Berlin Half Marathon 2012

Sunday was race day and having barely slept the night before, my nerves were shot. Luckily I had pro racer Rhalou on hand to put me in my place, and pour coffee down my neck. This was accompanied by a giant bowl of porridge - a definite pre race essential.
Rather than my usual lackadaisical approach to running, I'd decided today was the day I was going to brave numbers and embrace running more methodically, so I put on my sub 2 pace band and Nike GPS watch and had a quick lesson with Rhalou about how to work it. (Essentially, you press Start)

Then we hopped on the metro and headed to Alexanderplatz, the starting point. The sun was out and the air was crisp, making it perfect running conditions :-)
The Nike running club meeting point was conveniently located in a bar right by the start line, so 150 of us queued for loos, changed our tees, tied our trainer laces 4 times, counted carb gels and did all the other weird things you find yourself compelled to do before a race. 

The energy was palpable and the sense of healthy competition between the teams was high. 
After a pre race pep talk from top boss Charlie Dark we headed out to the start line. Rhalou and I were in the sub 2 hour pen, and from here we shuffled slowly towards the start line.
Pre race face, but still time for a (semi) smile
We stepped over the start line, heard the trainer chips bleep in recognition and headed off. The first few miles are always hard, whilst your body gets used to the exertion and you find your pace. During this time I was watching for the mile markers - and that's when I realised that because we're in Europe, they're kilometer instead! At that point I also realised that I didn't know how many kilometers I needed to run, which makes pacing yourself a lot harder... So I retreated to my default plan of RUN LIKE 'ELLE!

The course was flat with lots of straights, allowing you to find your stride and stick to it. The pace was fast - no fun runners here, so I found myself keeping a faster pace than I usually would.

So the kilometers passed and we ran through the Brandemburg Gate. It was spectacular and I wish I could show you a photo, but alas. Then as the kilometers got further I stopped caring about the scenery and started to struggle.

I slowed down to stop at a water station and my knees gave in - a problem I've been having recently. It was so painful, and I hobbled for a little while as running hurt too much.  So it was time for a metal pick-me-up, I hadn't come all the way to Berlin to quit, so I picked up my pace again and actually the pain subsided as I re-found my pace.

Thats said, I definitely hadn't trained enough/at all, and running was so much harder than it had been. The kilometers ticked past more slowly now, so I 'unleashed the fury' (just ask Rhalou) and turned up the Morgan Zarate Marathon Mix I stepped faster and finally reached Checkpoint Charlie.

The sun was shining and I was thirsty now. When I eventually reached a water station they were handing out BEER as well as water! It was so surreal. Who would want a beer when you're running?! German people I guess, as it seemed a popular choice.

By now it was hard and I felt like the finish line was a mirage that kept appearing before me. The crowd got wider, so I figured we were getting closer. (Note how it was all done by guess work, I hadn't even checked the route map. IDIOT)

Through my bitter thoughts and mentally willing the race to end, I managed to recognise one advantage to running abroad - the fact that there's no-one there to watch you! Although the support from the people you love is the most precious thing when you're struggling round a run, I swear I consumed so much energy looking out for friends and family on the London Marathon route that sometimes it's refreshing to just get your earplugs in, your head down and concentrate.

So that's what I did and I turned up the Nike x NTS radio podcast even louder, but could hear the crowd cheering in the background, and it helped.

I passed Run Dem members and Bridge Runners, Nike Paris Running Club members and others I recognised and eventually I made it on to the home stretch, but because I didn't know the distance we had to run, I didn't realise that this was my time to sprint. So after an ambiguous finish line, which turned out to be an advertising banner (fooling everyone) I eventually made it round the corner and over the real line. At which point I was overcome with nausea, moved to the side, burst in to tears and collapsed on the floor!

A nice German onlooker offered me his beer (I declined) and wrapped in a fetching plastic blanket, I hobbled back to the bar to meet the others. Oh yeah - with my medal round my neck!

I finished in 1:53 - taking 5 minutes off my previous time and I was HAPPY!

That time I really did run like 'elle, but I'm not doing another race without training again. Lesson learned.