Berlin 25k or The One Where The Weather Made Me It’s B*tch

I spent last weekend in Berlin, and it was definitely an interesting time (if you define interesting as ‘oh god, oh god, I’m going to die’).

Berlin is an odd city, a mixture of old, war-damaged, 60s and modern buildings. The city is definitely in a transition phase with lots of building work going on – there were construction cranes in every direction and seemingly random industrial tubes looping over roads. But despite this, the city is beautiful from the people (who were all lovely, even when I inflicted my poor attempts of German on them), the places (some of the landmarks and museums are beautiful), the awesome graffiti art and the general vibe. I’m already planning on heading back to see more of Berlin, as I only scratched the surface and would love to see more, especially to check out the nightlife. I also found out on the last day that there’s a hostel call the ‘Heart Of Gold’ with a mural of the Whale turning into a pot plant and ‘Don’t Panic’ towels, I’d come back just to stay there.

I’d highly recommend that if you visit to take a walking tour, I did one by Brewers and it was great to get a feel for the city and it’s history (and how it and the country is dealing with the past).

On to race day…let me get this out of the way, oh-dear-god it was hot. With not a cloud in the sky the sun was full-on, making the day a very toasty bright 19oC – peew!

The race started at the amazing Olympiastadion. Unlike every other event I’ve been too, which were full of people in charity or novelty running vests, the Berlin 25k crowd looked like mostly running clubs..which didn’t make me feel out of my depth..much. Even when getting ready at the stadium I could feel the heat affecting me, despite trying to hydrate the day before and having (what I thought was) plenty to drink at the apartment before heading to the stadium, I was parched. I intended on grabbing a bottle of water at the start to take with me round the course, but sadly the water was served in plastic cups – bugger. After gulping down a cup of water I headed to the start line to find the pacer. The plan was to stick with the 2:17 (1:55 half marathon pace) pacer until midway and then decide to pull away or not and to mentality treat the event as a Half Marathon with a little extra on the end for luck.

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Needless to say as soon as we started all plans when to hell. As soon as I started moving I boiled and became badly dehydrated very quickly. The 2:17 pacer was long gone and the event became hard 5ks to each water station which made the route drag. As soon as I had some water I was able to pick up the pace by it didn’t last long, this got frustrating was I knew I had the power in my legs, but I just wasn’t able to function enough move them.

The route itself was flat and (mostly) straight, annoying this meant that there was little shade and the sun was on me the whole way. Running through Tiergarten (an urban park larger than Hyde Park in central Berlin), past the Victory Column and running towards the Brandenburg Gate was fantastic (even though I was on the constant hunt of more water). Just before the end of Tiergarten the Half Marathon runners turned off to head back, leaving only the 25km runners to be able to run through the Brandenburg Gate – considering the gate is such a Berlin landmark and could be seen for several km before reaching it, I felt sorry for the HMers missing it out.

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After the Gate the route curled back towards the stadium, passing along a road full of Embassies before rejoining the rest of the runners on HM route. The route finished with a run inside the stadium via the athlete tunnel which was very cool, but a little mean – the only way out of the stadium was up several flights of stairs, it was worth it though – plenty of water (thank you!), fruit (om nom nom!) and free beer (get in!!) was on offer.

Overall the event was great, it well organised and the route was nice (even if the last half was a little dull compared to the first). However there wasn’t much support around the route, it was almost as if the organisers forgot to tell Berliners that the event was happening, and the water stations were a mess – the volunteers clearly overwhelmed by the wall of thirsty runners struggled to keep up with demand.

My final time was 2:30:39 (half marathon time – 2:05:29) which I’m more than a little gutted about. The event has taught me to be better prepared, and not the expect the event to provide things like water bottles – if I had water with me I’d like to think I would have been much closer to the 2:15 I was hoping for, also it has taught me how unprepared I am for hot weather. More training runs in the sun is needed.

I’m definitely going to come back to Berlin, but I’m not sure if it would be for the Berlin 25k again…I’m already eyeing up the Berlin Marathon.

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Mad May Cometh

May is going to be a mad month for me, I’m doing 3 events in aid of Save The Children. I’ve got a horrible habit where I’m game for a challenge and tend to jump in feet first without thinking things through. Next month is a perfect example, 3 big challenges in one month, I’m doing:

  • A 25k (15 mile) run around Berlin, It’ll be my first time in Germany and I’m really excited to be exploring Berlin. I’ve not ran more than 21k (half marathon) before, so 25km is going to be interesting (I need to learn the german for ‘Which way to the hospital?’, just in case)
  • The weekend after Berlin I’m doing Rat Race’s Dirty Weekend. Dirty Weekend is an attempt to create the world’s largest assault course, it’s 20 miles long with 200 obstacles – including the world’s largest monkey bars (210m long), world’s largest cargo net crawl and many other pain-inducing obstacles. Their website has loads of youtube videos of some of the challenges ahead, each one makes me weep a little. It’s been billed as the equivalent of 2 Tough Mudders back to back. I feel wholly unprepared, I lack any form of upper body strength (serves me right for not training).  In the words of one of my very supportive ‘friends’ “You’re going to die a wet and muddy death out there Mart” – eek!
  • At the end of the month (providing I survive the Dirty Weekend) I’ll be running the Bupa 10k. Last year’s Bupa 10k was my first ever serious running event, It’s going to be fantastic to tackle it again this year – hopefully it won’t be as hot as 2012’s

I’ll of course blog about my progress and bruises – Just so you lot can laugh at my expense. If you want to help soften the pain and make it all seem worthwhile, please sponsor me at http://virginmoneygiving.com/martynthomassci