What is it like to run a Marathon?

Will Dupre – BMW Berlin Marathon 2023 – 2.42.12

For most runners, Berlin Marathon needs no introduction. Now in its 49th year, it’s where Eliud Kipchoge ran his men’s world record in 2022, and where this year Tigst Assefa broke the women’s world record (by over two minutes) and Amanal Petros broke his own German record to go sub-2:05 for the first time.

Partly because of its reputation for being quick (and also because it’s one of the six World Marathon Majors) thousands (this year it was nearly 48,000) descend on Berlin each autumn to try to break records of their own, this year with me amongst them.

Berlin as a city couldn’t really be accused of being pretty, but it has real charm and clearly takes pride in hosting one of the world’s biggest marathons. In the days and weeks leading up to the event I received numerous emails (in both German and English) ratcheting-up the excitement and telling me about all the offers and events associated with the big day.

The first of these was the expo, which is held at the old Tempelhof airport not far from the city centre that closed back in 2008. Tempelhof is now a huge park and a pretty amazing space, and that’s before you think about its military history. The expo is well-managed, but didn’t yield many freebies! There was certainly the opportunity to spend a lot of money, but I listened to the age-old advice and decided not to try anything new (also I could spend the money I “saved” on beers after the race…).

As an avid parkrunner, I was keen to try to get a German parkrun in whilst there, but understandably the one event in the city centre closes on marathon weekend, and the one just outside the city decided to close too… The next nearest would’ve meant a very early train (not ideal marathon prep) but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the Berlin Marathon Breakfast Run on the Saturday morning was a truly excellent experience instead.

It’s a completely free event, starting at the Charlottenburg Palace and wending its way around 6km through closed streets to the Berlin Olympic Stadium in which Jesse Owens won his famous four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Games. Not only is the run down and into the stadium itself pretty awe-inspiring, but they also put on a breakfast of pretzels, croissants and juice for everyone.

The day itself was busy. I was lucky enough to be in one of the quieter pens, but it still felt very different to the smaller marathons I’ve done, and it definitely ramped-up the nerves; I was very glad to have brought an electrolyte drink with me that I could sip on. After what felt like quite a wait, we were off, but even before we’d left Tiergarten, we were ushered around paint that climate protesters had thrown onto the course.

After that it was very much marathon business as usual, with everyone doing their best to keep their heart rates low, keep out of trouble at the water stations, and stick as close to the blue line as possible. Marathons are a very personal experience, and I always say that they’re 49% physical and 51% mental. For most of the race I felt pretty good both mentally and physically, which was definitely helped by the numerous bands and musician lining the route, including a guy belting out ‘Killing In The Name Of’, but I had a wobble around 35km where I thought I had cramps coming-on and wasn’t sure I’d make it, then – having got past that – started to get genuine pain in my left ankle with just over 3km to go. I really didn’t want to stop or walk, so I made the only decision I felt I could in the circumstances which was to pull right back and manage the pain to the finish.

With less than 2km to go, a friendly fellow runner cruised past me and indicated that it was all downhill to the finish, so I gritted my teeth once again, hoping the adrenaline of that epic finish under the Brandenburg Gate would allow me to pick the pace up again. Alas, it wasn’t to be, but it still felt great to be running down the super-wide finish with crowds lining either side and cheering home runners from something like 156 countries!

The medal is nice and heavy with a German national flag ribbon, although oddly this year’s had double Olympic Marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir on one side, which I found a bit confusing as I’m pretty sure her best finish in the event is 3rd! I was impressed by the easy availability of Erdinger Alkolfrei though, so I wolfed-down three bottles of that to help get my electrolytes back-up.

Overall it was a great experience to run Berlin Marathon and something I’d definitely recommend to others if they get the chance. Berlin is a pretty easy journey from Jersey and accommodation was surprisingly easy to find and not perilously expensive. And the supermarkets over there all have bakeries in them and are insanely good value, so carb-loading in the days leading-up was an absolute joy. If anyone has any questions on any aspects of the event then please let me know!

Joan Inwood – Standard Chartered Jersey Marathon 2023 – 4.59.53

I completed my second marathon on Sunday 1st October, both of which have been here in sunny Jersey! My training in the build-up was somewhat hindered due to a bout of Bronchitis followed by Pleurisy, which halted me for a month.

I joined Jersey Spartans this year and started the Tuesday Runners’ intervals on a Tuesday evening around the Marina, which really helped me with my stamina, confidence, endurance and pace. The camaraderie of the club is great. It is made up of such a friendly bunch of athletes, great coach/es and organisers and really everyone involved!

Also, like with everything, there will always be obstacles on race day itself. Preparation is always key and having the right kit (shoes, lace-ups etc.), hydration, fuel, warm-ups, strength & conditioning and recovery is paramount to a successful run. However, grit and determination will also be required. Even a sore foot from mile 10 of the race didn’t prevent me from powering through to the end!

The awesome support and atmosphere at the start continued all around the course, making it hard not to keep a big smile plastered across my face. A particular highlight was the crowd at the finish, which was electric, clapping & cheering, as I crossed that finish line. Being greeted by my husband (David), mascot doggy (Harvey), friends, colleagues and club members was all part of what makes a “home” marathon so special. To top it all off receiving my Medal was such a proud moment. I knew I’d be buzzing for days!

Rosie Adamson – Standard Chartered Jersey Marathon 2023 – 3.28.34

I decided to enter the Jersey Marathon again, after having enjoyed (most of) it so much in 2022. The other big motivating factor for me was that my training buddies were all doing it. So, I knew I would have plenty of support while building up my mileage in the months before. Running is great but running with friends is even better!

Soon enough race day rolled around with all the nerves and excitement I’ve come to expect. One of the best things about the Jersey Marathon is that I only had to leave the comfort of home just over half an hour before the start of the race. This definitely helped to keep me more relaxed, rather than using up precious energy nervously bouncing round at the start (which is usually one of my less than useful strengths).

My race plan was firstly, to have a good time and secondly, to stick with Brenton Lee, the expert 3.30 pacer, for as long as I possibly could. Both of these elements got off to a good start, as being a local marathon, there were plenty of friendly faces wishing me well and my training buddy, PB John (aka John MacPherson), and I easily found Brenton and jumped on the “fun bus”.

Jersey Marathon follows a beautiful route providing plenty to distract you from the fact that you’re running a LONG LONG way! All was going well and I was happily ticking off relay changeover points under Brenton’s watchful eye. That is, until we were heading past Les Quennevais and down the railway walk, towards St Aubin. By this point, unsurprisingly, I could feel my legs getting tired and every small bump in the hoggin or seemingly carelessly scattered pine cone was a potentially race ending trip hazard. I decided that I needed this part over, so as soon as St Aubin loomed large I tried picking up the pace. A decision that I came to regret about 15minutes later.

Everyone will tell you about how hard those last few miles are and this race was no exception for me. I really started to struggle and by the time Brenton caught me back up near West Park, I was on the edge of chucking in the proverbial towel on my sub-3.30 dream. However, he helped me to break through my negativity and self-doubt, expertly coaxing me back on pace and escorting me to that final turn by the Standard Chartered building before sending me off with a “keep your head up and don’t look back, you’ve got this!”

I was over the moon to finish the race and even happier and surprised to have snuck in under the 3.30 mark. I am hugely grateful to Brenton for his support throughout the race and also to all the volunteers and spectators out on the course. The support along the route was amazing and the boost at each relay changeover point was awesome. Thank you to the organizers and everyone involved in making this event so great!

Watch this space: more reports to follow shortly…

Featured Image Credit (Header): Marc Le Cornu, BAM Perspectives

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