And just like that, my second ever marathon is in the books! Two weeks ago I completed the Berlin Marathon, and while it didn’t go exactly as planned, I am still really happy and proud of the accomplishment. That being said, it was a very different experience than my first marathon in Hamburg…
Before the race
I started my training toward the end of May — this time around, I had added some speed work into the mix and was feeling pretty strong. I was more or less hitting my training runs and had a really solid 20-miler about three weeks before the marathon. But for the two weeks immediately preceding the race — a time when you should be running a bit less, relaxing, sleeping a lot, and taking care of yourself — I was completely slammed at work and was spending very long and stressful days working, having a hard time sleeping because of the stress and adrenalin, and not running at all during the work week. It wasn’t a complete surprise, but I had been hoping that I would be able to manage it better than I did. In any case, as race day approached, I was basically just holding on for dear life and hoping I would stay healthy.
So, not ideal. I was training with the goal of running a 4:30 marathon or under, but I also would have been happy with anything under my previous time (4:38). Approaching marathon weekend, I had become a bit more realistic about the situation given the exhausted state my body was in, and decided just to give it my best and not stress too much about time.
I had a relaxed trip to Berlin on Friday evening, picked up my start number without too much ado on Saturday morning, and had a relaxed day and a nice pasta dinner at a neighborhood restaurant near my friend’s place.
During the race
Getting to the race and to the start was relatively uneventful. It had been raining heavily the entire night before and it continued to drizzle for most of the first half of the race. I wore my friend’s old jacket and a plastic bag right up until the start to stay warm and dry, and I continued with the jacket for a kilometer or two until I got warm. I could feel already within the first five kilometers that it wasn’t going to be as smooth of a race as I was hoping for.
Although I was hitting the same 5K-splits that I had during the Hamburg Marathon — in fact up until about 35K (22 miles), they were nearly identical — it took way more effort to maintain them than I wanted. When it already feels hard during the first 13 miles, you know you’ve got a long race ahead of you!
By the time I hit about the 22-mile mark, I was just holding on and giving It all I had. Luckily, I had a cheerleader on the sidelines and he kindly joined me for miles 22-24 to keep my spirits up — even though I really wasn’t very good company (which makes me think of this running t-shirt). And for the first time ever, I also experienced the onset of cramping in my quads around this point. They never fully cramped, but I did have to stop a couple of times to stretch them out before I could keep going.
So in essence, for the last four miles, I was just gritting my teething and pushing myself on to the finish. I really didn’t let myself think of anything else besides finishing each mile I was in. I crossed the finish line with a time of 4:48:16 — almost exactly 10- minutes slower than in Hamburg, but still somehow proud of my determination to finish.
After the race
While I am of course disappointed not to have met my goal time, overall I am happy with the mere fact that I finished! I still think it’s rather amazing what your body can accomplish when you will it to — even under less than ideal circumstances. That’s what all those other weeks of training allowed me to do…they built the base which helped me cross the finish line, even if it wasn’t with a personal record.
My muscles were stiff for a few days afterwards, but by Thursday they were feeling fine again. The exhaustion stuck around for a little while longer though, but by now I’ve managed a couple of recovery runs and I am looking forward to a Fall and Winter of relaxed running. I definitely want to take on the challenge of another marathon, but not anytime soon!
Do you have any marathon wisdom to share with me? I’d love to hear it!