The beauty (or the curse) of running a marathon is that you never know what you’ll be going to get. You can have a great race or a really shitty one. You just never know. Multiple factors come into place. Some of them you can control while others are completely out of your hands. This year I went back to Berlin for redemption. For myself. To make up for the total disappointment in 2018 where I ran with an injured hip.
Of course, the Berlin Marathon wasn’t in my best memories. Since June, when I started building up to the 26.2 miles race, I had to leave these negative thoughts about Berlin behind. In this article, I’ll share my goals for Berlin, things I’ve done differently this year leading up to the race and of course the facts about what happened in Berlin this year.
The goal of finally breaking 4
My training plan was created to run a sub 4 in Berlin this year. This was my ultimate goal. Only 25% of all marathoners are able to break this time goal. Did you know? When I started running about 5 years ago, running a marathon wasn’t even on my radar.
After running my first marathon in 2017 I knew that I really wanted to break four hours eventually. It’s a magical time, something I wanted to accomplish. Last year, I ran a 04:21 something in Berlin, so this year I needed to shave off at least 22 minutes.
I trained really hard since June. I only missed one training run because I caught a cold. 98% of my runs were outside not on the treadmill. I ran in any weather condition. There were no excuses. When chasing a specific time at a race, you have to put your mind into it. It is important to learn how to believe in yourself and become confident enough to walk up to a starting line at a World Major Marathon and go for it.
This is important regardless of what your ultimate goal is. I have friends that run everything from sub 5 hours to incredible fast marathon times of 02:30:00. Do you think they would be able to reach their goals not believing they actually could?
Things I’ve done differently compared to 2018
After last year’s personal disappointment I reflected a lot what went wrong and tried to change it this year. Here are the main factors that I have adjusted in 2019.
- Hiring a coach – I was fortunate to work with a coach (@coachkai) this year who had the perfect training plan for me based on the fact that I wasn’t only running but also lifting 5 times per week. Hiring a coach and not following a very general plan we can find online made a huge difference for me. Even though I’m a coach myself, I need someone working with me in that way.
- More rest – Rest and a peaceful environment are key to focus 100% on your race. Giving your body time to rest before is important. I spend the day before the marathon in my hotel room before heading out to dinner with my family and friends. I foam rolled and kept massaging my legs with Biofreeze. More rest meant also to not hit the gym anymore starting two weeks before. That was the hardest part for me.
- Mindset – There will be doubts. Especially this year knowing the weather could really ruin the race for me started to freak me out. Every time I was questioning myself I looked at my training logs. Looking at the past 16 weeks of training calmed me down. “But what if it rains?” – “But do you remember running in 95 degrees weather?” Also during the race, it is important to have your mantras ready. Your mind will try to play games. I was prepared this time.
- Pacer – This year I decided to finally run a marathon with a friend. If you are going for a specific time find someone who shares the same goals or is faster than you and willing to get you to where you want to be during the race. My friend Les and I talked about a race strategy for the Berlin Marathon and promised each other to make each other accountable for it during the marathon.
- Race Strategy – One of the main mistakes most runners fall for during a long-distance event is going out too fast. Our game plan was simple. A steady 09:00 pace until mile 20 and then going a little bit faster (08:50 – 08:30) for a negative split. Having a strategy like that and someone next to you that reminds you about it when you’re getting caught up in the marathon feels is absolutely amazing and truly helpful.
- Nutrition and fueling – Some think it is overrated but it’s not. I started fueling and prepping my body 3 days before the marathon. Hydration and carb loading was the main focus. During the race, I used Maurten 100 gels this year which to me are the game changer altogether. I also had my family on the course who handed electrolytes, apple juice, and a banana.
- No headphones – For the first time, I ran a marathon without headphones. I wanted to be present and more with me and my body.
A quick Berlin Marathon 2019 race recap
My friend Les and I started at 09:31 AM and were cruising like this was just another long run. Ever since my injury I have problems with my glutes and starting around mile 10 I could feel the tightness becoming stronger and stronger. I carried a little Biofreeze spray with me because I knew this would save us eventually. Every time we got a chance we sprayed our legs with the cooling spray and this helped me a lot to forget about my glutes.
Our strategy worked well. Our sightseeing tour through Berlin was nice and steady. Sometimes I would share some information that I had about certain sights with Les. Of course to keep things fun but also to check on myself if I was still able to talk. We passed the halfway mark. We saw my family at mile 23 and made a quick pit stop to exchange fueling.
13 miles in the pouring rain
Then it started raining. Here it was, the chance to talk negatively about the weather, the wind, all this water on the street. This was a tricky part I remember saying once how much I hate the rain, but then I said to myself, that I’ve trained in worst. We kept cruising and were fighting our way further through the pouring rain.
We wanted to reach mile 20 by the three hours mark. At mile 20 my watch said 02:59:58. Things were going so great that it was scary. At mile 21 Les needed a quick break. His quads were cramping. The clock was ticking. While I really wanted to stay with him he told me to keep running. There was not much time for an argument at this point so I listened and was hoping he would catch up.
Breaking four hours in Berlin
I dropped the pace by 10, 20 and then 30 seconds during the last 5 miles. When I finally saw the Brandenburger Gate I checked my watch and realized that I will break four hours today. Surprisingly, I felt still extremely good.
Looking back, this year’s Berlin Marathon went the exact opposite compared to last year for me. I had such a good time. Thanks to the rain nobody saw those little tears at the finish. The first thing I did was tracking Les hoping he was okay. He fell back a little but he is a fighter too. He ended up finishing a few minutes after.
This was a fight for every athlete running the Berlin Marathon this year. Rain is never fun. But I learned that the right mindset is the most important part. Does your left hamstring hurt? Think about the right one. Does it rain cats and dogs right now? Remember your last beach vacation. Step by step you are getting closer to the finish. Closer to a stronger you. 03:58:07 – Thank you Berlin.
Congratulations to everyone who finished on Sunday. You are all so incredibly inspiring to me.