The Berlin Marathon served as the nail in the coffin for me: I’m not going to be running a road marathon anytime soon. Unless the race is in a fun, exotic locale (i.e. Europe) that rewards me with an epic vacation, I’m not going to be training for road marathons in the near future. Although that may sound a bit snooty, I’m just being realistic: the training is too grueling and all of the long, slow miles (when my legs are too sore and stiff to run any fast miles) make me feel out of shape and lethargic, and I know my form suffers as well.
That being said, the Berlin Marathon was a whole lot of fun. As soon as we were a mile in, I knew that running the race itself was going to be challenging, but I kept things in perspective: I was very fortunate to be running one of the majors, in Europe no less, at the beginning of a two week vacation.
I had zero expectations going into this race. My training cycle had been the most inconsistent marathon training cycle I’ve ever had, so I had no idea what my time would be or if a PR was capable (my marathon PR is 4:34 on the hilly SF Marathon course). My strategy was to take the first half as slow as possible at hit the halfway point at 2:10. I achieved this, despite an almost three minute bathroom break stop around mile 9.
At the beginning of the race, I knew I was in for trouble because my legs already felt tired by mile 4. Usually, the first hour of a marathon flies by in the blink of an eye, but I was already counting down miles starting with mile 1. The course itself was amazing – we had a tour of the entire city, and it was mostly flat and downhill. I loved seeing runners beside me representing countries from around the world, speaking dozens of different languages.
After my bathroom break at mile 9 and hitting the halfway point in about 2:10, I felt toasted. My foam began to suffer and my gait slipped into more of a shuffle. I walked through nearly every aid station and made sure to gulp down as many calories as possible through their electrolyte drink. I tried hard not to get discouraged as I watched a PR slip away, so I instead focused on continuing to run and move forward, even as many people around me started to walk.
The last 5K was grueling – we ran by our hotel, so I knew exactly where I was in relation to the finish line, and the last bit was an out and back. I did everything I could to shuffle ahead, and I didn’t stop to walk or drink water at any point (I knew stopping would just prolong the suffering at this point). Making the final turn to face the Brandenburg Gate and the finishing shoot took my breath away (literally and figuratively at this point). The crowd’s roar pumped me up and kept me going for that last .25 mile. I crossed the finish line in 4:43, not my faster, but not my slowest (by a minute, 4:44).
Once I finished, I was in a serious amount of pain, but my one goal was to find Jesse at our agreed upon meeting point by the Erdinger beer tent. Seeing his smiling face holding a beer was a serious sight for sore eyes – I could have started crying in relief. I was also very happy to hear he PRed and had a great race, despite some struggling toward the end.
After the race, we hobbled back to the hotel, showered, and went to a nearby restaurant for some beers and snacks. Surprisingly enough, I wasn’t as sore as I usually am the next day. We (slowly) walked several miles, visited the DDR museum (highly recommended if you love Cold War history), and took a very relaxing boat cruise down the Spree River.
The marathon distance has not suited me well since my first marathon in 2012. Despite my 10K (49/50 minutes) and half marathon PRs (1:54), I’ve failed to run the 4:10 marathon predicted of my finishing times for the shorter distances. This marathon training cycle taught me that I really love shorter distances, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m already setting my sights on some big PRs for next year. Instead of the long, slow slogs, I plan on running much shorter and faster workouts with longer distances on the trails.
After recovering for a day in Berlin, we headed to Oktoberfest, which was an incredible experience. More posts on our vacation are in the works. Prost!
Hanna @ TheMillennialNextDoor said:
Congrats!! I know it’s not the time or experience you wanted, but you got to run the Berlin freakin Marathon! How cool is THAT?
I like marathons because I feel I am much better-suited to longer distances (my marathon and sometimes half marathon times are always a little bit faster than my shorter race times predict, actually)….but I totally know what you mean about the training slog. When I was training for Grandma’s, I got so jealous of people like you who had the energy to crank out super-speedy runs all the time. Training for goals is about sacrifice and making choices – we can’t have it all at once. Even the elites typically can’t perform their best in both types of races at the same time.
I’m glad you’ve found what works for you and that you have big things to look forward to! I can’t wait to hear about all you speedy training for shorter distance PRs!
Single-Tracked Mind said:
Thank you Hanna!! Everyone is different, and I think it’s important to figure out what you like in working out/running so it’s sustainable and enjoyable! Running the Berlin Marathon was SO freaking cool. I really wanted to take pictures but I would have slowed down considerably doing that!
I totally get this and understand. I seriously want to do a half and full trail race. I love running trails. And I also totally get that last 5k where you decide not to fuel because it will just prolong it. I have had horrible, miserable long runs where I just want to stop and walk but it’s a matter of getting home in 20 minutes or 10 that keeps me moving. Love reading your recaps!
Single-Tracked Mind said:
Thank you, Sarah! I would highly recommend the trails – are you close to any good ones near you in Chicago? I can’t even think about eating/drinking near the end of the race; I have to use all of my energy concentrating on finishing! 🙂
Trails in Chicago aren’t that common. But up in Michigan where we have our summer house, there are plenty. There is even a ski resort and you can run their cross country trails. I love it. I have actually had great success on trails (even finished second overall once) so I definitely want to try some more.
Single-Tracked Mind said:
That’s awesome! You’re so speedy! North Face has a race in Wisconsin (I know that’s pretty far, but closer to you than me) that Jesse and I would like to run! They put on such great events.
Jealous you got to experience Oktoberfest. I wanna go, but unfortunately I can’t leave work late Sept/early Oct.
I’m not crazy about marathons either. There are a few I want to do (e.g., Big Sur), but after that I’m sticking to shorter distances.
Leslie @ TriathleteTreats said:
Way to go on finishing when it got hard. Not all races can be perfect! Definitely tough when it starts going downhill at the beginning!!
I feel the same way about longer distances!! It was nice this year doing “shorter” stuff. Of course I just signed up for an Ironman!! 🙂
Fallon @ Slacker Runner said:
Great job on your race! I know it wasn’t what you hoped for but a marathon on Berlin will always be a great memory for you! Plus running a race while on an amazing vacation has to be hard- so many new things all at once!
It might not have been the time you wanted, but congrats on running an amazing race on an incredible course!! I would love to do a marathon in Europe one day. I can’t imagine how special that was! And to get to experience Oktoberfest – just fabulous! And the marathon distance…it is tough. I don’t know what it is about that distance. We train and train and nail runs and race predictors say what we should be capable of but the reality is often not what we expected. I’ve done a lot of marathons, and I find that every so often, I hit a plateau and it feels like I will never break through. I’ve been feeling that way a bit lately. I think what makes it so tough is you train for weeks on end, and expect a result. If the day doesn’t go your way, you are stuck out there for so many miles and it’s a long way to go until you finish! That being said, I definitely think you can bust out a sub 4:10 marathon if you want to!!! Take a break and hang in there. You’ll know when you’re ready to try again!
Great job, Taylor!! It sounds like it was a tough race for you but you kept going and finished strong! The thing about marathons is that you can train so hard and so long to wind up not having your best day when you really want it. But I do think you have a good marathon in you 🙂 I also understand your need for a break from the distance – I’m taking one as well to focus on the shorter distances for awhile! So glad you’re having fun on your European adventures and I look forward to hearing about next year’s speedy running 😀
James G said:
Good effort, TO! There’s nothing wrong with racing shorter distances. Marathons are overrated. What’s next? Carlsbad 5000? Capitol 10K?
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In contrast to you, road marathons ARE my thing. I’ve done trail races before and I enjoy them, but I get so much more of a rush from hammering pavement. Anyway, I also ran Berlin and then went straight to Oktoberfest, which was probably the highlight of the trip. After just one (of four) tents, we were in love with the event. Ein Prozit, ein Prozit, der Gemühtlichkeit!