Berlin Marathon Race Report

by Sunny K.

What was your race experience like?

The Berlin Marathon was an experience like no other. Some fellow CHRCers and I got a place in Berlin together to help psych each other up. I arrived in Berlin the Friday before the race, excited but unsure what to expect. David and I attended marathon expo together and found it was a very confusing mess at first but you found the method to the madness once the bib and timing chip were picked up. We soon heard from our running companion, Megann, that her baggage never made it to Berlin, adding another wrinkle into our trio’s plans.

The day before the marathon was spent by doing a short run from our hotel to the Brandenburg Gate to check out the finish line and learning that the gate was NOT the finish line, so race strategy should be adjusted accordingly. We had a nice early team dinner with David, Megann, Amanda and friends and family before the night before the race and set off to get prepared for the following day.

Race day started early, as we got to the starting village by 7am and we met someonewho had previously completed the Berlin Marathon tell us that the course was easy and we would not get tired. Stunned, we took in this information and thought we would put it to the test. We arrived in our starting corrals early as well to have a good starting spot and spotted some follow NYRR members. As the starts were going off the excitement came to a head, seeing Eliud Kipchoge start and later finding out on the course that he had broken the world record with a time of 2:01:39 was a great moment for any runner. I knew I was glad to be there for it. Once the starting gun went off, I tried to stick to my race plan as best as I could, having tapered the urge to go faster than planned was there but drawing on the lessons learned from my first marathon (2017 NYC Marathon) I knew I had to resist.

I spent the first 13 miles taking in the sights of the city that I had so briefly explored previously, taking mental notes of places that I wanted to see while not running 42.195km. The sounds of the people cheering also helped lead me to a 2:24 half marathon split. As the race grew longer, I noticed every 5km after 25km, there were massage tables set up. The thought of getting one at 30km crossed my mind briefly but I knew my goal of breaking 5 hours was still in sight. The miles wore on me and I found myself walking through water stops to fill up my water bottle, and closer to the end I got, the more I walked. I knew I had to fight that as I my goal might be slipping away.

Then at 35km, someone shouted to the crowd, “If you don’t walk from here, you can all break 5 hours!”. That was the motivation I needed, a reassuring voice, 21 miles into a race telling me that I could do it. The final 7kms were tough, full of turns and all I wanted to do was to see the Brandenburg Gate once more as I had seen it the day before, hoping it would appear after each turn. Then at last, one last turn and 1km to go, I see it and I hear fellow CHRCer David yell, “Sunny! SPRINT TO THE GATE!”. I laughed a little, knowing the strategy we talked about the day before (not sprinting to the gate) but I went for it. Those last few strides, and running under the gate to the finish line 300 meters away felt great. As I crossed the finish line there was a surreal sense of relief and my body thanked me and I found myself high-fiving as many strangers as I could find. Seeing my time of 4:53:54, I exalted internally knowing all those early alarms, canceled plans, pain and sweat made a difference that day and I had achieved a goal that I could not have accomplished without the support of my fellow CHRC runners.

So we celebrated. Our CHRC runners knew they earned that medal that day and we had a great time enjoying the food and beer of Berlin that evening. A race well run.

Did you train for this race? If so, how?

I knew from my 2017 NYC marathon training that training for another marathon this year would not be easy. During my NYC marathon training, I found myself running sometimes at 3am to get in 20 miles before having to get ready for work. I wanted to try something new and read about the Hansons Marathon Method while I was recovering from an injury in early 2018. It thought it provided the balance I needed in a training plan throughout the week and it capped the long runs to 16 miles, which would mean I could get more sleep during the work week. I settled with this plan and found that it required 18 weeks of training, so I began training the week of the Brooklyn Half Marathon. It was a tough 18 weeks, but I was able to get through it with a combination of CHRC’s Monday Morning Miles, Friday Five and the Saturday long run, along with training with some other Brooklyn running clubs (BedStuy Flyers and November Project Brooklyn). This combination gave me a great mix of easy running, speed/strength work, tempo and long runs for 6 days a week of running. My peak mileage capped out at about 50-55 miles in a week, which I had previously not attained but the encouragement from my fellow CHRC runners kept me going.

Did you have any goals for this race? If so, what were they?

My initial goal for the Berlin Marathon was to break 4 hours and 40 minutes, however, as my body was getting used to the training and mileage I began feeling the onset of some injuries. From week 7-11 of my training, I was dealing with some knee and achilles issues which hampered the full extent of my training for about 4 weeks. As I struggled to maintain fitness, the reality of attaining my goal became more and more out of reach. I knew I had to reassess this goal. As my time for the NYC Marathon last year was 5:06, I thought a good backup goal would be to break 5 hours. I knew I had learned some valuable lessons during my first marathon that I could utilize in Berlin and help me with this revised goal. Ultimately, this goal proved attainable with my crossing the finish line at 4:54, improving my time by over 10 minutes!

Did CHRC help you train for/run/celebrate this race? If so, how?

CHRC was instrumental in helping me train, run and celebrate this race. I never found myself lacking for running companions during training. Known as the early bird, lots of folks reached out to me during the summer who were looking some help running before work (sometimes as early as 4am). The meet and greets during training helped me balance running with relaxing but also provided an opportunity to catch up with other marathoners to see how their training was going and how they were adapting. CHRC provided the base, support and community I needed to get through the finish line on September 16th! Kudos to David, Megann, Amanda and Joe who were our other Royals running the Berlin Marathon this year, who helped motivate the day before. Some of us even grabbed a good Italian dinner to help carb load the day of the race!

What was your favorite thing about the race?

My favorite thing about the Berlin Marathon had to be the international runners and the crowd. Running and seeing all the diverse languages being spoken by runners and cheerers alike, was very unique. Also, seeing all the different types of race jerseys being worn, some signaling that the person had done over 100 marathons, or a marathon in each US state, or this being the last world major for a person to cap off the 6 world major marathons and even seeing fellow NYC racing jerseys (PPTC, NBR, Dashing Whippets, November Project and of course CHRC!)

What advice/tips would you give to Royals wanting to run this race?

I would recommend this race to any CHRC Running Royalty that would like a good destination marathon. Book accommodations early and leave time after the marathon to enjoy the city. This was my second time in Berlin and it is a great city to see with such history and lots of neighborhoods to explore. One bonus is that the subways are typically on time, a welcome sight when coming from NYC! We also had folks who were able to do some traveling after the marathon and arrive in Munich in time for Oktoberfest the following weekend!