Sunday, 19 February 2012

The ALTERNATIVE View: Berlin Marathon 2011

Words: Petra Grosse
Photos: Sylvia Herden 

Berlin. Sunday. 25 September 2011.  The MOMENT is upon me!  After months of training, 

(......possible overtraining......but who knows.....)

constant battles with my inner "couch potato" that would much rather watch Masterchef than plod the streets at 5 am 

(....the milkman is remarkably attractive ........if I don't wear contact lenses......)

struggling to keep up with "Grim Jim" on his Tuesday evening runs 'with efforts" for those who want to....  

(....and beliiiiiieve me ......I was NEVER one who wanted to make ANY effort.....)

The view from behind....

I am on my way to the start of the Berlin Marathon 2011.  

With my personal photographer Sylvia in tow

(.....a dear old school friend.....who has witnessed me making A LOT of effort avoiding PE lessons at the tender age of, needless to say, she was keen to see what I would do to get out of THIS ONE....)

we find ourselves at a Berlin U-Bahn station where I have my first panic attack!  

I am CONVINCED I have forgotten SOMETHING!!!

Sylvia assures me I have EVERYTHING I need.  She would have told me had I forgotten to put pants on.

(....even though she tells me, THAT would make a funnier photo.....)

So,'s my race number?  Definitely my race number!  

No, the race number is in my bag and so are the Gummibears.

(....I NEVER travel without them.......never mind running without my beloved sticky friends.......they have helped me through rough times....back when I was 12 and struggling with acne or now, 30 years later....closer to menopause than puberty....)

Where are the Haribos??

It is a mere miracle that we make it to the start in time! 

( don't want to be late for a German Marathon....they might not let you run it....Germans take it very personally if you are NOT on time....)

Strictly VERBOTEN!!!

While Sylvia leaves me to ponder on my non-existent race strategy,

(....and also because she isn't allowed to go any is strictly VERBOTEN.....)

I decide to make my way and attempt to WAIT semi-patiently for the race to start 

(....I don't DO patience.....) 

in the sub-4 hour play-pen.

(..passing the time by treating myself to no less than 3 loo-breaks……you have to really.the facilities are just too inviting....whether for nerves or just to enjoy the  “aroma of pre-race-sweat”…..)

I very soon experience the warmth of pre-race bodies rubbing against each other in their silly orange Adidas-all-over “bin bags” that runners are given in exchange for their race bags

(.doesnt anybody SHOWER any more before an important race ???....)

and opt to ignore the stern looking marshals reminding us of ORDER in the “play pen.

(.hopeless..half of the participants don't speak a word of German.and I decide to be "deaf"……)

As I nudge my way to the very front of the pen, I spot he sub-4-hour race group.  

Two cheerful chaps

(.yes, both German.)

one dressed as a Scot in a cute check skirt, he must have borrowed from his girl-friend

(.admittedly....slightly odd.)

the other dressed as “Joe Blogs

(.aka, Wolfgang Müller.)

promise to get us over the finish line - come what may -  in under 4 hours.

High on pre-race Gummibear consumption I decide to join them.

(.I have spotted a very agreeable looking bum hiding underneath that cute little skirt..THAT alone will keep me “amused for the next 26 miles…and maybe even ease the pain......)

The glaringly obvious....starting off too fast....

Not long after Paula and her pals are on their way to chase their own records and Olympic qualifying times, we are on our way, fighting our own battle with over-enthusiastic runners crowding the Avenue of the 17th June (Straße des 17. Juni) past the famous Siegessäule.

(....which brings an emotional tear to my eye....usually reserved for crossing the finish line.....)

"Wolfgang and the Scot" are full of beans and lots of silly jokes: 

"Leute, laßt mich durch, ich bin Arzt!!"

(.....make way, I am a doctor.....)

In the end I don't manage to keep up with them.

I don't know whether it is the masses of runners selfishly forgetting that there are another 35,000 people in trainers chasing the same dream

(....crossing that one piece....with limited amounts of blisters on their feet....)

or whether I am not quite fit enough to do a 9 min/mile race. So, after 3 miles I am "on my own".

(....mourning the fact......that I can't chase THAT BUM any more....) 

My friend Sylvia spots me near the area of Alexanderplatz at around mile 6.  

(.....I don't....I am "deaf" AND apparently "blind"....)

Reportedly, I look a mess and my friend doubts I will EVER make it to the finish line.

(....have faith dear friend....I am a tough cookie.....I have trained under the supervision of "Grim Jim" and Gladstone.....I CANNOT fail.....)

At mile 7, a Japanese chap wired up to his iPod and enormous headphones, presumably under the influence of Prosac 

(....or he has eaten one too many Gummibears.....)

shouts at the top of his voice: "Keep going! Keep going!"

I want to remind him, that this is just over a quarter of the way, and maybe he should preserve his vocal energy for later in the race. However, Mr. Prosac flies past me deliriously happy, so I decide to watch out for him at, say, mile 17.  Doubtlessly, he will have collapsed by then?

I decide that I am not going to make the sub-4-hour target on this occasion.  

Instead I decide to enjoy myself.  

(....I have 4:38:39 from New York in 2008 to beat.....surely, I can do THAT ......piece of "Kuchen".....)

Maybe just as well.  I have another three quarters of the way to go, most of which through a part of Berlin that is rather colourless and grim

(....with street lines by Germans.....that by nature are not the most enthusiastic VOCAL supporters....)

More than once I have to battle with the locals who insisted that they could cross the street JUST in front of me

(....the race organisers obviously don't feel that barriers are necessary......presume they are NOT seasoned Marathon veterans then...)

Also, having enjoyed the "facilities" at the start so much, I decide to see whether they are just as "good" at mile 16.

(.....they are NOT!!!!!!........bad mistake......)

......something you ate.....too many Gummibears perhaps?

I don't know Berlin well, but I thought I know it well enough to estimate how many MORE corners I need to turn until I FINALLY make it to "Unter den Linden" knowing that the Brandenburg Gate is lurking somewhere in the distance.

(.....still about 1 kilometre away.....the LONGEST 1000 metres of my life........)

Now, HE is clearly struggling....

With the famous landmark in my view, my spirits lift and I cannot BELIEVE I am actually about to run underneath "das Tor"  that was hiding behind The Wall for decades and the regime it stood for and I spend my childhood in fear of.

I expect to cry

(.....emotional drama queen that I am....)

but I don't.  

Instead, I laugh my way happily to the FINISH LINE!

(....official video footage proves later, that I am pretty much the only maniac waving to the puzzled crowds lining the last 200 metres.....) 


......I am NOT happy!!!!!

I have burned a good 2600 calories and my muffin top is still visible!

.....well, she IS German....they have NO shame.... if you can't beat the flipping flabby thing....

.....and drink a lot.... might as well feed it.....

...a bunch of hooligans....

....and laugh with your friends about it!!! :-)

.....Brandenburg Gate Drama.....

....with NO sense of humour..


I beat my previous PB by 24 minutes rolling over the Berlin finish line in 4:14:17.

I thought that that breaking 4 hours would make me "happy" and not reaching my dream target that I have trained for a good 9 months would make me miserable.

It didn't!!!

Being in a place doing what I enjoy doing,

( a cruel sort of way.....especially when my piriformis muscle is a right pain in the BUM......)

accompanied by my friends and family supporting and "humouring" me on my personal little journey to run a marathon in Berlin.....  

.......THAT made me REALLY happy! :-)

(....something to think time you chase after a "good time".....)

.....and REMEMBER....

.....just don't mention THE WAR!!!

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