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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have a race review you’d like to share?

Nowadays, there are thousands of races from fun 5km to fiercely fast ones, and from glorious, awe-inspiring trail running races in the UK to nail-biting, challenging for life changing trail races in Iceland or India. Whatever the case, WE want to hear about them.

If you have participated in – or about to participate in a race and think it is one that could help to inspire other women to start training in order to take part themselves, please write to rachael@girlsruntheworld.co.uk, outlining the event and including the website link. This could be one that you’ve already done or one that you have lined up.

We are hoping that in sharing our event reviews as female runners, we’ll build up a fantastic inspiration database for other women, not too mention including the details that us women like to know.

If you’ve already had your race event suggestion approved, download our guide to writing it here.

We look forward to hearing about all your amazing, life affirming race experiences from the UK, Europe and worldwide!

Learn to Run Beginners, Weds 13th September, 7pm Hove Seafront

Smash Your PB course, Hove, starts Sept 6

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Whatever speed of runner you are, if you are a Parkrunner or run longer distance, even if you only think of yourself as a jogger not a runner, this course will help you learn new techniques, help you improve your speed and your confidence.

Every woman who has completed this course has gone on to beat their personal best in their chosen distance. If you’re ready to take the next step in your running and to add some variety to your running, this course is for you.

It doesn’t matter how fast you are compared to anyone else, it’s all about helping you to achieve your running potential.

For those who do have their sights on the Bright10 event, this course will be perfectly timed for this event.

It costs £48 for the six week course which is non-refundable/exchangeable. However, we are introducing a new monthly membership in September which will allow you unlimited access to our running and boot camp sessions although you will be required to commit to a minimum of two months. If interested, please get in touch.

GRTW Autumn-Winter Season 2017-18

Enjoy beautiful running locations, off-road and one, with our qualified running coaches during our Autumn-Winter series this year. Whatever your goal, to build your fitness, find new people to run with, get faster, run longer or train for an event, we’ll help you reach your goal.

There will be 17 runs in the series (click the link below to download locations and mileage per week) which will focus on building endurance and running fitness.

The Autumn Series will focus on building strength and stamina for the Mince Pie 10 mile trail race, December 10th as well as building your base fitness for half marathons.

The Winter Series, starting 26th November (from this date there will be two distances on offer per run) will get you ready for the Brighton Half Marathon. Of course, there are lots of fantastic off-road and road races along the way that our training will get you prepared for – the Eastbourne Half Marathon, Tunbridge Wells Half Marathon, Downland Devil, Moleyman and many more.

No one gets left behind, and the faster runners don’t stand still. This is our ninth season of helping women to build endurance so we know how to keep you motivated, moving and getting stronger on each run.

Our season pass works out at just £4 per run, so you can enjoy the best of both worlds – running with us for your training, as well as taking part in races and events with the women you meet on our runs.

There are various payment options:

  • Autumn-Winter Series runs September 10th – February 18th – £68 (£4 per run)
  • Autumn Series runs September 10th – December 10th – £45 (£5 per run)
  • Winter Series runs November 26th – February 18th – £50 (£5)
  • OR drop in single sessions, £10

 

We will not have sessions on some dates and hope that you will instead join us for a GRTW meet up at these events. These include:

October 8th Rise UK 8km

October 15th, Bright10

November 19th, Brighton 10km

December 10th, Mince Pie 10 miles

December 24/31st – Christmas

 

GIRLS RUN THE WORLD AUTUMN – WINTER SUNDAY TRAINING INFORMATION 

Run for the Hills, Brighton course

It’s just a hill. And we’re going to get over it together…

Build strength so that the uphill feels just as easy as the down

Our hill training course for women in Brighton and Hove starts July 5th and is aimed at helping you to build strength, stamina and confidence to take on hills, both up and down. As long as you can run 5km or have completed one of our courses, THIS course is suitable.

Every week is different, some game-based sessions, some including strength and conditioning and some straight intervals. You’ll learn techniques to help you get up the hill and down easier, as well as build your confidence.

Dates are:

July 5th, no training the following week, July 19th, July 26th, August 2nd, August 9th and August 16. Book and pay online £48 for the course. Can’t make all of them? As long as you can attend a minimum of 3 you can attend at  drop in rate. Email info@girlsruntheworld.co.uk for more details.

Where we meet: We will meet at the corner of The Droveway as it intersects with Goldstone Crescent at 7pm promptly although not every session will remain here so be on time!

Event Review: Endure24 and five of the best relay running races

Fancy doing a team relay? Here’s  our review of the recent  Endure 24  relay race, along with a look at some of the other unusual relay races on offer around the UK, including a running cake-athon!

Tents, tick. Rugs to lie on, tick. Sugary sweets, tick. Coffee, tick. Drugs*, tick. This may seem like the list of someone about to go to a music festival. But running relay races are now taking the place of festivals for some former ravers turned runners, plus a whole new generation of runners who are as interested in the experience of running and community as they are pace or placing.

Endure24 is even coined the Glastonbury of Runners and involves running as many (almost) five mile loops through the countryside in Wasing Park, just outside of Reading as possible. The first lap of the day at noon on Saturday started in hot, windy conditions making the leafy, woody run a welcome respite. But make no mistake, the route is not an easy one with a hill greeting you as soon as you go through the first gantry. What goes up, must come down so you are rewarded with some downhills before more uphills and a wiggle through wooded, single track.

This event attracts all kinds of runners, from expert ultra distance runners to solo runners who walk the laps, and from big teams of ten, comprised of running clubs out for a social with some running included, to professional sponsored teams aiming to beat the course record. One thing that unites everyone is a love of running and the desire to support each other.

The atmosphere created by everyone at the event is fantastic, from the marshals who line the route, to the runners and walkers themselves who cheer the fast runners and lend a helping hand to anyone who looks like they need their spirits – or their legs – bolstered.

Finding the motivation to run the same lap, over and over again though is difficult, unless you’re competing for number of laps or to experience the special kind of transcendental meditative state that some runners report. Which is why the best part of this event is really when darkness falls. It not only becomes more magical –  helped by women dressed up as fairies in the woods and music from the VDub bar making it seem like you’ve stumbled upon a rave , but because it makes the route appear different.

If you want to enjoy a running event with a team – not to mention warm, clean showers, then Endure24 is a great one to try. There’s none of the transport issues involved that you experience with relays that have a linear route, and there is water and race nutrition available.  Shame the beer tent doesn’t stay until Sunday though, just at the moment when you can drink, it’s gone!

(*And by the way, we’re talking Ibruprofen).

What our runners said:

Cara

High point:  ‘The camaraderie and running around at 5am when the birds were all waking up and the light was just changing, it was magical.’

Low point:  ‘Losing a member of our team to illness, which meant having to run more laps!’

 

Helen

High Point: ‘Crossing the finish line with my team mates on the last lap.’

Low Point: ‘Going on a tired and lonely hunt for the showers at 2.30am after a very wet and dark lap.’

Anna

High point:  ‘Running as fast as I could over the painted tree roots at midnight, lit up by fairy lights and the glow from my head torch.’

Low point:  ‘My first lap, hot, hilly and hard – and worrying about pace, letting my team down,  and how many more laps I’d have to do!’
Caroline
High points: ‘Camping with like-minded women, the readily available and reasonably priced massages, and great showers.’
Low points : ‘Only unhealthy food available (Ed: we agree!),  only one water point on the route and the loop got a bit tedious – why not open up a second lap later in the day?’

Five of the most unique relay races

 

Cake-a-thon

Run as many of the 4.37 mile laps as possible in eight hours and be rewarded at the end of each lap with some homemade cake! Organisers estimate that each lap burns 500 calories. And it comes with a fantastic race medal!

For more details http://www.saxon-shore.com/cakeathon/

 

 

 

Cotswold 24 hour Race

Another 24 hour individual or team relay race held in the beautiful Bathurst Estate, just outside the town of Cirencester in the heart of the Cotswolds. An off-road 9km mixed course The race is run over an off-road 9km mixed course including forest trails and open tarmac paths. And what attracts our attention – healthy food stalls. Here’s hoping as Endure24 definitely was a let down on this score.

For more details: http://www.100milerun.com/cotswold-24-hour-race/

Ragnar Relay

This event comes fresh from the US where it is so popular, many runners travel around the US to take part in as many of the relays that are put on around the country. You can understand why as this event offers the opportunity of ‘travel’ and to explore as you run. This one overs approximately 170 miles and will see runners start at Maidstone and finish in Brighton (it’s been put on by the organisers of the Brighton marathon).  An event like this requires a very organised team captain – plus the finances to cover the cost of hiring two vans if entering a team of ten, on top of the £1000 entry fee. It sounds great fun though.

For more details visit: https://www.runragnar.uk/

The Green Belt Relay Race

Explore 220 miles of the Green Belt around London on this 22-stage running relay race which starts in Hampton Court, 8.30am on Saturday and ends in Ham at 6pm on Sunday. It’s been running since 1995, put on by local running club, The Stragglers. So don’t expect bangs, whistles and overflowing goodie bags. This is about the purity of running and exploring. 11 runners per team, one stage per day for every runner. Unlike some other relay races though, this is open to all levels with prizes for both the fastest team to finish and the slower. With a barbecue at the end, this sounds like a challenging, but friendly way to spend a May weekend. Just make sure you recce your leg first.

For more details visit: http://www.greenbeltrelay.org.uk/

Cotswold Way Relay Race

Now in it’s 25th year, this event is operated as 10 back to back races, starting each stage with a mass start at the expected arrival time of the 1st runner from the previous stage, as opposed to other relays where the next runner on your team starts only when their other team mate has completed their leg.

Running from Chipping Campden in the early morning, through to the arrival at Bath Abbey in the early evening, you follow the way-marked route of the Cotswold Way over 90% off-road, taking in hills, woodlands, fields and tracks, all offering spectacular views of the countryside around…if you have time to look up! Each leg varies in length and ascent with no marshals, making the route finding just as much part of the race as the running itself.

For more details visit http://www.cotswoldwayrelay.co.uk/

 

Welsh Castles Relay Race

If you’re going to run a relay race, then it’s important to do it in spectacular surroundings we think. That’s why this Welsh version appeals, offering two day,  20 stage event covering 211 miles, mostly on road, but with hills and mountains to overcome as you travel from Caernarfon to Cardiff, with an overnight stay in Newtown.  And it’s in June, so hopefully, not the weather typically associated with Wales! There are six mountain stages,  with three team mountain stage prizes so this is a race that suits – or requires some hill training. Get your entry in early, only 66 teams accepted and it is always over subscribed.

For more details visit http://www.lescroupiersrunningclub.org.uk/welsh-castles-relay-2016/

 

 

 

 

Event Review: The Weakest Link, Brighton

Although some people might be put off by the name of this event, it is one of the most inclusive and fun running events in Brighton. Great for building team morale and suitable for all levels of runners from total beginners to the super speedy. Here one of our runners, Sarah Crosier gives us her lowdown on the event

What is it: A relay race comprising of four team members. Each member takes it in turn to run 2.5km and then the entire team must run a final 2.5km together, ensuring that the whole team finishes together.

The Route: it is only 2.5km but with some short hills – don’t let that put you off though. It’s great fun and everyone is running different speeds so you never get left feeling like your the slowest runner.

The Weakest Link in June 2015, was the first event that I ever took part in with Girls Run the World. More a “team event” than a “race”, there were a few super speedy runners from athletic clubs ‘in it to win it,’ but my aim was ‘in it to finish it”. On entering, I’d done a few sessions of the GRTW hill training, Run for the Hills course but didn’t know anyone and was really new to running but GRTW organised all the teams and I found myself as part of a team a few other runners.

Before the day, we agreed that Karen would run the fourth lap as she was our strongest runner. It meant that she would have to run her 2.5km and then carry on running with the team without a break to finish. I’m always nervous on race days, and so I asked to go 2nd to get it out of the way. It also meant that I’d have someone to follow so I wouldn’t go the wrong way like one of our runners ended up doing!

There was a fantastic atmosphere with about 20 GRTW and runners from all the local running clubs – while there was racing it was also great for meeting people as there was lots of standing around cheering others while waiting for your chance to run. Plus, the distance is achievable and it was so informal and relaxed. Some people were even walking up the hills – not me, of course!

Our team was close to being last (or maybe we were?) but it really didn’t matter. We ran the final lap together and received a massive cheer from everyone as we crossed the finish line. I can’t wait to take part again this year. It’s great fun.