Sunday, 20 September 2009

Berlin start line

Berlin started with bright blue skies, I nervously observed over crumpet, honey and tea. Ideal marathon weather would be a pale blue sky. I’d hung up my clothes the night before, right down to pants and headband and ipod, my hands shook a little and I missed a leghole putting on my leggings.

The stations were littered with marathon runners, peeping from behind columns, on the edge of seats, in big friendly groups. Rustling Real shopping bags. Draped in odd bits of plastic and fancy dress. I listened to the call to prayer outside the Reichstag before saying goodbye, staring blankly at primary colored maps on where to store bags, use the toilet and start. I found none of these successfully, walked for ages before stowing a bag, got stuck in a scrum for the start, used my foreign naivete to walk through a restricted part of the park and peed in open ground, an act which many women followed in gratitude that someone had started the women’s informal toilets. It’s a funny and primal thing, that something you would never normally becomes acceptable and is linked with a camaraderie; we’re bearing our butts in fear, adrenalin and way too much water.

It’s quite lonely on the start line alone.

Haile leads the start, yellow balloons fill the sky. It’s warm and only 9am. I start well. Too well. And then, running past Siegessäule column I realise that my nike chip is talking to me in miles and I have trained and calculated everything in kilometres. Instead of resetting the nike calmnly, I panic and make phone calls to get everything converted. It seems like such a small thing but it ends up being my undoing, because I wasn't experienced enough to know my pace. See how everything can change on race day.

Anyway I felt very good at the beginning - brilliant in fact. There were lots of photos of me smiling and I got to see the SRO, and friends Kati, Nora and John quite regularly. But what I knew then about running is not anything like what I know now. And I didn't think much of having a curry a couple of nights before and mashed potato the night before. I didn't have a Paula moment, far from it. But I simply didn't have enough fuel. (I've since learned that carb loading four days before is usual). At 35km, I lost my mind and really didn't know where I was. On instruction, I followed little blue lines marked on the road and put one foot in front of the other. Around me, as the temperature continued to rise, people begin to fall. Earlier, I had called out to to an English girl I could see with glazed eyes but she fell and couldn't rise. Now I had the same glazed eyes. I had run past people covered in foil as they lay prostrate on the ground. Towards 40km I had started to cry and couldn't bear to look at my friends. I was thinking of the reasons I was running - of all the people who had died or suffered or lost someone from cancer. And you know what, it didn't mean shit, it didn't take the pain or give me a sense of anything. I cried my way to the the Brandenburg Gates and swore like an Australian truck driver as I legged those extra yards to the finish.

I tried to raise my arms as I crossed the finish line but they got stuck on my head. I burst into tears, called the SRO, left a voicemail and lay outside the first aid, where they had run out of ice, and cool packs and sat in a daze.

Berlin Marathon in numbers:

  • Startnummer / Start Number F2892
  • Bewerb / Competition Marathon
  • Nation / Nation AUS
  • ranking ... Rang / Rank 33042
  • Klassenrang / Class Rank (W30) 921
  • Timing ... Nettozeit / Chip Total 5:24:48
  • Geschwindigkeit / Speed 7.8 km/h
  • 7:42 min/km
  • Brutto / Gross 5:43:49
  • Halbmarathon 1 / Half Time 1 2:42:35
  • Halbmarathon 2 / Half Time 2 2:42:13,
  • km 5 0:36:48
  • km 10 1:15:37
  • km 15 1:54:01
  • km 20 2:33:47
  • km 25 3:12:13
  • km 30 3:50:45
  • km 35 4:31:08
  • km 40 5:09:36