race report by Sumitra Joshi
A race to remember & moments to cherish!
Entry to the Berlin Marathon itself was dramatic! We (I & Ashish) applied as a team to try our luck & were surprised to see the acceptance mail from organizers after a month!! (Chances of getting entry are higher as team than individuals. Minimum runners in a team should be two). This was exactly a year back. This news helped my over enthusiastic mind to train well for TMM and I improved my timing by 15 mins over my previous marathon
From summer, my main focus was on strength training. I started doing 3 days of body workout at home post run & group strength training every Friday with the team. This helped me further in my full marathon training & in race. I strictly cut down on sugar items and managed to reduce two kgs initially with proper diet, and a further 2.5 kgs during peak training. Weight loss also played a big role. With light legs, I was finding my runs more comfortable & effortless.
Actual training started from 3rd week of June which was with higher mileage than my previous training plan & first time intervals were introduced in my training plan by the coach. I was super excited with the new training plan & tried to follow it without missing a single workout.
Weekly mileage started from 50 km to a peak mileage of 80kms with three 32K long runs in training (Mileage was more as I use to do more warm up on higher side for intervals & marathon pace runs). In peak training I did one half marathon in Mumbai which was not as expected and was little disappointing. But I focused on the remaining training runs till Berlin. All long runs went well with a strong finish which helped me to boost my confidence.
Reaching Berlin was a roller coaster. A last moment change in flights due to visa issues for layover time in London and I forgot handbag before reaching Mumbai airport. All said and done, finally we reached Berlin. As this was our first international marathon, we were more excited about expo visit. The expo was huge and it was at the old airport. We visited on the first day immediately after reaching Berlin. Luckily it was not that crowded. A special band was tied after verification of my entry at expo which was also our entry pass for race. Instant printing of bib was something new. Next day we did a short run which helped to acclimatize to the weather. It also cleared my doubts of running at 10:30am. Visiting Brandenburg gate & hall of fame was a great feeling. Lot of excitement too…
The race start point was near the Brandenburg Gate. It was almost a 40 minutes tram & train travel from our hotel. We started at 7am wearing additional set of cloths, jacket & poncho to protect from rains. Our tram was suddenly stopped 3-4 stops from our change over stop due to traffic diversions. We had to walk almost 5kms to reach start point before race. Lesson learnt – always try to stay near the race venue.
According to my timing my start was in H section (last coral). This was also a big concern for me. All runners beyond 4:15 hrs timing including first-time marathoners were in this section. In short, a huge crowd. In the H section, as per my guess crowd was almost 30K and spread almost 1km long. This made me more nervous. I was more worried .. will I get space to run on road.
Our coral flag off was at 10:10am. I managed to keep myself at 400m from start line. Big screens were displayed which was showing elite runners live. An announcement was made that the lead runner was running at world record pace and had reached 7KMs. The atmosphere was electrifying. I was relaxed a bit after doing some fun bonding exercises with side by runners. The anchor did a great job. It was such a proud feeling to stand next to runners from different countries & different age groups.
The race started on time. It took me 1:30min to cross the start line. The best part was though the coral was crowded there was no stamping or rush to reach start line which generally happens in most of the events here.
Once race started in initial few hundred meters everyone started running at own pace. This was big relief for me. I also settled in my own pace. I tried to run near the blue line (still I covered 42.6Kms ). I was more conscious to avoid falls and sudden crossing by fast runners near water stations. I settled at avg pace of 6:00 and was finding myself very strong.
I was carrying two bottles, one of which I used for initial 10km which I then disposed and then used my regular bottle for next 22Km. This way I avoided the crowded water stations till 33-34kms.
Crowd support was on both side of road throughout the route with different bands. As predicted it started raining from 4-5th km with cold wind. We practiced most of our runs in rains but chilled air was bothering me.
I completed first 10km in 60min & 15km in 91mins. After that I was finding my muscles were getting tight & it was indication of cramping. I slowed down my pace by 15 sec to avoid further damage. Luckily I was carrying cramp fix gel ( it helps to release the cramps). I started gargling the gel after every 7-8kms which helped me to manage my run without walking. I also started diverting my mind from my pain to surroundings which helped me to keep moving.
My focus was to run strong and cross struggling runners. I kept pushing myself to reach 39th km where Indian crowd was there to cheer. By 32-33km my bib came out of its pins and was on single pin support. I did not want to stop and fix it, instead I held onto it with my other hand and kept running (which might have slowed down me further).
After 39thkm there were many turns I was finding it difficult to run (biggest mistake i did was not to see the watch in these kms which were the slowest ones in my race). I always dreamed of running through Brandenberg Gate and that moment has came. With wide smile I started searching for finish line clock which was a further 400ms.
I made sure to keep smiling till finish line and soak in the environment! It was dream come true moment. I finished in 4:31:12 hours and got qualified for Comrades 2020. Ashish also finished in 4:57 hr with a huge PB (personal best). From last one year we were dreaming of this race & finally we crossed finish line strongly. Holding the tricolor after the finish was a great feeling! Moments to cherish!!!
NOW IT’S TIME TO DARE TO DREAM COMRADES 2020, the 90km ultra marathon which happens in South Africa !!!
I would like to thank my coach Atul Godbole for always supporting & controlling my crazy ideas. Special thanks to Kavitha for always guiding me. Thanks to Ravindra who was there to support & cheer for all of us during the race. Big thanks to Team Motiv8 which always encourages & motivates me to improve!!!