Thursday, October 3, 2013

Berlin Marathon recap

So, I hit the wall at mile 2, yes 2 the one that comes right after the first mile, not 20 like most people.  Before I go into the details of the many ways this was the most painful marathon of my life, let me first discuss the events leading up to it.  I believe there were several factors that contributed to the sufferfest that will forever be burned in my memory as the Berlin Marathon.

1. Days before I was supposed to leave for Berlin I caught a head cold.  I started pounding Emergen-C and green tea and even tried elderberry syrup and Zicam.  Prayed to every God and spiritual entity I could think of - please let me be healthy for the marathon.

2. Traveling and being sick and consuming dietary supplements I do not normally take created a bad side effect, the opposite of most runners biggest fear, instead of going to the port-o-potties a lot, I wasn't going at all.  Maybe TMI, but it wasn't just my legs that struggled to move in Berlin.

3. We wanted to see the city before the race and failed to utilize the public transportation as much as we should have.  I'd guess we walked about 10 miles in the 2 days before the marathon and that is a conservative estimate.  Friday and Saturday my legs and feet hurt A LOT and I hadn't run yet.

4. The participant information suggested getting to the start area 1.5 - 2 hours early to allow time for getting through security and walking to the start corrals.  This was completely unnecessary.  We got there and had to stand around in the cold shivering for 2 hours.  Burned a lot of energy just trying to stay warm and couldn't feel my feet when we finally started.

5. I skipped breakfast because all I had in the hotel room was a banana and I didn't want issue #2 (quite appropriately listed) to get worse.  So when I started I felt good to move and warm up but quickly ran out of energy.

6. Splits for the first 3 miles went something like 10:00ish, 10:40ish, 11:00ish.  I knew after that the race would be rough.  Weather was ideal, the course was nice, it was really crowded in the first 8-10 miles, but my legs and feet already hurt.

7. At the first water stop I could get to without ridiculous congestion and chaos, I noticed that they were filling the cups from buckets behind the table, scooping their gloved hands into the bucket with a cup and then putting it on the table.  Gross, but at least they had gloves on and it wasn't bare hands, until I tasted the water and could taste the latex gloves.  I'm slightly allergic to latex and over the course of 26.2 miles I wasn't willing to risk my throat swelling up and going into anaphylactic shock.

8. Being in Europe, there were no mile markers on the course only kilometer markers so towards the end, in the most incredible pain of my life and severely dehydrated, trying to do math and convert the kilometers to miles and determine how much longer the suffering had to go on really really sucked a lot.  Plus, the last few kilometers were turn after turn that felt like a neverending labyrinth.

9. FINALLY.....I made it to the end, through the Brandenburger Gate and over the finish line 42.195 kilometers later, or nearly 28 miles by my Garmin.  Exhausted and ready to collapse, no medical support seemed to care because I was still standing.  Then to add insult to injury, literally, there were NO MEDALS!!!!!  They ran out.

So, I tried to talk to some volunteers and people at the 'info' tent and got no where because most of them didn't speak english.  I made my way to the area we had agreed to meet up at after the race and found my friends.  I was in so much pain physically and emotionally, I sat down and just started crying.  My friends agreed it was a painful race, but they both got medals.  I tried again without success to get resolution or answers from the info tent.  I just wanted to leave.  I didn't even want to take photos or anything.  Thankfully one of my friends, Milady, is AWESOME and knowing that the medal means a lot to me and is not as important to her, she gave me her medal.  Still, I was in so much pain I just wanted to get out of there.

We had to walk almost 2 miles to get back to our hotel and every single step felt like torture.  My stomach was cramping and it felt like someone was stabbing me.  Everytime my stomach cramped I doubled over in pain and then my back started spasming.  My legs and feet hurt more than they have ever hurt in my entire life.  I had to stop several times because the pain was so intense I started dry heaving.  We made it to the hotel and I collapsed on the bed and just breathed through pursed lips trying to ignore the pain and breath through it.  I took a handful of Advil and a few pepto pills to try and ease my stomach pain and help the Advil stay down.  After both Milady and Patty took showers I took a hot bath because I couldn't stand in the shower.

Eventually, the Advil kicked in and I could function, but we were all in a lot of pain.  I finished in 5:40 or somewhere very near that, not my slowest marathon, but about an hour slower than I had expected going into the race and by far the hardest and most painful marathon I have ever run.  For a flat course that now has a new World Record time, it was a challenge in endurance and perseverance and a demonstration of will to keep moving forward and determination to never give up that I will never forget. 
More details and funny stories of the adventures in Munich and at Oktoberfest to follow.  Stay tuned.

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