Berlin Marathon 2009

It’s been a busy autumn with lots of interesting projects, some nice trips with Sylvia and a lot of running. I am aware that I have been neglecting my blog and as a kind of new year’s resolution I have taken up blogging again.
Brandenburger Tor Berlin Marathon 2009
I will take up the thread in September when I attended the biggest sport event I had ever been to. After partaking at the Austrian marathon championships in Salzburg in May, Jörg, my friend from our Running Team, and I decided to tread ourselves to a really big event and run the Berlin marathon, second biggest marathon in the world.
I trained hard during the hot days of summer assisted by my coach, champion runner Georg Ruess with a marathon personal best of 2:28 hrs. Well, prepared I took off to Berlin with Jörg and David, a friend from Graz, who planned to run the Berlin marathon in preparation for the Kärnten Ironman 2010.

Berlin Marathon Stretching At Airport

Unfortunately, we were able to get a flight to Berlin on Saturday, meaning that we would only have a few ours to recover from the journey before the marathon. Although we flew into Berlin, it took us nine hours to arrive at our hotel in Neu-Köln. It was a hot, sunny day and, especially for me, the journey was extremely strenuous.

Although I slept really well, I wasn’t feeling too well when I woke up at 5 am on Sunday. I looked out of the window and knew that it would become a hot and sunny day, conditions, I did not expecially flourish in. Anyhow, I didn’t care too much and was really excited in anticipation of a great sports event. I was aware that there would be an ungraspable crowd of runners and I had also heard that there would be thousands of spectators creating a breathtaking atmosphere.

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The three of us left the hotel early at 7 am and approached the preparation area in front of the Reichstag with the Berlin underground. It was already packed with people – runners from all over the world – and gave us a first taste of what was waiting for us. The preparation area was set up in front of the Reichstag. There you could cue up in front of the toilets and leave your stuff in one of the many tents.
There was an incredible mass of people and we were lucky enough to head towards the starting area at the Brandenburger Tor early enough in order to be able to fit into the narrow mass of people waiting for the starting gun.

It was incredibly narrow in there – it was impossible to fall – hot and unpleasant. I was anticipating the starting gun and as it finally came it took me almost a minute to cross the starting line although I was in block A just twenty meters away. It was a liberating feeling to be able to run. Although we started out into a five lane road it was extremely narrow and it was impossible to run as fast as I had planned to. I finished the first kilometer in 4:20 minutes and was only able to run my running spead after kilometer 4. Still, I didn’t care too much much more focused on the many spectators and the uplifting atmosphere they created with their cheers, trumpets and drums. Shivers were running down my spine.

At kilometer 6 I reached a ridge from where I was able to see about two kilometers ahead. It was breathtaking. Before and below me a throng of people were moving along so that I was neither able to see the street nor the end of where the mass was moving towards. Being aware that I must be in the first fifth of the field, it was hard for me to conceive how many people would be running behind me: 44’000 runners is a big, big crowd.

Thus, I swallowed kilometer after kilometer. I didn’t have my best stride and had problems with my race number which was getting loose a couple of times, forcing me to stop and reattached it to my running shirt. At other occasions this would have destroyed my rhythm but with a million people at the side line cheering and jumping, I persisted and finished the half-marathon in 1:26 hrs. The atmosphere at the half-marathon reached a new peak and I felt like participating in a World Cup final.

The temperatures were rising quickly and I was starting to feel the heat. The spectators, still, were pushing me on and I tried to keep up my speed. I made good progress until kilometer 30 where I had to pay for my keenness and nearly experienced a stand still. Cramps were building up and I realized that I had drained all my energy. By then, a new personal record was out of question and at a different marathon I might have given up; but not in Berlin! I reduced my speed as much so that my body agreed to carry on. I had been running at about an average speed of 4:05 min/km until there. Now I was making much slower progress with a speed of 4:45 min/km. This was a bit of a knock out for me at first. But then I turned my attention back to the crowd cheering at us runners incessantly, quickly forgetting about my distress.

Thus, I reached Am wilden Eber another hotspot of the marathon. There it was again: World Cup final stadium atmosphere. Cheer Leaders were dancing in the street, Berlin’s Jamie Oliver was preparing delicious hand food for the spectators and a brass band plunged the whole area in a sonic atmosphere that was deeply trance inducing. Thinking back, it seems as if I had spent an hour there but looking at my splits, I must have continued without stopping there.

Brandenburger Tor West Side Berlin Marathon 2009

Kurfürsten Damm was hot and noisy and I was hoping that my legs would be generous enough not to stop here in front of so many happy, cheerful people. I passed another check point, taking in some carbos and fluid, realising that the kilometers had melted away, even with my reduced speed, and that I was approaching the last five kilometers. I suddenly found my legs picking up speed and when I reached Unter den Linden I was able to return to my former running speed of 4:05 min. Among a ever swelling crowd I reached the Brandenburger Tor, thinking that I had already reached the finishing line. I ran through the Tor but there was no finish. It was still almost another kilometer away. They had set up stands here on that last stretch of the marathon thus making it impossible for almost every runner to quit on the last few meters. And as the ultimate reward for the struggle, there they were again: shivers down my spine – uplifting, soothing, energizing. Thus, I finished my first major marathon in 2:59:12 hrs, becoming 1.030th out of 35.000 finishers.

Berlin Marathon Finish Grand Stands

What a run, what an experience. This was so very different to any other marathon I had ever run and it was simply “GEIL”! I was really happy to have come here although I had learnt my lesson and would never come to a marathon one day prior to the event.

Berlin Marathon Christoph

I was filled up to the top with endorphins and thus feeling quite relaxed, savoring the moment for ever. Now walking, it was pleasantly warm and I returned to the big meadow in front of the Reichstag, putting off my runners and wet running shirt, in order to run a few meters barefood in order to get a bit of the lactate acid out of my muscles.

David, Jörg, Chris at Alexanderplatz

Jörg had finished in 2:35 hrs and became 100th, and we met by accident on the way back to the hotel. There, David, who had run a personal record, joined us and we headed back into the city to Alexanderplatz for some food and a couple of Weizenbier, celebrating a great day and an unforgettable experience.

Haile Gebreslassie won the marathon in 2:06 hrs after completing the first 30 ks in a new world record. Even he suffered from the heat and struggled on the last 12 ks.

Live video at kilometer 35

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