Thursday, September 30, 2010

Berlin marathon race report

9am Sunday 26 September 2010

Weather conditions: 10 degrees Celsius, rain

Goal time: 2:39:42 (3:47 min/km)

Here is a link to my garmin report

When the starting gun went off, 41,000 runners leapt into action on Strasse des 17 Juni in Berlin. I was glad to get started, because it was cold and raining, and also because I was keen to get a sense for what my target pace would feel like. I was in Block A starting area, which was for 2:20-2:40 runners. I was surrounded by skinny fit-looking freaks. Though somehow there were at least 500 runners in front of me at the start, many of them running slower than 2:40 pace right from the gun. I stuck to my pace for the first kilometre, weaving my way up through the slower runners until I was moving the same pace as everyone around me. This wasn’t too difficult, because the road is six lanes wide.

Garmin tells me (with the familiar ‘bleep’) that I’ve hit the 1km mark in 3:45, pretty much bang on target. It felt like I was jogging frustratingly slow – this is precisely how it SHOULD feel because your body is charged with adrenaline, and you are running at a pace that you can sustain for almost 3 hours.

As I churned out the miles, my stopwatch kept informing me that I was running just on target pace, and things felt very comfortable.

The course was flat and is known for being fast. But the rain got heavier as the race went on. Rain doesn’t bother me generally, but wet ground conditions/puddles and the extra weight of wet shoes and clothing is not helpful when you’re running for a fast time. Runners were trying to avoid deep puddles and run on higher parts of the road where there was less surface water (see photo of Kenyans battling the puddles below). For this reason, there was more lateral movement on the road than normal. Surface water means that you could feel the lack of traction under your feet, and at times you would be showered with water when the person next to you landed in a deep puddle. Overall though, the course still felt fast, and you could work away at a steady pace because it is flat.

Under strict instructions from coach, I obediently ran the first half marathon in 80:07. My heart rate was much lower at the half marathon mark than it had been in previous marathons, and I literally felt like I was out for a jog. But marathon’s are strange beasts, and it’s common knowledge that the race doesn’t start until the 30km mark. I cautiously stuck to my pace. I worked with a group of lads from Denmark and France, as well as a Scottish guy until the 30km mark. They had passed me at half way, but I went with them because they looked strong and seemed to be moving at a good pace for me.

At about the 30km mark, the group broke up and I found myself with the leading guy from Denmark (he was wearing a red Denmark singlet). At this point, I felt that these lads were starting to drop the pace, which surprised me because they had been a strong unit. So I pushed on, and started targeting runners ahead of me.

It would have been nice to run with someone else at this point, but nobody came with me and nobody whom I passed stuck on my tail. This is the downside of running a negative split – most people don’t run even or negative splits, so you’re likely to end up running on your own in the last few kilometres. The good thing is that you get a positive boost out of passing loads of people.

I felt right on top of things at 35km, but suddenly I started to feel my hamstrings tighten up, to the point where I thought they might cramp up entirely. Images of Craig Barrett entered my head – this could be a disaster! So I eased off a bit, and by 36km the tightness seemed to have eased off slightly and I decided to start pushing. When I passed the 37.2km mark (estimated based on 37km mark plus 200m), I realised that I had to run the last 5k in 18:50 to break the 2:40 goal (essentially I just had to continue at the same pace). I was exactly on target, but unless I could increase the pace it would be down to the second - that was an uncomfortable thought. So I pushed a bit harder, whilst still paranoid about the tight hamstring which had the potential to foil my race.

At the 39km mark - I was so close now that I knew I could put the hammer down safely. At this stage I had passed a couple of hundred people (estimate) since the 30km mark, and there were no longer many runners around. Those who were around, were moving quite slowly and I was pulling them back. I was now moving at close to 3:30 min/km pace. Adrenaline was pumping again as I knew how close I was. The course wound through the streets of Berlin Mitte, with large impressive buildings bordering the streets on either side.

Then the course turned onto Unter Den Linden at the 41km mark, and the Brandenburg Gate appeared 600m ahead of me. I went for it like a bull from a gate. I knew I was close to hitting target time (probably under), but I hadn’t been checking my splits, so I wasn’t sure. One thing I did know was that no ‘WALL’ could stop me now. I was still increasing the pace, and felt strong. All that mattered was getting to the finish line as quickly as I could.

I was momentarily wowed by the Brandenburg gates. It was all quite overwhelming. Then I caught a glimpse through the gates of a large elevated sign 400m beyond the gates that read ‘Ziel’ (German for ‘finish’). All of a sudden, I forgot about the impressive gates and my focus turned entirely to the finish. I didn’t even notice the gates as I went under them, because I was busy running and trying to read the clock above the Ziel sign to see how much time I had left to hit my target.

My hysterical happiness and satisfaction was manifested at the finish line in a wry smile. Nothing needed to be said (for a few moments). Months of aching legs, long painful runs, desperately chasing club mates around Bushy Park, hobbling around the office, had paid off with the ultimate dividend. Target achieved - 2:39:27.

Reid, Jason (NZL)
Platz / Overall: 142
Platz / Overall: 37 (in Altersklasse)
Nettozeit / chiptotal: 02:39:27

Bruttozeit / clocktotal: 02:39:45
Halb 1 / First half: 01:20:07
Halb 2 / Second half: 01:19:21
Zeit pro km / Time per km: 03:46
Geschwindigkeit / Speed: 15.88 km/h

5 km: 00:18:59
10 km: 00:37:44
15 km: 00:56:47
20 km: 01:15:57
25 km: 01:34:56
30 km: 01:53:57
35 km: 02:12:53
40 km: 02:31:31


Knowlsie said...

Mate, quality report, great to see your thoughts in writing. Love this "At the 39km mark - I was so close now that I knew I could put the hammer down safely" That's the shit I'm talking about. Bring on London! Cheers Knowlsie

Gavin said...

Mate they are some seriously quick times, loved the report and the subsequent photo of you and a big Mac!