if I’d just keep running I’d mike my A-time. So, I ran the whole thing, except for short walk breaks to grab water. I ran the second half in 2:15, just 2 minutes slower than the first, a-ok splits with me.
Crossing the 20-mile mark was a highlight, uncharted territory. What was less fun was the powergel station shortly beforehand, the ground was so sticky, almost couldn’t lift my feet.
For the last hour or so, I kept calculating how much further I had to run, miles-kilometers-minutes. Forth and back, about the limit of my mental capacities at that point ;-). The closer to the finish I came, the more the people at the curb were clapping or shouting my name, awesome.
Still the miles seemed to get longer and longer and I was hoping at every turn that I’d finally see the Brandenburgertor. I do remember longing for that damn monument but I don’t remember seeing it or running beneath it. What I’ll never forget though is the stretch after the Brandenburgertor: The final yards of the marathon. People we’re cheering, shouting, clapping, I cheered along.
4 hours 28 min earlier I’d crossed the starting line at almost the same place, now I was about to cross the finish line. Sunday, September 30th, 1:56 pm, I never felt as strong (and at the same time as physically drained, but shush) in my life before.
All the training and the dedication payed off. I did it: I ran a marathon. And I remembered to pose at the end ;-)
It was fucking hard. It was glorious. I wanna do it again!