I deferred my Berlin Marathon place from 2021, when I had two torn adductors holding me back. I made it to the start line in 2022 almost in one piece. Coming off two consecutive marathon Personal Bests earlier in the year, I had no real expectations for this one. Although, we all want to run our best on the day.
I arrived in Berlin, with my travelling companions, in the early morning the day before the race. In hindsight, we should have travelled at least a day earlier, just to take some of the pressure off. The organisers of the run arranged for all participants to get free passes for public transport for the weekend, which was an excellent bonus. It must be said that the public transport in Berlin is second to none, reliable and easy to navigate.
We had no issues travelling to our Airbnb which was less than 1k from the Brandenburg Gate. This was a terrific location for anyone taking part. We dropped our bags and then it was back on the underground to the old airport, where the expo was being held. This was a little disorganised and felt like it wasn’t well thought out. We waited along with a great mass of people in order to get our wristband which would gain us entry. Once through that horde of bodies, it was into the main building where we were once again herded like sheep to the counters where the bibs were printed off and distributed. Again, this felt unorganised. There were no barriers or coherent lines being formed.
It took ages, however, once that was all taken care of and we got our bibs and bags I found the expo quite large and there was a great buzz. After browsing and chatting to different vendors it was back on the tube to go to the apartment. The look and feel of Berlin wasn’t inspiring me with any sense of awe up to this point, but this would change.
I met up with some friends from the States and we had the perfect pre-race meal at a lovely Italian restaurant just beside the Brandenburg Gate. The city was buzzing at this time because this near the finish of the in-line skating marathon currently taking place. What an amazing event and one I’d never witnessed before. The skaters were flying by at great speeds.
The Trip That Broke My Back
I had a decent training block for the Berlin Marathon, up until mid-August when I visited the U.S. While in the States, we planned a family road-trip. This consisted of a 1.000-mile drive from Boston to South Carolina. We spent a few days there and then took some additional sightseeing stops on the way back. On that one-week road trip we covered 2,500 miles in a 12-passenger van.
On the conclusion of that trip, I noticed my back was stiff and my legs were quite heavy when going out on my training runs. Add to that the flight back to Dublin. This trip really did a number on me. My wife, Roisin, is a talented, and busy, sports massage therapist. She was able to do her best to release some of the pressure points. During that first week back, I can’t say I was overly optimistic about Berlin. Things started to loosen up with about two-weeks to go before the start. Loose enough that I felt OK on my medium-long runs. Between the travelling and the soreness, I missed quite a few long runs which left me unsure about where I was.
Thus, on the start line in Berlin I felt it could go either way, a rousing success or a painful demise. I was going hell-for-leather one way or the other.
My roommates and I headed for the start line, near to the Reichstag, which is impressive to say the least. The Athlete’s Village was set up on the lawns, out front. Along with 45,000 other runners we did what we needed to do and headed for our appropriate coral. This was another pain point as it took about 25 minutes to finally get into the right pen due to the huge mass of people. We were all funnelled into a small path, everyone trying to get through small gaps in the barriers. Eventually, people started jumping the barriers to get in.
Berlin Marathon 2022 Starts
I found a place in my starting pen about 10 minutes before the gun went off and had a great view of the screens as they introduced the elites, as I was only about 30m from them, lucky enough to be starting at the front of Group B. The experience from then on was amazing. There were no issues with trying to find space, the roads were quite wide and the surface quite smooth. The landmarks were incredible starting with the spectacular Victory Column within the first mile. What can I say about the support on the streets? It was mind-blowing. There was music around every corner and so many spectators making the city shake.
Unlike the course in Kildare, this one is flat, as advertised. The occasional very-slight uphill over a bridge never felt like a climb, however, there always seemed to be a slight benefit of the down slope. It was sunny, and I think it got up to about 20 degrees. I struggled on through the course and thankfully, I was forewarned about thinking the Brandenburg Gate was the finish line. That was excellent information as the finish is some 300m or so beyond that landmark and the finish was as loud and exciting as any race I’ve done. Once through the finish the event organisers shined as it was a simple process of getting all they had to offer, and then some.
There were a few interesting and unusual things on the course. For one thing they offered warm lemon tea at the water stations. I’ve never heard of that before in anything other than an ultra-distance race. Also, they offered Maurten Drink Mix at k’s 9, 15, 20, 25, 30, 36 along with water. Additionally, there was Maurten Gels at 27.5k. My only issue with the water stops is unlike some of the other major’s, there was only water on the right side of the road instead of both. Water was given out in rigid plastic cups which made it difficult to get enough water without slowing down or stopping. There were quite a few runners complaining that other runners stopped right in front of them at these tables.
As for my race, well it was the painful demise after all. All was going fine up until mile 14, when my back started to tighten up. I had a bad feeling about it after that point and by mile 17, I knew my race was run. I was keeping a steady 6:40/mile pace until 17 and from there each mile got slower and slower. Eventually, when I crossed the line with a time of 3:08:46 my average pace had climbed to 7:08/mile. My lower back had been spasming, throwing bolts of pain into my glutes, hamstrings and as far as my calves. Until about an hour after the run, I was telling myself I’d never do another marathon. I was pretty frustrated with my body.
I sprawled out on the grounds of the Reichstag for about an hour. Eventually I came around and realised that I did in fact enjoy the day. Things started getting back into perspective and I remembered how lucky I am to be able to run and how lucky I was to be where I was. Oh, and who wouldn’t be thrilled to say they ran in the race when the world record was broken thanks to Eluid Kipchoge!
That night we enjoyed some post-marathon food and drinks, eventually settling into Charlie’s Beach area at Checkpoint Charlie. The next day we spent on a hop-on hop-off bus tour of the city and my whole perspective on Berlin was flipped. What a remarkable place and a brilliant city. I honestly can’t wait to get back for a visit. Next up, the Dublin Marathon 2022.