We run BLN
Normally I would do a race report just about the races I do, but this weekend was so flippin’ amazing that I may have to cover a bit more than usual.
Having run the Berlin Marathon in September last year I wasn’t over the moon when the crew began talking about the Berlin Half for a crew outing. I’d rather go somewhere new. But, I could feel the vibe building, back in October, so I signed up and began to organise my trip. Basically, I ended up reserving a shared room with three other girls I had never met (Jackie, Lissy, Sophie), two of whom run with Run Dem Crew and one who lives in another city. Madness had taken hold.
Also, despite having done a few halves before I have never trained specifically for one. I decided that this time I was gonna go sub-1.45, which I had softly held as a goal since I started running and racing 3 years ago but never met. So I decided to get my ass in gear and found a training plan that seemed to make sense to me. What’s most important however, is that I for the first time committed to actually not just running the distance specified in my catch-all pace of 5min/km (8min/mi).
This is my comfort zone, it’s the pace my body lands in when I’m just out running and not thinking about how fast or where I’m going. It’s however not a way to get faster. Berlin Half training required concentration to run slow on long Sunday runs and to exert myself at track. Amazing how something that seems so difficult at first can become easy over a few months. I began to enjoy my long runs a lot more, not feeling completely knackered at the end of them, and track - track! - I LOVE track. I’m a sprinter at heart, I had just forgotten when marathons came along. There’s more track love to come, that’s for sure, but that’s another story.
A few weeks before the race I did some tests with my friend who’s a sport scientist. Basically she told me that I should physiologically be capable of running a 1.40. This sent me into a little bit of a panic - that’s FAST! - but I decided that I’d use this as a positive spur to give it my best shot. If you don’t try, you don’t achieve.
My Berlin Mara medal - all lonely up there on the mirror.
Finally, after 6 months of scheming, we were off to a flying start when 20 RunDem’ers turned up at the airport, excitedly chattering away. But it was nothing compared to the unfolding of the weekend. Repping our London RunDemCrew 70-strong, we joined fellow urban running crews from around the world: BridgeRunners from NYC, NBRO from Copenhagen, R8CK from Zurich (more lively on FB), HarbourRunners from Hong Kong, BKRW from Paris and of course our hosts Graviteam from Berlin (again, more lively on FB).
Arriving at our hotel, the uber-chic Michelberger, we were met with a live show in progress in the reception and a pumping vibe. We grabbed a late-night kebab, enjoyed the vibes and succumbed to sleep in our cool ‘band’-room.
Day before the race
Lissy, Soph and I went for a morning run to loosen up the legs. I hadn’t run since the Sunday before and needed a bit of confidence in the legs. Despite sunshine it was really windy, and just a taster of what the day was to bring. We had sleet, hail, rays of sun, wind, chill, and basically no idea what race kit would be appropriate, which is enough to send any runner into a dire panic-induced need to sit down with a proper cup of coffee, so that’s what we did. I was a bit worried about the lower section of my left shin towards my ankle, which had started bruising and feeling puffy. I popped some more anti-inflammatories and sent a prayer to the gods of strong running.
We hit the expo at the defunct Tempelhof Flughafen to pick up race numbers and oversize, monstrously orange finisher’s tees. I skipped on that one, no need for more unusable lycra lying around.
We also picked up pace-bands from one of the stands and I nearly went into a full-blown panic situation when asked what my goal time was. I finally uttered “1.43” as a compromise between my long-standing goal and Anne’s predictions. Then home for a ‘rest’, which consisted of running around like excited school kids getting race kit ready, stretching. Duly went for carb-loading meal with a handful of RDCers, filling up those depots for the race with a pasta OD.
It’s RACE DAY! An incredulous look outside revealed blue skies and not a cloud in sight. What happened? Had the weather gods taken mercy on the 30k runners in town? After a lazy drip out of bed our room quickly became a hive of activity: Getting into kit, eating PB & banana sandwiches despite being stuffed from last night, hair up, etc. Despite my best efforts there was no loo-luck for me, which made me rather anxious (I know what running does to your insides). Off we went never-the-less, bumping into more RDCers on the way, and loads of sneaker-clad runners on the roads. I was getting nervous. I felt confident of beating 1.45, and I sure as hell was going to give it all I had. But what result would that lead to? I memorised the pace needed for 1.43 and left the band at home.
We arrived at Bar Babette with just under an hour till the start (never been that late at a race before, and it wasn’t helping my nerves). The happy vibe with crew members from around the world got me smiling tho and with a familiar 70- strong AWAY AWAY AWAY! led by RDC founder and all-time all-star Charlie Dark I felt a bit better. Frantically pinning my number on my tee (I always do this last minute, I must) I finally met the cheeky NBRO runners from the motherland and felt the better for it. Speaking Danish before the race felt good.
We moved outside and after having a pic taken with Soph and the amazing Kimberley I nearly ran off without wishing everyone good luck. Nerves, ladies and gents, nerves. Won’t do that again, and thanks to Soph for running after me and giving me a good luck squeeze.
Despite the whole race being very well organised I faffed around a bit trying to find the way into the starting pens. I somehow landed right next to Bridgerunner Robin and a true bridgethegap fellow, Jeggi, former Bridgerunner now RDC. We chatted a bit as the crowd began to shuffle forwards along Karl Marx Allee and as we crossed the start line I heard Jeggi wish Robin a good race but I was already in my own world. Off, weaving through runners, looking out for start-of-race-debris (no way I’m twisting my ankle at the start line again!). I felt good, but was getting a bit frustrated at not being able to move at the pace I wanted to because I kept getting caught behind people. I kept weaving through, and running along the kerb as I always do, stepping onto it to get around folk. We hit Brandenburger Tor at around 3km and my mind swept back to September when that signified the end of the marathon. I’m back baby, and this one’s gonna be swifter. Spirit lifted, I shortly after managed to find space to get moving in what was now a bright sunny day.
I could feel my shin a little bit, but nothing terrible. Passing famous landmarks in Berlin just steeled me and despite getting my trade-mark pins and needles in the left foot at around 6km I felt in good form. I know by now that I just need to run through it, but running on a numb foot ain’t fun. I need to sort this. I didn’t see many RDCers or other crew members and was pleased - they’re off, speeding through it. As I came up to 9-10km I was feeling strong and finally there was a bit more room to move. My average pace up till then had been 4.58min/km, on track for a sub-1.45 but I knew that I had the legs to go faster. I sped up, and had that feeling I know so well of - oh no, this race is almost over, I’ve so been looking forward to it!
Then I saw the wings - the RDC wings! It was Rhalou, powering on. I touched her shoulder and we smiled as I moved on. Further down the road, another of the amazing RDC ladies - Alski! She’s swift but had been for a 5mi run the day before and waved me on. This was going to be another race run on my own.
With consistent 4.43 running for most of the second half I brought my overall pace down to just about 4.53min/km. I was amazed at how good my legs felt and sent a thought to the crew and Thursday track sessions. Consistency has always been a strength of mine, but not usually this fast! Beginning to feel my legs at 16km, but I was on track for an awesome new PB! No slowing down now.
Another set of wings, but this time walking on the side. I called out to Mubi - come on bruv! He waived me on with a pained look and I later learned he was having issues with his hamstrings and groins. Having seen friends falter before I was pleased that he pulled through and got an impressive time despite his probs.
I kept checking my current against my average pace and realised with 3 km to go that I wasn’t going to lower the average pace any further - legs still going strong but there was no more extra juice. A guy with the Danish flag on his back walking - I shouted - Kom nu! Come on! He started running again and I smiled. I kept the pace and felt strong but at capacity when I saw the final BMW gate loom ahead. Having been fooled before by ‘faux’ finish lines I increased my speed but saved some in the tank. Another set of wings up ahead, who was this? And as I approached the final turn I saw an Uberbrucke die kluft-tee - a Bridgerunner! He was struggling and I tapped his shoulder and said - Keep going, almost home! He smiled as I passed and set off in what felt like a sprint. Getting closer - this was it - time to let it rip! From the official race photos it’s clear I was giving it my all (and look like a complete idiot!) and I was so pleased when I crossed the finish line in 1.42.41. A new personlische Bestleitung by nearly 5 minutes (thanks MissJayG).
Peigh came over - he was the one I’d seen up ahead. Sweaty hugs and smiles and we moved off to collect medals, bananas and re-join the crews.
I picked up a print out of my results and was taken aback at placing 85th in my age group! Back at Bar Babette there was a party going ON and plenty to celebrate with abundant PBs! As people came in they got cheers, and everyone was milling about refuelling and getting stuck in with the post-race carbs (ie. beers). Mark hit the decks and got music flowing as people shared race day stories. If this was anything to go by, the after party later that eve was going to be epic!
Me and track buddy Muireann who also nailed a solid PB.
Back to the hotel for some well deserved cake, brezel and coffee -
- and to the PB-room for amazing RunDem runner cookies made with love by Jackie and some bubbly!
It was meant to be rest and a nap, but turned into chattering about the race and we got ready to hit the town. Off to Soju Bar for some badass tunes and a vibe to set your mind spinning. 120 peeps who have just run a half mara, most of them setting PBs and seeing each other out of lycra and in par-tay gear for the first time? You best believe.
Mark, Steve and Charlie get stuck in
LyndaPhoenix shows us how it’s done
And Josey Rebelle gives the evening a final spanking.
What a night. What a weekend. I can’t wait to do it all again in Amsterdam. Massive shoutout to Charlie Dark, the man who instigated this and made it all happen.
And back in London town, the Berlin Marathon medal set is complete as baby sis comes home, making Berlin a 2-PB kinda place.
Photos courtesy @madewithloveJB, @rundemcrew, @bangsandabun and moi.