I ran Berlin twice before. They were two extremes. I made my debut in Berlin and ran well then, so I was well prepared. The last time was two years ago. That day was dramatic. After that race I walked around very disappointed for two weeks. What would it be this year?
Wednesday, August 30, 2017. It is still about three and a half weeks until the day of the marathon. I am far from happy with the preparation until then. Only a week above 70 kilometers, two endurance runs of any significance and a little cycling. The week before I was sick almost all week. I decide to run from Maarssen to Amsterdam in the evening. Take your OV chip card with you just to be sure and go. It doesn't go well at all. Arriving at Breukelen I doubt but continue. After another 300 meters I realize that this is not going to work out. Disillusioned, I walk to the station and get something to eat at Ed Kroket. I can't see it anymore. I wonder if I would still run Berlin.
Sunday, September 17, 2017. It's two and a half weeks after that Wednesday where I was full of doubts and almost wanted to give up. I drew up an emergency plan. I ran 111 kilometers for a week to test my fitness. That went so well that I suddenly burst with self-confidence. This Sunday I'm running the Damloop and the plan is simple, the first 13 kilometers at a kind of marathon pace (I have no idea what my race plan will be yet) and then the last 3.1 kilometers full send! That goes pretty easy so I'm starting to believe in my own abilities again!
The Last Week
It's less than a week until Berlin and I'm starting to suffer more and more from an inflammation in a muscle. Walking especially hurts and I can't run with it either. Every now and then I get shooting pains that hurt all over the body. I'm trying to deal with it but the start is getting closer. Thursday is very gloomy. I make an appointment with an acupuncturist, maybe he can help. Thursday evening at about 10 o'clock in the evening I walk down the street and it is suddenly gone. I can hardly believe it at first but it's true! Exactly on time! The last serious setback has also been overcome! Body has had to work hard but I can start anyway!
It's finally here! The day of truth. Saturday I was quite nervous but today is not too bad. I handed over two bottles of Maurten to the truck so that the organization will put them down at the 20 and 30 kilometer mark. Maurten is a new way of energy supply. What distinguishes it from traditional gels is that it only becomes a gel in your stomach, so that you have no or much less problems with your stomach / intestines. I trained with it, I know it helps me and that's why I'm very happy that you can drop off bottles in Berlin for along the route. Time is ticking away and before I know it it's time to get myself ready for the start!
The plan was to start with three Black Roses: Carly, Jeggi & Trenton. In principle I would start with Carly because she wants well under three and I want that too. Only I don't see her so unfortunately that plan goes wrong. Jeggi I see. He is alone on the other side and there is a fence in between. We salute each other and he points to the road and I nod. We will try to find each other during the race. It's only a few minutes until the start and I want to shut myself off from everything. I crouch down and I try to find some peace before the violence erupts. Plus I realize there's no race plan. I have no pace in mind. I may stand here with enough confidence but I have no idea what I can do. I want to run SUB3 anyway. I don't have much time to think about what started the countdown!
There is still no real plan. I feel my legs are heavy. I just don't know what to do. I'm not getting into my rhythm at all. The first kilometer I start nicely at 4″08 but then I suddenly go to 4″21 and then down again. Jojoing takes a lot of energy and is a waste. The first five kilometers are messy and therefore I start slow. After the five kilometer point I get into my rhythm and the party starts. There is still no plan in terms of pace. I walk by feel. I have set my TomTom to running time so that I can calculate at what pace I actually run. The kilometers on my watch and on the road are not the same.
I run wonderfully. The miles fly by and every time I calculate the average pace it drops. When kilometers pass by under 4″00 I ask myself if I shouldn't slow down. This doubt was short-lived because I realized this pace felt right. In addition, the Maurten works fantastic. I take a few sips every five kilometers and after that it almost feels like you're getting new legs!
Where is this leading to?
Now I try to temper my own expectations. I have already said to myself a few times: “What if I could continue, it is going so well”. Every time I thought “yes, we're not even half way yet” but then it's still going well halfway. I now tell myself the bad marathon of 2015, where it also went very well until half way. Now I'm at 25 and it keeps going well, I'm even still increasing my average speed. It's still fine at 30. It's going so much better than in the 30K workouts I did in the last 2 weeks before taper weeks. Towards the 35 it all gets a bit heavier but I don't break, far from it. My 4% shoes and the Maurten help me very well today, but now I'm starting to notice the lesser preparation. I don't waste too much time though.
The final 7
The Cheerzone is 36.5 kilometers away. Always good for the boost that you can always use the last piece! As always, I'm flying through the cheer zone! Halfway through the cheer zone, I still think this speeding up is really that smart… The last 5 kilometers is just keep going. The decay remains within limits. After 40 things get really tough. It really hurts right now. Kilometer 40 is therefore a dramatic one, I manage to recover reasonably well afterwards and then there is the Brandenburger Tor! You know you're almost there. You also know that if you are under that it is still quite a stretch to the finish. I still think maybe I can still get into the 2.54. I accelerate briefly but then see how far it is and I find peace in the fact that I will finish in 2.55! My PR improves by two minutes!
When I cross the finish line, I'm happy. I clench a fist of satisfaction. I then walk towards my bag and see about five Black Roses and we discuss the race. Everyone has run a PR and no small PRs either. The girl I was going to start with (Carly) is also there. She ran 2.49 (!!). I congratulate and have lived ever since with the thought of what would have happened if I had found her during the start. In terms of pace, I was close after the moderate start. We'll never know 😉