On 16th September 2018 I took on the Berlin Marathon. This marathon is a milestone for me, and finishes off a jam packed weekend. Let me tell you some stats. The Berlin Marathon 2018 is my 40th marathon, which takes me to 47 towards the 100 marathon club (including 4 100k and 3 Ironman). This is the 3rd time I have ran Berlin, and brings my total to 10 World Marathon Majors alongside my 7 London Marathon finishes. This is the second time I have paced Berlin Marathon, the 57th event I have been an official pacer, and the second event of the weekend. I ran Kew 10k as the 45 minute pacer, click HERE if you want to read about it. You can also take a look at my Berlin Marathon 2017 experience HERE.
This is the 4th time I have been to Berlin, and for many reasons we decided as a family it would be best for me to just come on my own this time. I booked cheap flights with BA as I get 40% off with Fitness Rewards, and accomodation was sorted with Gary, a fellow regular pacer. I decided to literally come to Berlin for 24 hours, so if you read my Kew 10k blog you will realise I literally ran, get sorted then headed to the airport. I ran the Great North Run last weekend (check out blog HERE), and it was cheaper and quicker for me to get to and from Berlin for the night than it was for me to go there, crazy.
So I arrived at my hotel at around 19:00 on Saturday night, and Matt and his brother met me for some food. I got stuck into a big Pizza, a pint and sides. Matt had a salad?
We called it a relatively early night, and I got back to my hotel just after 21:00, but took a while to get to sleep. Before I did go to sleep I made sure I got my #flatlay done and packed ready for the morning.
We had a 7:30 start as we only had a mile to walk to the start area. I love running Berlin, but I do find the start area logistically difficult. In London you have 3 starts, and it is all really well laid out. In Berlin it is so very busy with just one start, the bag drops are quick and easy, but it is difficult getting around, toilets are all over the place, but only a few, so generate big queues everywhere. We got to the meeting point for the pacers, got kitted up and then it was time to go.
It was good meeting many from social media throughout the village, sorry if I didn’t stop to chat, but I am always a little stressed until I get to the start pen. True to form it was a nightmare getting to the pen. It’s just one huge queue that doesn’t really move.
Once I finally got to the start I asked around and found a good spot full of people wanting sub 4, and people moved their way towards me. I gave a brief about my pacing strategy and tried motivating. This wasn’t necessary as the atmosphere at the start is amazing. This is one bit that is much better than London, there is just so much energy before the start.
And before we knew it we were off. It is so busy and crowded, but because the roads are so wide it doesn’t really impact the pace. I got into an immediate steady pace, and kept it throughout. Berlin is flat, so it is easy to keep it steady. Because it is so wide and busy it is impossible to stick to the blue line, meaning you cover more distance. So right from the start the KM markings were not matching the distance travelled on my watch, so I just ignored the distance. Instead I kept my min miles on between 9-9:05 throughout. The desired pace is 9:09 but I knew this would not be fast enough.
Throughout the first half I kept us slightly ahead of target, the KM were saying that I was about 10 seconds up, and my watch thought I was 2 minutes up. I then decided to just try and keep it steady from this point. I was nervous about leaving it too close for people, and those around me were beginning to struggle, so I kept the pace slightly faster than needed.
I had such a good group with me, I had people from UK, USA, Mexico, Germany, France, Spain, Canada, Australia, Argentina and more. I chatted with so many different people and shared lots of experiences. This field is so different to those I am used to in England, and the majority of runners did appear to be from around the world.
The one negative, which is always the case with Berlin was water in cups. The system is just so chaotic. Every time you try getting a cup it is so difficult, and it’s hard to take enough on board when running at pace. The water also was not frequent enough early on, but was much better in the second half. They added top up stations every 10k which was good, and later in the course they gave out reusable cups which were good and much easier to use.
During the run I called out encouragement every KM, and confirmed we were on target. Every 5km was a good opportunity for me to ensure I was on target, which we were throughout. The markings seemed accurate, although near the end they seemed to be shorter in distance than at the start. I lost some runners behind me, but picked many more up, and at the end it was great to see people pushing on ahead, some almost waiting for my approval to say go for it. I saw a couple of people wobbling towards the end, and one I tried to help keep going in the last mile, but I couldn’t so in the end I had to leave her with others as I had to carry on.
The support on course can be sparse at times, but it was still great, and at the end the energy really picks up.
I love the finish, and had kept a good 30 second cushion for all those around me. Seeing people all running off at the end to dip under is fantastic, and I saw some fantastic efforts from people making sure they kept ahead of me.
I was slightly faster than I would have liked, but wanted to keep running alongside those I had been running with the whole race, my watch time says 3:59:42.
The official app shows my splits and gives me an official time of 3:59:38, I’m very happy with my time, with less than 1 second a mile under target pace.
The end of Berlin can be a bit of a mission, but this year I knew exactly what I was doing from experience. First of all it was great to meet dozens of runners at the end who came to thank me and its great to hear about their times.
Next stop for me was to go and get a couple of pints of Erdinger.
After my Erdinger stop I walked to take a picture, but on the way I had to get a photo to remember this amazing world record effort.
Then before getting my bag and dropping off my pacer flag I had to get my usual finish photo.
Usually I would leave at this point, but as my family were not there, and i was waiting for Matt to finish his 5 hour #funbus, I sat on the grass for a couple of hours. I must say, this is something you don’t get at London, a large area in an event village to be able to just relax. I sat undisturbed for 2 hours before Matt found me.
And that’s a wrap, once Matt came along we headed straight to the station to get some food, and then decided to share a taxi to the airport.
24 hours in Berlin, and I’ve had a blast. As always I highly recommend this event. There are a few negatives that should be considered. There is no finishers tee unless you buy one at the expo, the village at the start is crazy, and the water on course is just so difficult to navigate. But overall it is still one of my favourite marathons, it is flat, it has great atmosphere, its busy but you still have space, and the end is awesome.
I will certainly be back to Berlin next year, but have so much more in between. Next stop Bristol Half marathon next weekend, who is with me? It is also that time of the year that the Running Awards are out. If you like my blog please vote for me, I appreciate the support. Just follow the link HERE, go to blog, personal, pickupthepace paul, and hit vote.