Race Review: Berlin Marathon 2017

Berlin Marathon, a running street party…

Marathons are a fantastic way to explore a city and culture and Berlin is one of the best, giving you the opportunity to run through it’s history as you run between east and west as Irene Maulenda reports…

Waking up on the morning of the marathon in Berlin, I was both excited and terrified. It was my first ever marathon, one that I’d wanted to do for years and I’d finally got in on my fourth ballot attempt with some of the other girls from Girls Run the World.

We’d travelled out and were staying separately in different areas which meant we all made our own way to the race start line, although i was with my parents who’d flown from my home in Spain to watch. But even after saying goodbye to them and going off to my starting pen on my own, I didn’t feel like I was alone. It was like being part of a big party from start from finish.

I’d arrived at the race at 9am for my race start at 10am (editor’s note: the race starts at 9.15am but is a staggered start with those with proven fast finish times going off first), had handed my bag in and spent the usual amount of time queuing for the toilet. With approximately, 43,500 runners, Berlin has a busy start area so it’s good to give yourself plenty of time – an hour is enough – to sort yourself out and walk to your start area.

The starting pens are staggered so you don’t all start at the same time – just leave yourself plenty of time to get into your pen

Everybody in my starting pen wore the same excited look that must have been on my face too, and the atmosphere was electric. To keep myself calm while I was waiting to race , I read a few texts from my friends and thought of other runners who inspired me, such as my fellow runners in Girls Run the World, who were at that moment also taking on their own challenge doing the Ragnar Relay, a 170 mile run over the Kent Coast and my best friend who’d been the first person to inspire me to start running time seven years ago.

I didn’t have to wait long though before we were off, running down the streets of Berlin in a group like a huge street party.

The Berlin marathon, like one big running party

I’d decided to ignore my intended race pace and to run to enjoy the experience, rather than trying to stick to a pace which would have been impossible to do in such a crowded group. It meant that I was able to chat to other runners, including  Jaime and Javier, both Spanish, who told me that they were running their third marathon. I told them it was my first. “You’re going to experience things you’ve never felt before,’ they said. ‘But you will love this day.”

I lost them at the next water station, where I managed to perfect my technique of drinking while still running. Without an official pacer to follow, I spied a tall guy who was running a similar speed and decided to follow him to keep myself motivated. That said, the atmosphere was so amazing I felt buoyed up simply running along with so many others from around the world.

I was running for MacMillan Cancer and when I passed another runner who was also running for them, I said hello. Her name was Danielle, and she told me she’d also done London and LA and that I’d love London if I ever got the chance to run it. I wished her luck and set off after my unofficial ‘pacer’, through the 10km mark, where I high fived all the kids holding their hands out on the side of the route.

My German is rusty but I managed to say a few things “ganz toll” (great), genau (genius) and fantastisch (fantastic) to other runners, which helped to keep me distracted up to the half marathon point where I met a couple from Bilbao in Spain. “This is the second time I’ve run in Berlin and it won’t be the last, I love this race!’

Leaving them behind, I started to notice other runners were beginning to slow down and cramp, but I focused on sipping water at every station and taking on a gel every five miles. That and the iconic scenery kept me occupied as it started to feel harder. The route wound past the iconic Rathaus Schöneberg, the city hall for the borough of Tempelhof-Schöneberg which had served as the seat of the government of West Berlin till 1990. It’s where President J. F. Kennedy had proclaimed his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner”, and where so many people had gathered when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. The sense of running through history as I ran through just gave me goosebumps.

As I approached the 20 mile mark, I began to feel a bit anxious as I’d only ever ran this far once before when I’d bonked. Training for Berlin, my biggest fear was that I’d hit the wall but suddenly, I was past the point and reaching 21 miles feeling tired but good. Having my printed on my bib so that people could shout my name really helped encourage me and kept me going. And when I saw someone else struggling, I’d call out their name and say, ‘come on mate, you can do it.’ I don’t know whether it helped or annoyed people but it helped take my mind off the discomfort!

By the time I started my last 10k, I had my parents to look forward to seeing who’d arranged to wait at the next water station.  AS I turned the corner into K’damm, music blared out and I could see my dad’s red raincoat (Editor’s note: get your supporters to wear something bright, or hold a colourful sign on a tall stick so you can spot them) and started waving like a mad woman.

I managed to blow them a kiss and as I ran past I began to feel even stronger. ‘Was I crazy if tried to run a bit faster?’ I thought. I checked my running form, mentally scanned my body for anything that hurt, and I decided I felt good and I was going to go for it.

I have never loved running more than that moment. People were shouting my name, and I couldn’t stop waving and smiling, it felt so AMAZING. By now, I was passing people and when I ran past the last aid station at the 40 km point I felt like I was flying. Finally, I could see Brandenburg Gate in front of me, and started to sprint. It nearly finished me off when I then realised that the finish line was a further 400 metres but I found the strength and pushed through to cross the finish line in 4.18.21.

When the race volunteer hung my medal around my neck, I was so overwhelmed I burst into tears and was still crying in the race picture. Heading out to meet my parents, I spotted the unofficial race pacer I’d followed for most of the race standing with his family. “Thanks so much for your help, I’ve been following you most of the race, you kept me going.” It turned out that it had been his first marathon too.

Berlin is renowned as being an iconic race and all I can say is that it lived up to and surpassed expectations. As a trail runner, I’d been worried about whether I’d enjoy a road marathon but the Berlin marathon is fantastic, for the scenery, its history and the support and sense of camaraderie amongst the other runners.

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Here’s where we break down the race and give you our nuts and bolts assessment…

The Good

  • Amazing atmosphere and organisation
  • The expo was fantastic, packed full of fantastic new products like a foam roller with three vibration modes that is already in my Christmas list!, definitely worth going
  • A fast, flat course

The Bad

  • Although each pen apparently has official pacers, it’s so busy in the pens at the back, I never saw any. If your aim is to get a good time, then having an official pacer to follow would be good.

The Ugly

  • It may be a flat course but it is difficult to get a personal best if you don’t start near the front because it’s so busy; in places the roads are not wide enough for the crowds and runners, and the water stations are a nightmare with cups all over the road.
  • No race finisher’s t-shirt.

 

How to get into the Berlin Marathon

The Berlin Marathon is very difficult to get into on the ballot which is why so many people enter via running travel companies like 209events.com. The other ways to do it are as a fast runner which affords you automatic entry, or enter the ballot as a team. It doesn’t mean that you have to run together, but it means that you ALL get in together if accepted.  We don’t know whether it improves your chances but Irene had tried three times separately without success. It was fourth time lucky for her and first time success for all of those she entered with who were all women. Worth a try!

The Berlin Marathon takes place on 16 September 2018. Registration is open until November 8th 2017. For entries visit https://www.bmw-berlin-marathon.com/en/

 

 

WIN free entry to Trick or Treat Run London

Fancy taking part in a spooky run where you can opt for a Trick or Treat finish? In conjunction with Human Race Events, we are offering two places for a winner and friend to take part. Read on for how to enter…

It’s the third year running for the Trick or Treat Run London, where thousands of runners will get the opportunity to run 2.5km or 5km in fancy dress  on a traffic-free route just ten minutes from London Waterloo at  Southwark Park.

Taking place on Saturday 28th October 2017  (choose the Afternoon Spooky Run or the Evening Scare Run in the dark) the course features several Halloween themed zones, along with a number of spooky surprises around the route, such as the skeleton grave yard and the wicked witches. Best of all, it features a unique dual finish, with runners having to choose their final path, which will result in either a trick or treat as they cross the line.

This year the Evening Scare Run will lead into the Trick or Treat party, hosted in the event village which will include a DJ and Halloween themed bar and everybody who takes part will receive a bespoke Trick or Treat Run medal, with fancy dress highly encouraged and head torches recommended for the Evening Scare Run.

It’s open to children as well as adults. For more information visit trickortreatrun.co.uk.

 

FANCY WINNING TWO ENTRIES? Click here to enter. The winner will be picked at random on Wednesday 18th October and notified via email.  

 

 

Race Review: The Maverick Inov-8 Original Kent 

Fancy taking part in a beautiful trail race in inspiring surroundings? Sarah Crosier gives us her lowdown on Maverick Kent, one of a series of trail run events held in spectacular locations around the UK…and the race refuel stops aren’t bad either…

 

Ever fancied running a trail run with your pet dog? Sarah Crosier In September last year, I adopted a Border Terrier puppy called Alfie. The kids thought he was coming to live with us for their entertainment, but I’d secretly been doing some extensive research on dogs with stamina to keep me company on trail runs. And so this September, I entered our first race together, the Maverick inov-8 Original Kent.

The race is set in a beautiful location in Groomsbridge, Tunbridge Wells, a moated manor house dating back to 1662 and home to the Bennet Family in Joe Wright’s film adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”. It was a damp Saturday in September and I hadn’t realised how wet the ground was until we arrived in the grassy, and muddy car park. We probably should have read the race instructions and worn trail shoes but after lots of friendly chatter with the other runners, we forgot our soggy feet and set off on the 14k race. This was a middle distance route, with a shorter 7km and a longer 21km to choose from.

There was a complete mixture of runners, some with their dogs, some attempting a personal best and others, like myself, just happy to take part. We started close to the back as Alfie was barking with excitement from being around all the other dogs. Because of the dogs, it meant that the race was a little slow to get started because we had to queue to climb over a few stiles but we kept ourselves amused by chatting to the people around us. Today was more about having fun and enjoying the views.

After the first 1k, the runners spread out and we could enjoy the beautiful Garden of England scenery, including pine forests, open heathland and Harrison’s Rock. The terrain was varied with an uneven woodland floor, some rolling hills and a few fallen trees to jump over. The whole route was well marshalled and signposted.

At about the 5k mark, we found a water and feeding station, where there were slices of banana, watermelon, orange segments, cola bottle sweets and cola drinks plus a water bowl for Alfie – amazing! After our impromptu picnic and natter with the marshals, we headed off again.

Some of the pathways were quite narrow and as we weren’t worried about time, we stepped aside to let the faster runners (who were running 21k) overtake us. But when we met another woman running on her own and struggling at the 6k mark, we gave her a honey energy gel and some encouragement. The route was very muddy in places and it wasn’t always easy to run without slipping/falling over (definitely should have worn trail shoes!) To make things a little harder, Alfie started to tire and refused to walk through the final muddy pathway so I had to carry him for a few metres! Thankfully, when we reached the final field  he was happy to sprint to the finish. A few minutes later, we cheered when the woman, we had met earlier, crossed the line.

Both Alfie and I received a medal each, which also doubled up as a beer bottle opener. And the goodie bag included some  Maverick homebrewed ale and a Tribe bar. Ice tea and coffee was also available. It was a fantastic, well marshalled race in beautiful surroundings with the best race refuel stations I’ve ever encountered.

Event in Brief

The Good

  • Incredible scenery
  • Water and a fab food station. Plus a nice coffee/cake stall at the start/finish
  • Inclusivity and atmosphere
  • Ale and beer opener/medal

The Bad

  • The bottleneck at the start of the race
  • The mud – don’t expect to get a PB

 

Race Bag Haul: Haul or Hoard

You don’t get given a race t-shirt, although I’m not bothered as I have a drawer full, which I never wear but some people may be disappointed. But the rest of the race items were great quality.

For more information

Maverick offer a big series if races around the UK and Girls Run the World are partnering with them to offer exclusive discounts to Girls Run the World runners. We will be announcing our Girls Run the World Race Get Together in the new few weeks. Prices start at £20 while children are free if under 16.  To find out more visit Maverick Races.