There are people who sometimes ask me how I can run a long race, especially a marathon. I reflect on how it feels to finish a race and how I felt after finishing the Berlin Marathon.
I want to start with how I ended the Berlin marathon on September 25, 2016. As I crossed the finish line I raised my hands up and said a short prayer. I gave thanks that I have the ability to run and finish. Thanks that I had the mental control to fight all obstacles that make me feel like I cannot do it for the duration of the run. Marathons are never easy but they challenge us just like other challenges we face in life and when we finish we conquer the challenge and overcome the obstacles. This carries over to the personal and professional life – I am not afraid of challenges and I tackle them the way I tackled the Berlin Marathon. I plan, train, prepare and do it. You have to understand that you start the race with an accomplishment of your own – the accomplishment of starting. Sometimes that’s the biggest challenge for a person – to start. You then use that accomplishment to get to the next part – you finish. During the marathon I loved that runners who are strangers will sometimes speak to me sharing words of encouragement, I do it too. I love that people who spectate will call my name and tell me that I should keep going and I can do it. It can be the best distraction from counting down miles, from your mind telling you that you should stop or from thinking too much about things that can distract your focus on finishing the race.
I heard many positive things about the race before I ran and when I did I was not disappointed. The course was flat and the weather was nice. The volunteers at the water station were super nice and often cheered on the runners. During the race there were water stops at almost every 2 miles. Some long races will have water at every mile so that runners have flexibility around when they want to make a stop whether it’s every 3 miles 4 or 5 etc.… If you set a plan to stop for water every 3 miles it may not work out if there will not be a water stop every mile. There was hot tea with the water at most stops and only an electrolyte drink similar to Gatorade and Powerade at about 2 stops. At some stops there were banana and apples and there was pails of water for runners to dip their sponge in to wet their faces or body. I stick with drinking and eating the same things that I trained with so I didn’t try anything new on the course. Bands came out to play and there was lots of music playing during the race. Throughout the route there were many drummers and capoeira dancers. There are tons of sites to see during the race and I enjoyed running it.
There was an awesome shakeout run that ended in the Olympic Stadium. On the way to the run my friends and I met a runner from Brazil and a runner from Mexico and we all figured out how to use the train to get to the run location. We got there in time to see the balloon release ceremony before we ran 3.5 miles to the Olympic stadium. While at the stadium I met runners from China, South Africa, Iceland, UK and other parts of the world. I quickly began to feel like this race was not like any that I ran before. I didn’t see many runners from the US or even NY. We were all from different places but we had commonalities. Some of these runners that I met planned to also come to NY to run our marathon and other shared memories of running Berlin in the past and of running other races that I had run too. At the Olympic Stadium there was a huge breakfast and they definitely delivered the carbs and hydration we needed to get ready for the race.
Food in Berlin
Many people asked me if I was able to find food while in Berlin since I don’t eat meat. I found that there were a number of vegetarian restaurants and many restaurants did have a vegetarian option. For example, I went to Konnopke’s Imbiss under the Eberswalder StraBe stop on the U2 train line and had a vegan currywurst sausage sandwich. I ate pasta at Ristorante Fontana di Trevi the night before the race. There are many options to eat and there’s a very diverse food culture. One thing I found interesting is that people were casually drinking beer everywhere. While walking through the city it is not uncommon to see people drinking a beer openly or even on public transportation. The drinking age for beer and wine is 16 and the age for harder drinks is 18.
Sites and Things to Do
I traveled to Berlin two and a half days before the marathon and got there two days before. I got the Welcome Card, which would allow me to travel using public transportation and also gave discounts for some tours and restaurants. Because I chose this route I did some walking days before the race to get to the trains and to get around the city. I logged 4.5 miles of walking two days before the race and almost 7.5 miles on my feet the day before the race. I spent my time in Berlin exploring the city and learning about its dramatic past, its present and future. I did a city center boat tour, visited Museum Island, the Berlin Wall, and participated in a bike tour and many more touristy adventures. Many people ride bikes to get around and there are bike lanes to get to almost everywhere. The bike tour was with Fat Tire tours and it was one of my favorites. I also visited the Berliner Dom/Berlin Cathedral and walked to the top of the dome where I got to see some of the most beautiful views of the city. There was definitely never a dull moment.
I recommend running the Berlin marathon or just visiting Berlin. I truly enjoyed this experience running and visiting a place that I have never been.
Keep challenging yourself and keep moving!