Running

the long distance runner’s guide to (west) Berlin

Now, I’ve got a pretty big head, but I’m not delusional enough to think that I run Berlin (and I don’t think I’d want to). I know that this is the Social Democrat Party’s job, helmed by mayor Michael Müller. However, whenever I do a city run, it makes me think “I run this city.”

I’ve most likely mentioned this before, but as a runner I’ve always appreciated how easily navigable Berlin is and the ability to cross more than half the city in a 2 hour run, seeing a lot of the major monuments and landmarks in the process. As a point of reference, I ran 18 miles through London back in July and still only saw about 1/5 of the city’s major landmarks (albeit, I also got lost a bit and repeated some stretches).

Despite being in Berlin for two years now, and many times many summers before 2016, I finally managed to take my camera on the run. Below, you can see my last run through Berlin before heading back to Florida for the rest of the semester break and I’ve numbered the locations of the photos I’ve taken and included in this post. It’s important to note that, seeing as I turned south and then west again at the Brandenburg Gate, this post only covers interesting points in former west Berlin. There are a lot of equally interesting and important monuments and landmarks in the former east as well! I also didn’t include the Grunewald or Wannsee, which easily make up a long run in themselves. But here goes: a guide to running this part of Berlin.

Map of running (west) Berlin

  1. Schloss Charlottenburg
  2. Schlosspark Charlottenburg
  3. Siegessäule  or the Victory Column
  4. Statue of Helmuth von Moltke the Elder
  5. Großer Tiergarten
  6. Soviet War Memorial
  7. Brandenburg Gate
  8. Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
  9. Entrance to the Zoologischer Garten
  10. Breitscheidplatz, ruins of Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, and remains of the European Track and Field Championships

Start at Theodor-Heuss Platz, which is the western end of the Kaiserdamm that begins in Berlin Mitte as Unter den Linden and extends straight for about 4 miles. This little green-covered plaza is marked by a nice blue monument that turns clear to allow the late sunlight to come through in the evenings.

Heading east, you can run by with the Convention grounds and central bus station mere houses away to the south. Head east until you get to aptly named Schloßstraße, which will get you to Berlin’s largest castle with grounds that have a circumference of more than a mile.

After running through the Schlosspark, which features mausoleums, flowers galore and even some sheep (royal properties are expensive to maintain, need to save somewhere), one can head out east again, this time on the Spree River that runs through Berlin. Factories often got placed on rivers in the 19th and 20th centuries, so one can find Nivea, BMW, and other well-known names running back towards the Kaiserdamm, which has now changed to Strasse des 17. Juni. One can continue to head east here until one reaches the golden angel which stands on top of the Victory Column.

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This is easily one of the most well-known monuments of Berlin. It features a 270 step climb to a viewing platform that I wouldn’t advise to visit on the run, but could deserve a separate visit. Instead of visiting the column, one could continue along the round about, featuring other famous monuments to pre World War generals and, of course, Bismark.

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These sculptures and the Tiergarten in general add to the feeling of a Berlin before the destruction of the World Wars. The park initially served as hunting grounds for the king before being transformed into a green space in the middle of the city where one could see and be seen (or not, it was also a hiding spot for some illicit activity as well) on weekends and in evenings.

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Continuing through the Tiergarten, one eventually comes back onto the Strasse des 17. Juni, where one eventually happens upon a monument to the Soviet’s role in World War II. The history of Berlin during the war deserves it’s own post, but it may suffice to say that Berlin was one of the last battlegrounds of the war, and the allies had agreed to the Soviets advancing on the city first, trusting they would split control of the city after the war. The war memorial just south of the Reichstag reminds of this role and of the many Soviet soldier’s lives WWII took.

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Like most post-war Soviet memorials, the display features impressive life-size tanks and a larger than life model of a soldier.

Now, while I didn’t do this on this run, one can easily skip a little north of this memorial and see the home of the German government (Bundestag) in the Reichstag. Instead, one can also just continue heading east to find THE German monument par excellence: the Brandenburger Tor.

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Now, unfortunately, there’s some construction going on the right side, but at least there are not a lot of people. This is only because it is 7 AM. Come anytime after 8 AM and you won’t get a people-free shot. This is why it’s recommended to be an early-rising runner.

It’s also recommended because then one can beat the crowds in this part of Berlin, which is Berlin Mitte and very popular with the tourists, politicians, and business people. It’s also near a lot of important embassies such as the French, USA, UK, and others.

To continue, one can head down the east or west side of the Brandenburg gate to come back around to the front of the US embassy. From here, one can see the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

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Placed on about 4 acres of land, this memorial is one of a few memorials in Berlin to victims of the Holocaust, though this memorial is specifically to the Jewish victims and some people like the author of this opinion piece explain some of the controversy of the design and the name. I personally can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the meaning of the columns and the feeling of angst incited walking among these tomb-like structures, but there is some question about the effectiveness of the reminder it represents. As a runner, I run by it, but it also deserves a separate visit. There is a documentation center in the center that takes some time to go through as well.

The west side of this memorial faces the Tiergarten again, and it is this space, the southern part this time, that one can continue along, passing even more embassies. The architecture of these buildings is always unique and decorated by the flags of countries all over the world with some cultural note that could be a tour in itself.

This last part of the run, other than bringing one through more of Berlin, is pretty uneventful until one gets back to the Kurfürstenstraße that leads to the Berlin Zoological Gardens and, of course, eventually the U- and S-Bahn station of the same name. I visited the Zoo with my mom and bro last year, so one can read about that here.

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The entrance way is iconic and there’s just a little bit of cultural appropriation here, but it is an interesting visit as well.

Just a little further down the road one finds the Breitscheidplatz and the ruins of Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. This summer some of the European Championships were held in Berlin, so the stands for spectating were just being taken down as I ran by. Those are obviously not always there.

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What is there and not photographed is the small memorial to the victims of the 2016 Christmas Market Attack (this is just behind those stands).

Unfortunately, as apparent from the run, the occupants of the city cannot escape its history, as the reminders are always all around. At least there’s a lot to also keep from dwelling too much on this as well (i.e. live music at an Irish Pub advertised in this photo). Berlin is a sobering, ugly, and yet beautiful and lively history-conscious city, all at once.

Speaking of not dwelling on things, the run doesn’t end here (though it easily could). For me, it lead on the Hardenbergstrasse past the station, the Technical University, and to Ernst-Reuter Platz. From there, one can head west again on the Bismarkstrasse (aka Strasse des 17. Juni aka Unter den Linden aka Kaiserdamm) until one gets back to where one started.

Given the right conditions and the right training, this tour is manageable in under two hours. There are enough quick shops and stations along the way (even a Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts by the Brandenburg Gate) to get one through the run if one has some spare change. I wouldn’t encourage using the Tiergarten as a toilet, though it is possible in emergencies. However, there are some public restrooms at the Victory Column, the Gate, and near the Zoo Bahnhof.

Obviously, this tour is just one of multiple options of runs to complete in Berlin. However, for the tourist who is also a long-distance runner, this does the job of seeing a lot in a little time and having a lot to write home about.

tschüß,
Dorothea

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One of the most beautiful places in the world…

I’m not just saying this to give the overused statment another whirl. The Fischland Darß, found in the north east of Germany, is really one of the most beautiful places in the world. Give me the Darß, 15 degrees, and a lot of sun, and I’m soooo happy. It helps that I like running marathons and managed to do that too.

On my running blog site, I’ve been posting about marathon training for the past 16 weeks. I figured I would spare non-runner folks the details*, but I don’t want to deny you the grand finale: I ran the Darß Marathon 2018 (and I have the t-shirt, too!).

Darß as a part of the larger map

I must have mentioned the Darß on this blog before, because since I was about 7 years old, my family would take bike tours around the Bodden (the body of water between mainland and peninsula) and break up the long 100+ km with lunches, coffee and ice cream. We’ve had a lot of good rides and some not so good rides. Sometimes it’s broken out into storm halfway through, causing us to ride home shivering and wrapped in beach towels on the bus. I even rode it by myself once, just to enjoy a late summer jaunt and see the leaves changed in the heart-memorized northern German coast and landscape.

I’ve always thought it would be amazing to go through the landscape a little more slowly and combine two things I love.

In 2016, I was hunting around for a marathon to run in the Spring and found the Darß Marathon. The Darß was a place I knew well, I’d have logistics taken care of easily, and I would have something to train for (always nice to have as a runner). Unfortunately, I didn’t get to run the race in 2017 due to other responsibilities, but it was always at the back of my mind to try again.

This year, the opportunity arose; I paid my entry fee, even rented a car to drive up north from Berlin, and started training. Things were good until about a week ago when I started having a pain in my foot that my doctor and I both feared could be a stress fracture, and so I waffled back and forth for a week trying to decide if I should even start the race.

I ultimately decided with the support of family and friends to just go to the race, start it, and see how far I could go.

I set goals for myself: first 5km, then 7km, then 10km… keeping a check on my foot and updating my plans on what I’d do if the pain in the foot sparked at any given moment. I ran without music to stay in tune with my body, and I was therefore able to have an open ear for fellow runners along the way. I found out what is meant by the sportsmanship drug Runner’s World talked about the other day in reference to Boston Marathon winner Desiree Linden, using energy I would have used otherwise for a PR to ecourage other runners and gaining some enery and distraction in return. The miles kept ticking by, no real change in the pain in my foot.

I didn’t plan on running a marathon anymore when I prepared for the trip, so I only had one sport gel on me, but the coke, water, and sport’s drink offered along the course, along with bananas and apples, kept me going all the way through 42 kilometers.

I also walked all the water stops and took a lot of photos, prompting a few runners to ask me if this was my first marathon. “Nah,” I’d always answer, “I’ve done four already. But this run is about getting to the end and enjoying myself along the way.” It’s not often one can say that about a marathon, but I really did enjoy myself.

Darß Marathon Küste Ahrenshoop

This is the face of a happy person; water behind me, miles ahead of me.

So, details? I finished. I actually had several goals for the race: place top-three women, PR, sub-3:30… all those I threw out the window with the foot injury. Still, despite all the dilly-dallying and worrying, I finished 3:55:49, which, as runners will know, is not too shabby for an injury. It also manages to land smack in the middle of my race results, so I know I’ve done better, but I’ve also done worse!

And now, for some photo evidence of the beauty:

There you have it, tourist advertising and marathon recap in one. If you are a runner and think about doing this race, let me know… because I wouldn’t mind doing it again!

Cheers and happy days,
Dorothea

*insert chart of training recap here, 600 miles and 78 hours.  Darß Marathon

p.s. that injury? Well, I had an MRI lined up for today, the day after the race, and no stress fracture! Not even a stress reaction! No clue what it is yet, but I’m sure the doc will have some theories for me next week.

Hydration for runners

I kind of think this post by Runner Unleashed works as a pretty good PSA.
Plus, people have been asking me how I run in such “high” temps and high humidity (other than that, compared to south Florida, these temps are fine, baby!) and I think much of being able to handle the temps is due to being properly hydrated. I drink at least three liters of straight water during times like this, and take in enough other fluids besides. I am proud to know the light yellow color very well (ha ha, sorry for TMI).
Also, something I learned last year was that dew-point is a good indicator of how difficult the run will be, more than the heat-index.

This chart was put together and depicted in the Running Times.

DEW POINT (°F) RUNNER’S PERCEPTION HOW TO HANDLE
50–54 Very comfortable PR conditions
55–59 Comfortable Hard efforts likely not affected
60–64 Uncomfortable for some people Expect race times to be slower than in optimal conditions
65–69 Uncomfortable for most people Easy training runs might feel OK but difficult to race well or do hard efforts
70–74 Very humid and uncomfortable Expect pace to suffer greatly
75 or greater Extremely oppressive Skip it or dramatically alter goal

My favorite photo from the post:

Enjoy reading! I’m going for a run.

Empire Unleashed

hydration

Now that we are right smack in full on Summer weather, running can be difficult. The hot weather makes it a little tougher on the body, mind, and training. So what happens when you run, you sweat. What happens when you run during the hot days? You sweat so much you feel like you went swimming!

Well, its time to talk about hydration and its benefits. Being hydrated is VITAL to your performance and overall health. empty_water_bottle-t2

Dehydration is where your body lacks the amount of fluids, mainly water, to function properly. Our body is made of more than 60% water, so when we sweat, breathe, and use the bathroom, we are using up that fluid percentage. So if we are constantly using our reserves, we can become dehydrated.

Here are some symptoms to look for in case you suspect dehydration on your run:

– Dry mouth

– Weakness

– Dizziness

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Two days to recover, two days to savour- HaSpa Marathoner!

I suppose I could have seen it coming, but yesterday would not have been any better even if I had been better prepared for it. Who put me on the second floor of my building?!

As to be expected after 26.2 miles (or the scarily higher-number 42.196), my quads were not happy with me. I was happy with them, though, and what they had accomplished for me. For one thing, I’m glad they took the beating without letting it out on my knees or knee ligaments. Still, climbing stairs (worse, going down them) was no fun lately. Actually, it was bad enough to put me in a bad mood until dinner time, where I was finally home and allowed to rest again. That’s saying a lot, since I’m a generally happy person.

But since that’s the worst of it, I will say I’m grateful with how things turned out.

Basically, I had a good run. No, actually, I can say I had the best run of my life thus far.

Gruppe_Marathon_Hamburg 2015

It was especially great to have people to meet before the race, take care of business with (pun intended, though not literally with) and wish one another luck.

This was the first marathon where I actually feel like I raced it. It’s a tough distance to run and I think that the first time, I only ran to run.The second time, I ran to race, but ended up not fueling properly and not being well enough prepared. This time (three times a charm!), I fueled hella well, but maybe could have been more prepared. However, the point is, I knew I could have raced smarter, and that, I think, is the truth to the beginning of a beautiful life aspiration that I can carry with me from here on out.

Here's a picture of me at 16K. Of course it has proof running across it. Does anyone want to buy it for me for 39 Euro? Just kidding. I think I'll wait for another race.

Here’s a picture of me at 16K. Of course it has proof running across it. Does anyone want to buy it for me for 39 Euro? Just kidding. I think I’ll wait for another race.

At least, I figured out that what they (people like Sabrina Mockenhaupt, the German favorite at this marathon) mean by saying “the race begins at mile 20 (or kilometer 30). I had two plans for this race. One was in regard to fueling, and the other in regard to running. Both aspects needed separate, but equal attention.

For running, I took the advice to not start off too fast very well… perhaps too well, as that is probably what set me back the few minutes it would have taken me to run a 3:47 (my less-reach-goal than 3:45). I walked across the starting line (not that I had much of a choice with the mass of people around me) and settled into a comfortable 9 mpm pace. No weaving or skipping across people’s trajectories for me. I just wanted to take it easy, soak in the sprinkling of rain and people’s cheers at the starting line, and appreciate the fact that the race was indeed underway. My first 5K split was 27:56. I had an almost even split for the 10K, coming in at 55:51. This was slower than I had anticipated, but I wasn’t worried about falling too far off track yet. I just wanted to take it easy, make sure all systems were in check. I had slight tightness on the back of my knees and my right hamstring, but it wasn’t a dangerous kind. I also had to go pee since before we had even gotten started, but I told myself I could handle it. I would only stop to go number 2, if I had to. Turns out, I was able to finish the race without stopping. Success!

So there I was, trotting along at a reasonable pace, feeling alright about things, couldn’t stop smiling about the cheers, running through the streets like a rebel, running, hearing the conversations around me, and feeling life in color. I had a few people from my dorm I was expecting to see on the course, but I think I must have missed them, and they me. But looking for them through the faces of the spectators, while exhausting in its own way, took my mind off running.

Part of my plan was to keep steady until the half-marathon point, and then pick it up for a negative split. I split my sections into 3 miles, which coincided with the 5K splits the race course was divided into, and just stayed positive. After nine miles, I thought to myself “already 1/3 through!” I had a similar sort of feeling after 18 miles… the race was almost going by too quickly to be true!

I will say that things got harder after 22 miles. At mile 20, I told myself “10K left to go!” and thought of how simple that distance usually is for me. But after 20 miles, 10K is a lot and it became harder to keep up the pace. Even though I was still keeping a pretty steady 8:45 pace that I had started around mile 14, consistently passing people (always making sure to pass on an encouraging word or sentence- and passing people is psychologically very motivating for a competitive person like myself) things (my quads specifically) were starting to hurt. Also, anytime I slowed down to get water, a banana or a gel, I could feel the lactic acid starting to build up. It took forever to get to mile 23, where I could tell myself “only 5k left!” Mile 24 was a blur, and I hit tunnel vision around then as well.

Mile 25 was only a “one mile left, one mile left” mantra, and at the 42K mark, I could see the finish line. I hit full-speed (as much as I had) and went soaring in… into the wrong entrance. There was a relay race done for this marathon as well (6,000 runners doing the relay!), and I ended up in the lane where they ran in together to finish. I saw this just in time to turn around before hitting the finish line, but it cost me at least 25 meters. I must have looked like a dork, though I was too high off running to care, but I did have huge thumbs up to show!

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I’m proud of my ability to stay strong through the finish. This is the first marathon where I did not walk. I am also very pleased with my negative split. The only thing I regret, is that I realized with my spurt at the end (I passed at least 20 people in the last 200 yards) that I could have run a faster race. Oh well, that’s what next time is for. For now, I have a 7+ minute PR and an idea of how these races are run.

I wasn't just saying it when I wrote that I couldn't stop smiling. I didn't even know this picture was being taken.

Here’s a picture of me at 38K. I wasn’t just saying it when I wrote that I couldn’t stop smiling. I didn’t even know this picture was being taken.

The way I ran, of course, would not have been possible if I had not fueled properly.

The other plan I had in regard to nutrition was something I developed during my long training runs. I used to be (and still am, for the most part) someone who will run 13 miles without bringing fuel or water if I can find fountains along the route. This can get tricky in Florida, but in northern Germany during the winter and early spring, dehydration was not really an issue. If I ate a sturdy breakfast and had a decent amount of simple carbs the night before, I could head out and feel strong for 13 miles no problem. However, at some point during my last marathon training cycle (which ended with injury), I figured out that I can run better after 15 miles if I’ve eaten something during it. This marathon training cycle, I discovered that eating something as early as 6 miles in would ensure I had the strength to pick it up and stay strong through the end of my run. If I ate again at 13 miles, I had enough to get through 18 strong, and if I ate at 18, 20 was a breeze. Basically, even though I’ve read the advice for years, I never actually practiced mid-run fueling properly. Now I have, though I find that refueling every 6 miles works best for me.

The best part about this marathon for me was that they provided bananas, electrolyte drinks, water, and the energy gels (albeit gels only after 22K). As someone who has decided to go sugar-free, bananas on the route were amazingly thoughtful. The food aid stations came every 5-8K (perfect for me to take something every other time ) and the water was every 5K. I felt weak between miles 10 and 13 (because I hadn’t taken solid fuel yet, my mistake), but got a high around mile 13 and picked it up after each refueling on the route. That could account for some of my smiling on the route.

While the fueling during the run was almost perfect, I still need to work on pre-race fueling. I took the advice that carb-loading should start 72 hours before the race, and had a good balance of complex and simple carbs during the Wednesday-Saturday of the race. I was actually feeling good-energy was high and I felt confident. But then I overdid it at the pasta-dinner a fellow soccer player and runner hosted, and ended up with a little too much in my system. I didn’t feel stuffed or bloated, but I knew I had too much, on top of what I had already consumed, leading up to this race. Thus, on race morning, because I knew something had to leave, I resorted to a very risky measure. I took a laxative early before the race… it worked within 15 minutes and all was well (sorry if this is all TMI), but I don’t ever want to have to risk it not working in time again, or working for too long. I will be more careful about what I eat the night before the race next time. I’m thinking that the last full meal should be at lunchtime, and then a lighter supper fare is more reasonable for the evening. I still stand by my yogurt, fruit, and coffee on race morning though.

All in all, this was a great race. As some closing notes, I’ll say that the German racing system is kind of neat. They also took a picture of me at the finish line, but mine is not updated yet. They’re still sorting through multiples of 21000 to get everyone their links.

I also got to know the city of Hamburg is a splendid new way. We ran by some of Hamburg’s best sites and I saw the Stadtpark, an area I had never previously seen before. It was beautiful. The people of Hamburg also put on a great supportive face, coming out despite the poor weather. I had a lot of random people yell “go Dorothea!” or “Lauf, Doro!” (Doro being the German nickname for Dorothea). It was really encouraging and the race was so much fun. I can only say again and again how happily I would do it again… though give my quads a chance to recover first.