Race Recap: 2016 BMW Berlin Marathon

Running in a Pack Down the Streets of Berlin
photo credit: Jessica Ni Murphy

Preface

It’s been tough for me to write about my running recently. I think this mainly stems from the ugly toil of training through nearly consistent pain, the result of an unresolved posterior tib tendon issue. My experience with this type of pain is extensive, but I was fairly confident that despite it being nearly constant, if I managed things correctly, I would be able run consistently enough to get into somewhat decent shape. That said, throughout the process, there were times when the pain seemed to much to bear and the tendon seemed to be at its breaking point. As a mechanism for coping with this roller coaster, I devoted time and thought to diversions, Netflix not being the least of these, and neglected thinking and certainly writing about running.

Some Notes on Training

Due to the aforementioned injury which severely limited my mileage from March to June, I started my training without much of a running base – I had been doing some biking though. The extent of the biking I did was some commuting (9 miles each way) and a number of 60-100 mile rides about every three weeks during this period from March to June, culminating in back to back 90+ mile days for a weekend trip to Milwaukee 12 weeks out from the race.

Due to lingering pain and limited running base, I approached training very carefully, planning one workout, one long run, and one day off per week. Ultimately I averaged 60 miles per week in the 11 weeks prior to race week which is quite light for me, but the commitment to one day off (of running) per week really did help out. Typically, I tried to take my days off on Sundays and sneak in a longer bike ride, but there were definitely weeks where I had to insert my day off much earlier due to significant pain. Thankfully after just one day off, I was usually able to return to training with significantly less discomfort – at least until the next week or so.

In terms of workouts, there was really nothing unique in my build up – I struggled a lot in the humid conditions we had in Chicago this summer and had to cut a number of long runs short. Thankfully, for my key 22 miler (22 with 18 at marathon pace), we had decent conditions and I was able to turn out one of my best efforts ever. Without this run in the books, I would have been much less confident going into the race.

Feel free to check out the rest of my training on Strava!

My 2016 BMW Berlin Marathon Experience

As I mentioned earlier, I have been struggling with writing about running recently. While thinking about what I wanted to write about, I decided I’d share the things I was most and least proud of throughout the experience as a way to help me remember the triumphs and areas for improvement. Instead of grouping them in most/least buckets, I will share chronologically to distribute the positive and negative moments.

First up, I’m proud of getting to the start line feeling good. I am not the best sleeper these days, but I made some effort to get as much sleep and hydrate as well as I could the week leading up to the event – I even cut out caffeine. I didn’t get much sleep on the overnight flight over, but was determined to stay awake our first full day in Berlin in order to align my sleep schedule to our new time zone. The plan worked and I felt well rested, fueled, and hydrated on the start line.

The first 10k was quite conservative. I enjoyed running with Tony, Andrew, and Javier for much of this section of the race. I’m proud to have run within my fitness level for this section.

The next 20k were a bit quicker – I thought I was in 2:35-39 shape and I wanted to put myself into a position to run 2:35 or better. I accelerated too quickly after the 10k mark, running my fastest 5k split from 10k to 15k (18:17), but ultimately I’m proud that I took control of the race and put myself in position to run what I thought I was capable of on that day. I split 1:18:08 halfway – definitely within myself but at the same time not so conservative it would take a Herculean second half to get within striking distance of sub-2:35.

Just after 30k, I could feel fatigue set in and the pace noticeably lagged. I tried to say positive and kept dumping water on myself at aid stations as I was feeling a little warm and it helped to keep me from becoming too complacent. While the pace slowed, I was still able to split 18:45 which still kept me on pace for a sub-2:37 finish.

At some point in this section, Javier, who had been on my tail since about halfway, passed me decisively. I’m not proud to say, this started to eat at me. Physically, I knew the pace was lagging and now psychologically I was struggling with being dropped by someone with similar fitness. Next Tony passed me – it was tough to be happy for him in the moment. Finally, Andrew passed me with about 2k to go. Getting passed by friends and training partners isn’t fun, but in the future, I’d like to be better equipped mentally to celebrate and feed off  their success in the moment instead of becoming discouraged and envious. Ultimately we all finished within a window of less than 2 minutes and I was happy for each of my friends who beat me (plus Dave and Tim who both PR’d, finishing moments later).

In front of the Reichstag
photo credit: Jessica Ni Murphy

Our crew, less Tony, in front of the Reichstag building

I ended up finishing in 2:37:49 (1:18:08, 1:19:41) which was basically dead on with my fitness estimate of 2:35-39. I am happy and proud that I went for 2:35 despite struggling in the last 5-10k. The fact that I didn’t completely blow up at least until the last 5k tells me that I wasn’t off by much and given perhaps slightly cooler conditions 2:35 could have been achievable for me on that day.

Thanks for reading!

If you’re interested in learning more about the event itself, I wrote a review on BibRave!

Questions or comments? Let me know below!