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Race Report | Berlin Half Marathon

I’m not really sure where to start with this race report, except to say that I surprised myself yesterday in the best way possible!  It’s been about two years since my last half marathon (after being waylaid by a broken knee cap in late 2010), and I just wanted to see what I was capable of accomplishing — which apparently was a finish time of 2:13:53.  I’m beyond ecstatic (!) that I was able to come within 47 seconds of my personal record at the NYC Half in 2007 — a time that really wasn’t even on my radar for yesterday’s run.  So much so that I didn’t even bother to convert the pace I would need to achieve this from minutes/mile into minutes/kilometer.  Yet somehow it all came together.  Yay!   It shows me that a sub-2:00 half marathon is still within my reach if I train a bit harder and faster.

But before I get too carried away, a bit about this race…   After getting a reasonably good night’s sleep, I ate my usual peanut butter on wheat bread, half a banana, apple juice and coffee about 2.5 hours before race time.  I was feeling good, but also pretty anxious to get the day started.  Thank our lucky stars, we live pretty close to the start and finish line — only a few subway stations away — and could enjoy the warmth of our apartment longer than most that morning.

Berlin Half Marathon route
Berlin Half Marathon route

We made it to the start with just enough time to stand in line for the bathroom, change our clothes, and make our way to the starting block.  The weather was sunny but cold (around 1C/34F), but I knew I would warm up quickly.  After the gun went off at 10:45, our starting block (for 2-hour+ runners) had to wait about 20-25 minutes before starting, which kind of sucked.  I guess that’s what happens when you let 30,000 people run along a relatively short distance and need to avoid congestion.  (You can check out this video of our starting block slowly making their way to the start line.)

Berlin Half Marathon 2012
The starting block

My plan was to run the first 10 kilometers with easy effort — meaning faster than a training run, but still relatively relaxed.  I felt good, and enjoyed the route past the TV Tower, the Berliner Dom, through the Brandenburger Gate (how cool is that?), and through Tierpark.  My pace pretty consistently hovered above 6:30 per kilometer (10:24 per mile):  6:41, 6:34, 6:32, 6:27, 6:36 (5K = 32:43), 6:33, 6:32, 6:36,  6:32, 6:35 (10K = 1:05:43).

Berlin Half Marathon 2012
Kilometer 3: Running through the Brandenburg Gate

Once I hit 10K and was still feeling good, I sped it up a notch to a less comfortable pace.  I was tired, but not exhausted — I knew I had it in me to keep pushing, and I loved that we were consistently passing other runners.   So my pace for the next 5 kilometers was a little over 6:15 (10:00 per mile): 6:26, 6:17, 6:16, 6:15, 6:20 (15K = 1:37:20).  During these kilometers, I completely focused on my running and definitely did not take in the sights along the course.  I was also feeling really lucky that mein Schatz was running with me, carrying my Powerade, and encouraging me a long the way. (Not to mention taking photographs all along the way!)

Berlin Half Marathon 2012
I have no idea where this is along the route. Any guesses?

At the 15K mark, I still had the energy to run harder for the remaining kilometers, and pushed the pace up again.  Mein Schatz was taking his job as my bunny very seriously at this point, and continued pulling me past runner after runner at an ever-increasing pace.  It felt awesome to be passing people, but I had to put everything I had into maintaining the pace.  I seriously didn’t even have enough energy to look at my watch — I just kept running.  For kilometers 16 to 19, I was running in the low 6:00’s (9:40 per mile): 6:09, 6:14, 6:02, 6:03.

Berlin Half Marathon 2012
Kilometer 18-19: Running through Checkpoint Charlie

Here it dawned on me that if I kicked it into high gear, I could come close to my 2007 personal half marathon record.  I didn’t have any energy (or time) to do any calculations, I just floored it.   I sped through the last two kilometers with everything I had, making the last kilometer of the race my fastest (9:04 per mile): 5:50, 5:40.

And so that, my friends, is how I ended up running a 2:13:53 half marathon — about 10 minutes faster than I thought I could.  The time is not impressive to anyone but myself, but I’m still extremely pleased with how the race unfolded.  (Oh yeah, and running negative splits during the second half of the run felt awesome.)  Although I knew I had trained well, I was so unsure of what I was capable of running after taking two years off of racing.  This race was exactly what I needed to get back back on my feet again.

So now what?  The Hannover Half Marathon in on my calendar for May 6th, but I’m giving myself until the end of this week to decide what my goals will be for that race, and how I want to train for it.  For the next few days though, I’m stretching out my tight muscles, easing myself back into running with a couple easy runs, and enjoying the satisfaction of a race well run.

12 comments

  1. Di says:

    Congratulations!! That was a great race. I too hope one day for a sub 2 hour half (at 42 there’s still time isn’t there?) – I managed 2 hours and 14 seconds the last time which was a bit of a bummer! But I did achieve my first sub-60 min 10k late last year – and it was a whole 4 minutes under! So keep it up….I was so impressed with your training regime – I find it hard to make myself hurt and chicken out of pushing! That sub 2 hour marathon is in your reach!

    • Wow, congrats on your sub-1-hour 10K! I’ve also been thinking about taking on 10Ks and 5Ks since it’s been so long since I’ve raced one — just to see what I can do. Thanks for the encouragement — we’ll both hit our goals, I’m sure of it!

    • Thanks! I was really pleased about the negative splits too. Maybe my next step should be to be able to run that first 10K at a faster pace, but the same comfortable effort. That’ll take some work though, I think. :)

  2. Joanna says:

    Congratulations, again! I was seriously getting chocked-up reading through your post because I am imagining how I will feel when I run my own marathon this September.

    You are so lucky to have “Dein Schatz”! :)

    The first thing I thought when I opened your blog was: how on earth was she able to take those pictures in that pace! lol

    I remember running an 8K with a German couple from South Germany, and the lady was there to support her “Schatz”, and was an experienced marathon runner. She was whizzing way ahead of us to take pics and whizzing back to us, without losing breath to resume her chat with her hubby and I, who were both breathing heavily in our newbie pace. lol

    Thanks for “taking us with you” from training to reaching your goal! You have every right to be proud!

  3. Emily says:

    Wow!! Congrats!!! I’m so impressed!! And negative splits? You rocked this half!! And seeing the pictures – Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie – I might need to add this to my list of dream races! :)

  4. Vanessa says:

    It’s always awesome when the strength and power of your body surprises you like that. Looks like with a bit more training a sub-2 hour half is in your future!

  5. Frank says:

    As for your 3rd pic, ref. to “Any guesses?”: The pic was taken on “Kudamm” (= Kurfürstendamm). If you look at the map, just to the right of the small arrow head after the 13 k mark, that’s exactly where it is. Close to the Memorial Church, which would be in the photographer’s back.

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