Berlin didn’t go well

Check me out… I’m writing a blog about running. That’s rare. But given the quality of some of the blogs out there, I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring to see if I could get myself nominated for one of those unbiased running award thingies. This one is all about the Berlin Marathon and I’ve made a very deliberate decision to write this in one take with no editing – a stream of consciousness that will hopefully highlight the important things from my run in Berlin.

I’m a little (lot) jaded, I won’t lie. Jaded by running and jaded by runners and jaded by myself. I’m so sick of the sycophantic. So sick of people talking about themselves, selling themselves passing themselves off as ‘givers’. And yet all they really want is exposure, hits, @s and tags. And yet… Well here I am talking very specifically about myself, my preferences and my opinions. The irony is not lost but hopefully this’ll be genuine enough for some people to care.

The above is a bit harsh and I’ll likely regret it. But then tonight is the Wednesday after the Berlin Marathon where I poured my heart and soul into a run where I failed so I at least feel like I can be a bit of a bitch. Tonight is the Wednesday after the Berlin Marathon where I failed AGAIN at a sub 3 hour marathon and I’m so tired. Physically, I’m in pretty good nick (which, of course, makes me think I should have tried harder) but mentally I’m so bloody tired. Let me tell you why…

My friend/business partner/PT client Clare and I got places at Berlin with the wonderful mental health charity Mind. We got the places ages ago and yet we found ourselves flying to Poland because we didn’t book flights to Berlin in time. Instead of £300 return, they were £19 return and I’d really recommend it. It was a 1h45m drive to Berlin, so really not awful. When we arrived in Poland we were told our car had been upgraded to a fancy Suzuki number. We headed to the car park, got in the fancy Suzuki number and we were set. Sort of. See, it was so fancy, it had a push button start. We just had to have the key in the car. We had the key, we pressed the button and it wouldn’t start. The screen just kept saying ‘place key in ignition area’. WHERE IS THE FRIGGING IGNITION AREA?!?!?! 20 minutes we were there and it still wouldn’t start. We put the key EVERYWHERE and yet it wouldn’t start. We’d got a duff. I was just about to command Clare to head and tell the man he’d flogged us a piece of shit when I thought I’d best get out and check. Yep. Wrong car. We just happened on a random Suzuki that was unlocked. We were trying to start a random car. Brilliant. I told Clare. We promised never to mention it again and off we went.

We had lols on the way to Berlin, bought some pizza when we arrived and went to bed. The plan for Saturday was parkrun, expo, food, a beer, food and then some food before we had dinner. I know what you’re thinking… ‘oooooooh Kev’s upset he didn’t get a sub 3 but he thinks he can have a beer the day before a huge race’. Well I’ve one thing to say here…

We drank some beer

Berlin parkrun usually has 70. This one had over 500

I had two beers, actually. And it was great for me. I don’t really get expos. There were a shit load of things for sale and a shit load of full kit wankers knocking about. We got our numbers pretty quickly (stereotypical efficient assumptions of German organisation) and then went off to do something I’ve forgotten. It probably included food.

Usually, I run in memory of my dad. He’s why I started running as much as I could but if I’m really frank, 15 years since his death and this is probably the first marathon I’ve done that hasn’t had him at the forefront of mind. This run wasn’t about him – it was about achieving a goal and not giving myself the emotional turmoil of running in someone’s memory. This was my first selfish marathon and it was nice to feel that way. With that in mind, on marathon day I decided to enjoy myself less. To not high 5 kids, to not thank every marshal and to not talk to other runners. I wanted to act more like a professional to see if it would help.

Let’s skip talking about race day morning and instead head straight to the race itself. I’m not going to review the run per se because I want to talk about myself (I need a tongue in cheek font here) but here are some observations:

  • The water stations are LOUD with the sound of breaking plastic
  • Even at the ‘fast end’ of the course, it’s really busy
  • The course is generic, bland and flat
  • German supporters are more reserved than those at other marathons

Anyway, I set off at perfect marathon pace. I needed 4.15 per km average throughout. When I’ve attempted sub 3s before, I’ve gone out to build a buffer in the first half and tried to hang on. It’s never worked. So instead, I went out to get a 1.29 first half and did exactly that. Once the jostling had finished, the tempo was steady and I found myself following the 3 hour pacers naturally. I only checked my watch every time it bleeped a km. I didn’t want to focus on the speed constantly. There were a few rogue 4.00 kms in there that worried me a bit, but on I plodded. I felt tired from early on, but expected that, given it’s a fast pace. I knew my heart rate would be high and my tactic really was to hang on, keep traveling and try not to stop – really, honestly and truly, that’s all I thought about.

This is the first race, though, that I’ve been seriously crippled by self-doubt in. From 10km onwards I kept questioning why I was running, whether I could carry on for another 2 hours and 15 minutes and whether it was all really worth it. It was so difficult to not just stop. My mind kept telling me that although I was comfortable(ish) right now, later on when it all got too much, I could just pull to the side, stop running, take a break and wait for Clare to run by so I could run along with her. Those thoughts stayed with me for the next 30km – it was relentless and I was consistently telling myself to reassess in one more km. My brain was working overtime and I had to do everything I could to not stop.

I got to 35km exactly on pace and felt ok. My pace was bang on and my only issue was the km markers on the course were cropping up about 300m AFTER my watch was bleeping kms. I was so close to my target pace that if my watch was right, I’d do it. If the markers were right, I wouldn’t do it. I was trying my best all around the course to follow the blue line (ie the fastest possible route) so I was at a loss as to how I might be 300m over. The self-doubt and tiredness in my legs started to kick in again and all I could do was tell myself that I wouldn’t know until the Brandenburg Gate whether I would get it or not. To me, the 3 hours was everything. A 3.01 was as good (bad) as a 4.01. I had an A target and that was it. I didn’t care for anything more. So as I was approaching the Gate, as the noise grew and as people started to clap and cheer, my watch ticked off 26.2 miles (42.2km) in 2 hours, 59 minutes and 33 seconds. The trouble is, I was still 400m from the finish. I’d (NOT) done it!!! All that cheering would usually spur me on to run harder, to put it all out there and get across the line but I was utterly crestfallen. As I saw the 3. The 0. And the other 0, I just stopped. I just looked forwards and I just felt sad. I could see my goal just in the distance and I felt I’d wasted the last 4 months. I was so sad. Not tears sad. Just head down, heart sunken, empty stomached-sad. I didn’t feel like I’d let anyone down or that I was an embarrassment. I just felt like I’d been cheated (by myself and my brain). There’s a level of sycophantic, arrogant, self-important-ness in all of those feelings. I know a load of people who would kill for a 3.01 but this was about me and I’d not achieved it. But this was my run and this was how I felt and I just crossed the line feeling like I needn’t have bothered. I went and got my medal, drank a load of water, laid down on the grass and just did some crying. I’d gone all out and invested as much as I could in that run and sacrificed loads of stuff that I enjoy to give it a go and again I didn’t get it. Ho hum.


I went to meet Clare after the run. She had a blinder and given all her injuries (I know, it’s my terrible PT skills that makes her broken), to see her finish the run and be smiling like she was, was lovely. She understood that I didn’t want to talk about it or that I wasn’t interested in a ‘that’s still a great time’. She knew I was sad and she didn’t say any more than ‘we can talk about it another time if you like’. That’s what I needed because I wanted to wallow a bit.

On Sunday evening I called my 4 year old to tell him I tried really hard and to show him the medal. The romantic in my saw my son saying ‘wow daddy that’s amazing. You tried so hard and I’m proud of you’. What he actually said was ‘that’s not a very big medal, is it?’. Fair play. It wasn’t. We went for pizza (3 nights in a row) and then got drunk. That was relaxing. We had a laugh with Martine and her husband and watched an Irish man sing in an Irish bar. Classy.

We did drinking

Skip forward to Monday and I was still sad but I’m also good at realising the past can’t be changed. So we did some sightseeing. The Berlin Wall is the only part of ‘history’ that has occurred in my lifetime and I found it eerie and sad to see it. What was worse was the young girl (15 or so) who I saw having her photo taken near the wall. She was basically showing a lot of skin, provocatively leaning against THE BERLIN WALL whilst her MUM took pictures of her. I mean I suppose technically, it’s a real middle finger to a real sign of oppression but still. Come. The. Fuck. On. It was horrid.

We ate a burger, got in the car and drove to Poland. The burger was good enough to show you a picture of it.

This burger was actually prettier than the whole of Berlin

Our airport was called Sczcecin Airport and it was a 2 hour journey away. We had 4 hours til our flight so loads of time. We stopped for milkshake and fuel near to Sczcecin and as the sat nav said we had 4 miles to go, Clare piped up with a classic ‘I don’t remember this part on the way to Berlin. I made a joke that we should check to make sure I typed the right thing into Google and low and behold I hadn’t. With an hour until our flight departed, we got to our destination: ‘Sczcecin airport transfers’. Yep. I had directed us to a bus station. A mere 40km from where we needed to be. So we had 40km to travel in about half an hour. High heart rates, high stress, nervous jokes and sore legs ensued. Clare didn’t get angry. She just got disappointed. I got nervous and felt sick. Our flight was 10.30pm and we really didn’t fancy staying in a weird place and miss a flight. But like all good stories, it was fine and we got there. I, of course, blame Ryanair. Who has an airport named after a city that is 40km away?!

Anyway, this is really long. If you got here, shame on you.

But if you have. Why don’t you sponsor me?




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