Marathon learning – Hydrate and feed during the race. 26.2 miles is a long time.
Around about mile 14 or 15 I latched onto a Chilean’s ankles. Not literally.
Dave had slowed a little a couple of miles back so I was on my own. By this stage of the race those around me were generally staying the same having settled on a pace. It was at this point that I saw the clear running jersey a few yards directly ahead of me that read “CHILE” and a relatively small female figure who was wearing it. She was a moving at the same speed as me and was a perfect reference point so I decided to track those ankles.
Over the next few miles I remember thinking how I could not see her face but that I was planning on visiting South America next summer and maybe those ankles would walk by me on a sun-drenched beach and I’d say, “hey, I recognise those ankles, did you run the Berlin Marathon?!” I also recall thinking how I would thank her at the end for pacing me. While that might sound creepy in most circumstances, “your ankles kept me going out there”, I think she’d have understood. Unfortunately, by mile 18 those ankles had said goodbye going forward as I faded back.
In hindsight we didn’t have the miles in our legs and could not have realistically expected to break 3 in what was really our first marathon (Dublin 2003 excluded). However, one area we fell down on during it was hydrating and feeding during the run. Going at the pace we had planned and set out on, we needed to take on fluids and food yet we failed miserably. At the water stops a mouthful is probably all I took with a splash over the head before I kept going. As for food, forget it. It was only at the end that I started scavenging whatever the crowds were holding out to keep me going. Running 26.2 miles is a long time and doing so with little or no food or water is not a great idea. It would be my second marathon learning.
Those last few kilometres were tough. As tough as anything I’d experienced since Dublin half a decade before although I knew I was not going to stop and start walking this time. I remember streams of runners pass by me as my pace dropped dramatically and feeling thoroughly dejected though stoically determined to just… keep… going.
Several months ago when we were debating what marathon I had suggested Longford (there weren’t loads of marathons in Ireland even then) while he had suggested Berlin. “I mean, come on Ronan. If you are going to break 3 hours, where would you want to break it? Longord? Or Berlin!” I like Longford but Berlin was just too inviting. After mile 14 I had long since given up taking in the architecture. At some stage well into the twenties (miles) the race crossed over cobble-stones. We were probably surrounded by wonderfully ornate Germanic Berlin buildings too but at that moment I would have just loved had they dug ever God-damn cobble stone up and replaced it with smooth tarmac.
However, Berlin did have two wonderful features to it. One, were the crowds that remained hugely supportive throughout. The second was the ending. Maybe a mile from the finish you can see it, the Brandenburg Gate, a symbol of peace, of unity and today of victory. As far as light-houses guiding you home, the 26-metre-high gate has few equals and for an extremely fatigued runner like me it was just what I needed to help me that final way home. Crossing through it and into the final hundred metres with temporary stands either side finishing Berlin, despite being more than 15 minutes slower than I had hoped felt like an achievement. And there were few better feelings than the emotion I felt as we crossed over the line to be met with medals, foil coats, food and smiles.
Berlin Marathon 2008 – 3.15.50
None again but I was back with the physio and a new plan is being drawn up where I will focus on cycling to keep the fitness up while the leg recovers. We will see.