running

Blackpool Marathon recap

After a week of talking to people who really didn’t want to know ALL the details about my latest marathon (you know how it is, once they ask, it’s kind of hard to stop adding things), I decided to take my Blackpool Marathon recap to the interwebs. I closed my running site months ago, but since this was my first destination race, and in England, it also fits in nicely here in my wandering blog. Now, I’d like to warn you that I wrote quite a bit for this recap and most of it is really just interesting to me. You may want to stop a few paragraphs from now, where I summarize my race, or skip ahead to the breakdown of the miles closer to the end.

As I showed in my last post, Blackpool is a town on the north-west side of English coastline, looking out over the Irish Sea. We got to see a lot of this sea while running, which I think was my favorite part of the race. That being said, being on the sea, it was also very windy [stress factor #1] which I didn’t really take seriously enough until it was facing me, or I was facing into it, so to speak.

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As far as marathons go, this was a slightly-better-than mediocre performance. I went in thinking I had a shot at 3:25 and I came out with 3:35:13, which I guess only looks sad to me because I had such a high goal to begin with. In retrospect, I think I wanted to show the Cambridge University Hounds and Hares that I could run a little closer to their level, impress them in some small way, but realistically, given some over-training symptoms the week before, some Achilles pain, and a bit of stress the week/day before the race, I probably should have aimed for the sub 3:30 and left it at that. Though, I also still think I may have had a chance at 3:25 if I had known the course a little better and started off more moderately.

Anyhoo, race preparation started Friday evening, as I had big travel plans and wasn’t planning on getting into Blackpool until around 9 PM on Saturday. Friday evening, after an important presentation for my PhD [stress factor #2], I packed everything I thought I would need. Thankfully, I have a lot of practice packing from traveling in general, and I’d been collecting all the things I needed for this marathon for about a week in the same drawer: bib belt, gels, socks, sports bra, two options for running tops, two pairs of shorts- one for during and one for post-race, and three 20 pence pieces- since those would be my access to toilets on-course. I’ll explain more about the amenities (or lack thereof) at this race later. The shoes [stress factor #3] were the most difficult part of the packing process as I’d only recently noticed that the shoes that I’d been using throughout the whole training cycle were hurting me- specifically the Achilles. So when packing on Friday, I had both my Dynaflyte-2s and Nimbus-19s, both from the ASICS Gel line, out ready to pack in their shoe bag. I ended up spontaneously going with the Nimbus-19s, which had seemed too rigid in previous runs in them, but had felt the most comfortable in the week leading up to this race.

After a short, but deep rest, I woke up early on the Saturday to get a quick run in. This turned into two quick runs when I realized after getting back to the house that I’d left my key inside. I then sort of half-sprinted over to the Porter’s Lodge to get a replacement, which was a pretty simple affair. I like to think that this last-minute running was part of my preparation for the race, and locking myself out once already a few months ago was preparation for locking myself out this time, as I would not have known what to do so swiftly otherwise. I’m lucky it all went so smoothly, given that at 6:10, when I was standing at the counter waiting for the paperwork for a replacement key to be filed, I had 40 minutes to get home, showered, on the bike and to the train station. I ended up making it to the station with just enough time to grab a coffee, and thus began my journey to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. It was a pretty active day- but a super cool visit, as my post about that shows.

However, despite making it out of Newcastle alright, I was stuck in Preston for too long. It’s sort of ironically funny that after months of living in England and using the public transportation fairly frequently, the day before my marathon is when the (supposedly) notorious transportation quality made an appearance for the worse. This means that traveling to Newcastle, and then traveling to Blackpool wasn’t the most stressful part- it was having a train- and all the trains after that for the evening- fall out on the track from Preston to Blackpool and waiting around a chilly station for 1.5 hours [stress factor #4: even if I wouldn’t feel sick before the run, I was sure I’d contracted a virus that was activated by this cold, and it would start affecting me after the race with my weakened immune system]. And then sitting in the bus for an hour, worried for the first 15 minutes, until I could maneuver it elsewhere, that the heavy backpack on my lap was weakening my legs for the next day [stress factor #5]. And then arriving in the dark in an unknown city in continuing drizzle and cold gusts and having to find the hotel, which is really never any fun, even in the best of situations.

Still, as one fellow traveler mentioned in our conversations (standing around train stations can lead to a lot of sharing), perhaps being put through so much extra stress would make me more tired and then it would easier to fall asleep. I think that was partially true as I can’t really remember much after getting to the hotel.

The next morning, race morning at 6:30am to be precise, I was excited to find a hot water cooker in the room as well as multiple coffee options, including the one I’d brought with me, which was nice, since the breakfast room wouldn’t be open until 8:30. This meant I also had enough time to write in my journal, reflect on my goals for the race, eat a honey waffle and drink my two cups of coffee. I packed my race bag with a bottle of water, some Emergen-C, a change of clothes, watch, MP3 and headphones, my 3 x 20 cents, my 6 gels, and the bib belt. 15 minutes in the breakfast room added a banana and an apple, and I shared the room with a bowl of cocoa puffs and another cup of coffee, and a few people with hangovers, before I had to meander over to the race. I like to think that the stress of travel the night before was worth it for being less than 3/4s of a mile from the race start.

Now, a few details about this race: the Blackpool Marathon was part of the Blackpool Festival of Running that stretched out over the whole weekend, included a 2k, 5k, 10k, half and full marathon, and was hosted by the Flyde Coast Runners (more about the Flyde Coast in the last post). The shorter distances were done on Saturday and the half and full-marathons on the Sunday- which ended up being perfect as the weather was absolutely awful on Saturday and amazing on Sunday- except for the wind, of course. There were 494 people who finished the full and 753 who finished the half marathons, which means there were about 1,247+ people walking around the starting area- and it was surprisingly manageable. I was able to show up at around 9 AM and still pick up my number and shirt without trouble, drop-off (more like toss) my bag in the bag collection area, and even make it to the restroom multiple times. It reminded me why I really like smaller races.

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That being said, the only services offered on course were water-bottle aid stations and marshalling by the local police and volunteers. Everything else, including money for the toilets, I needed to provide for myself. Hence the running belt for the gels, which I didn’t actually have a chance to test before the race and while it was supposed to be meant for any gels, including Gus, I ended up losing 1 Gu in the first mile and another at mile 13 [stress factor #6]. I felt like I may need to go to the restroom for the first miles [stress factor #7], but that feeling went away by mile 8- whether starting dehydration or just going away, I don’t know. The good thing is, after realizing I’d lost a gel, I started looking for lost gels, and managed to scrounge three throughout the rest of the race- all taken before mile 22. I don’t know if that was the best judgement… but I decided I’d rather contract some weird disease from the ground than bonk during this race. Logic just doesn’t work during a marathon.

Blackpool Race Course

The course itself was great. Here’s an interactive map, for those who are especially curious. If it hadn’t been for the wind, it would have been a nice out-and back course done twice with doable mini-hills and a wonderful view of the coast. The sharp incline shortly before the finish was a bit of a bummer, but even that was easily overcome.

The half-marathoners and full marathoners started off at the same time heading in opposite directions, converging, and then diverging again. The split, however, was stress factor #8, as I forgot to check this the morning of the race and forgot where the split was supposed to occur… meaning I stressed about it for the entire first half of the race. The race website now says it in these words: “Please note: Just before 13 miles, marathon runners split away from half marathon runners. Marathon runners need to keep left to proceed onto the second lap. There are marshals and signs to assist you, but please make yourself aware of the split point before competing to avoid any confusion on the day.” I was so sure, though, that this was different last I checked. When I checked in the week before the race, it was more like: “there will be marshals, but it is the racer’s responsibility to know where to split off.” Though maybe I confused the split point snippet with this one: “YOU MUST ENSURE YOU ARE IN THE CORRECT START LANE – THIS IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.” Either way, I was a bit (read: very) nervous that I would get it wrong.

Turns out, I could have just watched the mile-signs (no timers on course) and seen that the marathon signs (in red) were still steadily ticking towards 26 miles like they should. But for an anxious person like me, even the evidence doesn’t really serve to reassure me as much as someone with authority looking at my bib and making sure I was in the correct lane for my race, and telling me that better well get in it if I wanted to continue on the marathon course, gosh-darnnit.

If you got bored a while ago, you may want to restart here. I think I’ve set the scene for the race and all that remains is to quickly recap how the race went:

Mile 1-6 were with the wind, and I ticked down the miles pretty quickly with sub 7:45 mpms. For some reason, because of the wind-turbines being turned in the opposite direction of what I’m used to, I thought that I was running fast into a wind, and therefore wasn’t concerned until we reached the first turn-around and I remembered what running into the wind really feels like. I reached the first 10km at about 47:30, which I knew was too fast, but I was still delusional at that point. I think I took my first gel around mile 6.

Miles 6-13 I stopped being delusional, first with the wind being turned on and then around mile 9 when I started actually feeling tired- which in a 26.2-mile race is never a good point to feel tired [stress factor #8]. Yet the legs still had a good turn-over in them and it helped that around mile 10 we turned back around and had the tail-wind, but it was already a concern. As for turning back with the wind, I kid you not- it was as though someone had turned off the fan on a warm April day in south Florida; the sun, which had made an appearance shortly after 10 AM already, became too warm and the pace suddenly felt much easier. I took another gel at mile 11.5 or so with the next water bottle that crossed my path. I had skipped the first water station, but with the sun, it was starting to feel warm and the first station was the only one I skipped. Indeed, shortly before mile 13 for the half marathoners (but after mile 13 for the marathoners), the divergence point came and with that, back on the main promenade.

Miles 13-17 on the promenade were much less interesting the second time around with less support- a lot of it had been for the half-marathoners who were by now walking back to their homes/cars/hotels. One of these runners offered me his water, and I took the bottle without thinking about whether he was offering a sip or the whole rest of the bottle… The bottle incident at mile 14 or 15 were another sign that things were getting difficult- I’m normally super iffy on germs and who knows what kind of conditions that guy could have… but again, marathon logic. But just because there were no longer people really cheering, there were more than enough people walking along the course, enjoying the promenade and Pleasure Beach. To be honest, it was actually a little more demoralizing than running with no spectators at all would have been (and I’ve done those, too).I did the first half in 1:41:20, which incidentally is also 3rd place overall for women for that segment on Strava, and it’s, of course, a great time for a marathon.

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However, not something I could expect to repeat. I sort of managed to keep a steady pace before the turn-around back into the wind, picking up dropped two gels  (these made up for the two I’d lost up to that point), taking one of them at mile 14, because I was feeling tired and worried that I would run out of steam, which reflects a bit in the splits during this part; they were pretty varied: 7:45, 7:57, 7:36, 7:57, 8:01. These reflect that I already took my first walking break at mile 15.5, and another one at 16.8, which is even before we turned back into the wind.

Miles 17-23 were tough. We turned back into the wind close to mile 18 and I think I was so demoralized that I just took a walking break to get over the difficult stretch I knew was up ahead. Also, while I definitely had enough gels in my system at this point, I didn’t have enough fluid and this meant I started  cramping mile 20 or so, which is the first time I’ve cramped in a longer race. It was mostly the hamstrings- and they weren’t full-on cramps. They would just tighten, force me check my pace a bit, and then release. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the mini rolling hills appeared again. So yeah, fun stuff. Paces: 8:54, 9:08, 9:07, 9:16, 9:23.

Miles 22-26 were redeemed by the fact that we had a bit of a downhill, another flat stretch, and were out of the wind again. Also, it was almost the end. However, I knew that the last water stop was coming up close to mile 24 and had taken the last gel around mile 22… so I was yearning for some water and could easily have drunk the whole 500mL they gave us there. However, the easier conditions meant I could keep myself moving and even avoided walking anymore. The cramps had also subsided and the only thing hindering me were my slowly failing quads. Still, I was faster those last three miles than the three before that: 9:01, 8:47, 8:29.

Last 0.2 miles were me thinking “I’m so over this… just get me to the end.” Even though there was a little hill at mile 26, it was a nice little 8:28mpm pace… I’m also amazed at how much better I looked than I felt the last mile.

As I approached the finish line, I saw that I was at 3:35 something on the clock, so I just made it my mission to keep it under 3:36. That didn’t stop someone from sprinting past me those last meters (seriously?! How?)

So, at which point did I give up my 3:25 goal? Probably around mile 9 when I first started feeling tired. A little surer when I walked mile 14. Definitely when I had several 9+mpm after mile 19. I thought mile 19 I may still get sub 3:30, but unlike my last marathon where I had something to fight for the whole race, this time I think I let go of my focus on most of my time goals and it just became a matter of finishing as quickly as possible, regardless of the time. That is, I no longer had a specific time goal to meet, just whatever time I could manage after the cramps, walking breaks and tiredness.

The race in numbers
Date: 28 April 2019, 5 months and 1 week since the last marathon
Cost of race: £35 + travel/hotel money; savings: 60 pence on a toilet on the route
Hours of sleep the night before: 6:06
Temperature at race start/end: 10 degrees Celsius, overcast/12 degrees Celsius,  sunny
Gels consumed: 2 Gus and 5 Iso gels
Number of times I wondered if the turn-around should have happened by now: 5
10km: 47:30
Half-marathon time: 1:41:20
30km: 2:26:06 (PR!)
Official chip time: 3:35:13
Placing: 87/494 overall;  6th woman overall; 3rd woman age group 18-30

The experience after the race was really mellow. I thought there was a chance I could have placed in something, so I hung around, used the time to change, refuel with my protein bar, their mini Cadbury chocolate bar, my water, their water, and my banana. I walked a bit too, covering about 2 miles afterwards- anything to keep the legs moving.

Once 14:30 came around and the awards weren’t being done yet, I let go of my glimmer of hope and figured if I won anything, I’d hear about it later. I shuffled up the promenade in the trail of the families of a few marathoners and got a bit of fish n’chips and a coffee at the North Pier. Walked around a bit more, and then headed back to the hotel. I wasn’t quite sure how to get back, but thankfully I recognized things pretty quickly and found the B&B in time for a shower, nap, and then still found some energy to hunt down a beer and a real meal.

More about post-race in my other post, but after a poor night’s sleep and 5 hour journey, I finally made it back to Cambridge, slowly rode up the hill home, and was glad to just lounge about and do home office a few days.

I was so tired this past week- more tired I think than I’ve ever been except after an intense surgical procedure in the fifth grade involving arteries and skin grafts…, yeah. Possibly, this fatigue was the result of having been fatigued before the run and just wiping myself out on that course. It could also have been the combined efforts of travel and racing (I have so much more respect for people who do destination races). It could also have been the combination of PMS and post-marathon recovery, which reminds me that listening to the body as a woman means extra things to listen to. Finally, it could also just have been post-race blues from having not met my expectations for this race. Or maybe it was all four. However, ultimately, it was Marathon #7 and I did it! I’m also feeling much better as of publishing this post and looking forward to getting a bit faster in the shorter distances again.

Sorry about this ultra-long post. Again, I think it’s more for my benefit than any potential reader’s. I can recommend Blackpool as a PR course on a less windy day, and in general, despite so few perks, the Flyde Coast Runners put on a great event- and I love the medal and the shirt! It’s also my first, and maybe only marathon in England, so it will always have a special place in my heart.

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you can see just a bit of the famous North Pier there. Also, quite surprisingly, I got sunburn in my face. That will teach me to put on sunscreen, no matter how overcast it is before a race!

p.s. As of this afternoon, right before this post was scheduled to be published, I received an email saying I was reimbursed for my ticket Newcastle to Blackpool, which means I’m 51 pounds richer and therefore can remember that part of the journey a tad more positively. Thank you Northern!

A week in the life of a visiting Cambridge student: Sunday

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Cambridge loves its acronyms, and this one stands for the university-wide Cambridge (cross country) running club: The Hounds and Hares. I’d scoped out this group already in April last year when I found out I was coming to Cambridge, and one of the first things on my list since arriving was joining a group run. The captains of the men’s and women’s teams put out weekly running meet-ups and they were quite easy to email with, but the group is incredibly competitive. Last Sunday when I went to meet-up for the group run, I was left behind within the first mile, getting too lost to ever have a hope of catching up to the group. This Sunday, I came with a little more speed and gumption, and the course was more straight-forward along the Cam river, so I managed to not quite stay with the main group (who went out for 12 miles at 7mpm or faster), but I managed to stick to the smaller group that went 8 miles at a more reasonable pace after losing the main group (it was still around 7:40 mpm). Needless to say, being at the back-end of a pack of runners and still doing sub- 7mpm was a huge slice of humble pie. It was a definite character builder these past two weeks.

Brunch

Brunch is a staple of the weekends in all the colleges, but it’s also a post-run tradition- and a nice way to socialize with the others. Each week a different runner hosts it in a different college, and this week it happened to be Trinity which was… woah. It was a surprise. Already waiting for the others at the Great Gate of Trinity College was a treat.

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Quite the meeting place, huh? (Source)

Here’s a map of the grounds by David Logan from 1690:

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(Source) This will have to do until I make it over back again to take pictures.

But that didn’t even properly prepare me for the dining hall. The founder of Trinity College, Henry the VIII, presided over it and I was getting huge Hogwarts vibes. I could barely contain myself, but I of course had to act cool around the Trinity students and other runners.

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Dining hall during the day (Source)

Oh! And because some may find this interesting, brunch in Cambridge can have waffles and/or pancakes, but it also consists of black pudding, eggs, sausage, baked tomatoes, and baked beans. It initially sounds quite odd (and some of the things look a bit off-putting), but you can’t judge it until you’ve tried it! While I didn’t really like the black pudding, I liked the beans. That could become a good, hearty (farty) -ha ha, sorry!- staple.

Having a run at 10 and then brunch at noon means that I didn’t really get started with work until 2 PM, but the nice thing is, if I hadn’t done my shopping yesterday, I would have been able to today- but only until 5 PM. Unlike Germany, England has its stores open on Sundays, but unlike the US, these hours are fairly drastically shortened. On this note, a small comment on the service culture here, which includes all sorts of verbal niceties like “alright there, love?” “cheers.” I still haven’t figured out the appropriate response to “cheers,” so I’ve just been saying it back.

Chapel

 

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After a few hours of laundry and library (I KNOW; my life is so interesting!), I headed over to the College Chapel for an interdenominational church service. Considering that I’ve been baptized and gone through confirmation, my relationship with the Christian religion has been a bit shaky since high school. Part of it was convenience, and while I know that going to church should not necessarily be convenient, having a chapel on campus is really helpful and I think visiting the Sunday evening service could become a habit. I enjoy the singing of the hymns, listening to the sermon and the choir, the organ music, and the shared dinner together afterwards.

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If anything, it’s an hour of introspection and talking to myself, if not to God. Since my college is one of the newer ones, I also hope to make it over to King’s College or Trinity (*swoons*) for a service before leaving here.

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

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.

Volunteering at the Berlin Marathon

 

 

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I’ll admit, parts of this post will only be interesting to a runner, and parts of this will sound like any newbie marathon volunteering experience without being specific to Berlin. If you’re not interested in running, and even less in the Berlin Marathon, then you’ll appreciate a comment by a guy I met on my way home today. He was irritated by the hub-hub and the closed streets everywhere: es sind Leute, die laufen nur so rum! (it’s just a bunch of people running around!).  But this is a recap of my experience on a new side of a marathon- and there are a lot of photos. Hope  you enjoy!

This morning, I was up before dawn (which, admittedly, is getting later and later) to have my cup of coffee and my  breakfast and some Sunday morning routine before having to leave. I suppose I can get up early for running or running related things. Other occasions, I’d rather at least wait until the sun (not looking forward to Daylight savings).

Anyway, I was on my way to the marathon course before I think most runners were, and checked in at the skeleton of an aid station, receiving my jacket and then-nothing. I sat around listening to other volunteers chat and smiling and being nice, but quiet (my family thinks I always have to be the center of attention, it’s not true! With strangers, I’m more reserved!). I was itching for something to do, though.

That came soon enough as I found my way to the fruit group. I could have ended up with the water people, gels, tea, or sponges. Instead, I found myself among others preparing the bananas and apples. Then, the group sort of picked apples or bananas and I found myself with knife in hand and a box of apples.

So. Many. Apples. I cut and cored two boxes of apple on my own, and maybe a few more. It was slow going at first, but volunteers would chat and I’d join in occasionally and soon enough the first hand-crank bikers were coming by, followed closely by the wheel-chair racers. That was exciting and I’d interrupt my cutting to clap and cheer them on.

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Then came the first runners – Kipsang closely followed by Lagat. That was awesome. Though, surprisingly, I never saw Bekele, who went on to win the marathon in 6 seconds within WR time! WHAT?! Though, I would have won the bet that the record would not be reset today, I was a bit bummed not to have seen Bekele or that he was so close- and still didn’t get it. But he ran an impressive race, I’ve heard. And he has the new Ethiopian record, which is top class anyway. Does anyone want to talk about how Kipasang only lost by 10 seconds? That means he was 16 seconds within the WR as well.

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Of course, the first thirty or fifty runners ignored us, most of them had their fueling behind them. One runner, Tesfamariam Solomon still had his bottle in hand and threw it at. my. feet. I felt like a guest at a wedding. Oh? I’m to be the next elite then? Thanks!!

 

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Kebede- even elites look at their watches while running

I was excited to also see the first woman runner, Aberu Kebede, kicking butt. There was no competition from her second at kilometer 30, and I was just in awe- for the few seconds I had to watch her run by. They were all so fast.

But I had apples to cut, and soon the first people were grabbing fruit. Most of the sub-3 hour runners were grabbing bananas…but then someone took my first apple!! And then another! I enjoyed this part, holding out the apples and catching names to call out. I alternated between encouragement in English and German- I just smiled and looked for the smile in return when they’d heard the encouragement.

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I’ve heard the Minion version of “banana” a few times today.

Seriously, I was feeling buzzed and enjoying myself. Running is my drug! And there’s such thing as second-hand running high, I’ve discovered.

But then, the bucket of water-caressed apples was nearly empty, and I realized I’d have to cut more. We were barely at the four hour runners. So I was stuck cutting apples further back in the volunteer zone, away from the runners and missing being part of it, until I’d filled my bucket again and could hand out, smile, cheer and enjoy myself.

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After that second bucket, I just cut at the table, putting out the apples for the runners to grab their own. I could barely keep up, but I was also first in line, so when a runner missed me, three volunteers down the line were also offering apples. It started slowing down with the five hour runners, people reaching km 30 at about 4:15:00 gun time. I was still there forty minutes later or so, when the last runner passed.

Then it was a super quick cleanup. I had a moment to reflect on the mass amounts of supplies used/used up for a marathon. We produce a lot of waste at these things. I’d support greener races.

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And then I was on my way home.

I honestly can’t believe that I’ve watched an entire marathon. I’ve never seen the pick-up busses before, the first and last runners, it’s crazy. Even as a runner, or maybe because I’m usually a healthy runner (and low on running buddies the moment), I’ve never specated a marathon. Usually, Im running in the the races happening in my area myself. Online and on tv, I’m not actually watching it without distraction. Usually, I’m just listening to the reporting. This time I saw the runners, so many runners. And honestly, I was kind of glad I didn’t have to run. Of course, if I’d been preparing for it for months, I definitely would have. And it was a glorious day to run- perfect weather. Still, without running, I can come home via bike after volunteering at a marathon and get some work done. I could not do that if I’d run it (I mean, I could, but it’s usually harder). I’m usually in a funk after a marathon. All I want to do is sit around, eat, and talk about what I’ve accomplished. Then sleep. Of course, this way I don’t get a celebratory meal, but I’ve got enough apples to last me for… a week? I like apples.

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Apples or bananas? New water bottle! That beer is not part of my haul, I picked it up on my way home for Tatort tonight. It’s a dark hefeweizen, for those interested.

I will say, it was cool to see all these runners, Berliners, Germans, and internationals. I saw a few first time marathoners (that I know of for sure, because they told me or had it as part of their kit). I saw a few USA reps who got a special call-out. I saw the whole Israeli hand-bike team well-represented and zooming by. I saw people grab for apples and miss. I heard so many thanks yous (though admittedly more from the later runners- sub 3:30s, work on that!).

In short, I had a great time at the Berlin 2016 Marathon.

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Congrats to all the runners, race organization, police,  medics, and all involved for a great event (I’m feeling a bit self-congratulatory).

Hope you all enjoy your Sunday! Racers (I’m looking at you, Paula and James), best of luck!

Closing note about my new water bottle: was it kosher to take it home? Who knows. I’m pretty sure it would have been thrown away, anyway. I cleaned it and took off the sticker, but the green band remains. I’d like to share about Tesfamariam Solomon- he was an Eritrian refugee who is a member of the TVL Bern running team. Just making it to Switzerland alive was a challenge most of us can’t even imagine, and here he was, running sub 2:15. Herzlichen Glückwunsch, Mr. Solomon!

Live Update from Berlin: home of the Berlin Marathon 

(That title seems a bit unnecessary… obviously the Berlin marathon is run in Berlin… I’m not very good at titling today).

This is the first time I’ve lived in a marathon majors city. It’s obvious that this is bigger than most other marathons and a bigger deal for the citizens of the city it’s happening in. Literally all of center Berlin is shut down. People that have to get places are complaining, obviously, but it’s so cool to see the whole course being prepared for the runners.

 It’s also probably the first time I’ve been somewhere and everyone wants to talk about a marathon, runners and non-runners alike. I’m a bit in-between this year, seeing as I am not running, but totally get the ethnusiasm and have a purpose on the race course. I get to give out bananas at Km 30! 

What I haven’t quite figured out is my relationship to the racers coming from all over the world. The streets are crowded with tomorrow’s runners, who are struggling to resist the lure of a city to explore the night before a 26.2 mile run. I want them to like Berlin! I want them to see how cool this city is! At the same time, I feel a kinship with every runner I see… I think about how they must be nervous about tomorrow, anticipating the race and its challenges. I also am jealous that they get to run and I don’t, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it in another way. I’m also worried that they won’t get the city and what it has to offer, since they’ll be so engrossed in the race, preparation and recovery. I’ll admit, it’s not perfect. There’s construction, borderline no-go zones, and the Berliners are a bit gritty and snarky. There are moments where an unhappy runner and the city may clash. But I hope not, and there will be a friendly Berliner wanting to help a runner out! 

People from around the  world, Berlin is excited for you, welcomes you, and can’t wait to see you run tomorrow! But don’t forget to be gracious guests and try to collect memories of a city full of history and general awesomeness outside of this race.  

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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