Archive for October, 2010

Berlin Marathon Race Report

Athlete: Mark O’Gara

Hi NSRG,

I miss being out with my olde running mates and the catch ups for a coffee afterwards in some beautiful locations, but life moves on and I find myself back here in little ole England in a whole new world of running. As I only started running just before moving to Australia, the London marathon was probably my sole knowledge of marathons. My only running experience was the Brighton 10k and half marathon just before the move to Perth. I think I can comfortably say I have moved on some way since then and with big thanks to the group and the ones who kept me honest on those long training runs and for all the good advice.

I couple of race reports to give you an idea of running in Europe.

Berlin Marathon – 26.09.2010
I do not know where to start on describing the experience of running my first big City marathon in a City I have always wanted to visit. It was like a running tour of the sights of Berlin. The expo at the old Templehof airport on the Saturday was huge and provided an insight and injection of excitement into the upcoming marathon. It was like the United Nations with people from so many Countries I could not begin to keep track. There were around 41,000 marathon runners gathered close to the Brandenburg gate on a very very wet Sunday morning for the start. The organisation was German efficiency and I was through the start within a few minutes and the pack was moving. From the start the support was absolutely fantastic and this continued throughout with people lining the streets and cheering you on and loads of live bands along the way and high fives (except 37k – 40k – see later). I’d like to say I have a clear memory of the race but to be honest It is all just a blur but I know I really enjoyed the experience and tried to soak up the atmosphere as much as possible. I remember all the main landmarks and running through some of the suburbs of East Berlin and this was just how I imagined it was like.

The run itself! I was on my target pace of 4.30 within 2k due to the wide flat road at the start. It was when we turned into smaller streets that I was caught in traffic, I was still running 4.40 pace but could not get through the crowd any quicker and decided to go with the flow until it naturally opened up which it did at around 8k. Even when it did open up you were always running in a mass of people but you could run at your own pace. I seemed to find myself with a lots of guys from Denmark (in fact, there seemed to be more Danish runners than German and it felt at times that half the crowd were Danish). My mate who I went with has told me I need to now slow down as it was a much more enjoyable experience running with the mass of Danish women a bit further back. After a toilet stop I managed to get into a rhythm for much of the remainder of the race. The atmosphere, all the people and the sights helped take the mind off the distance. There were plenty of drink stations with water, energy drink; fruit and hot tea (yes tea!!).
I made a point of drinking at each one and as a result felt good throughout. I held a little in the locker as I still had the memory of hitting the wall at 35k in the Perth marathon the previous year. But instead of a long desolate stretch of cycle path along the freeway, this time I had a line of pom pom girls for a while at 35k. I decided I was not going to hit the wall and pushed on. My last 10k was my quickest. It wasn’t easy, I was very tired but felt I could step up a gear. When I approached and passed through the Brandenburg gate at km 42 and then the last 400m past the Grandstand it was pure emotional heaven with the cheers and sense of achievement. I finished in 3.10.48. A PB of 9 minutes. The aim was 3.15 so very happy. Medal, photos, goody bag and free beer (alcohol free – boo) in the warm down area.

Overall, absolutely loved the Berlin marathon and strongly recommend, I am thinking of going again next year. My mate’s opinion was great marathon and fantastic course but a little short of crowd support in km 37-40. This could be due to this 3k being close to Brandenburg gate and everyone heads for this area and the finish line. Also, the weather was truly awful so hats off to the crowds for coming out in the first place. Good thing about this marathon is no ballots, get your entry in early and you are in. 2011 entries open in October.

Chippenham – Wiltshire 12.09.2010
Running through the lovely country lanes and villages of Chippenham area with lots of local support and music playing and then great little fete/party organised afterwards and loads of free food goodies to help you recover and a t-shirt. Even though only 1300 completed the race, you can see it means a lot to the local community and running club who organise the race. I clocked 1.29.29 a pb of 3 minutes which under the circumstances that on the Friday night I was at a school reunion in Manchester drinking and partying from 6pm – 2am. I then travelled back to London on the train the next day still feeling half p****d before driving down for the half marathon the next morning in Wiltshire. The last 3.5k was also a gradual hill, nothing major but went on an on and on. Very good news is that as I achieved under 1.30 and I have guaranteed good for age entry for New York marathon next year.

There seem to be lots of races here every week and every City in Europe seems to have a marathon in Spring or Autumn (Florence, Rome, Budapest, Prague to name a few). For the really big ones you have to get in quick. For example I had my place for Brighton 2011 in May this year and it sold out in June. I think we only have 3 really big marathons in the UK which are London, Edinburgh, Brighton and Robin Hood marathons. There are a couple of huge half marathons that are famous and on live tv (great North run and great South run), probably missed some but I’m still finding out as well. I was going to do Amsterdam marathon in October as well but have to go to India for 2 weeks with work this Sunday. I then have 2 weekends with family and then go back to India for a week. So, I may put events on hold until the New Year.

Joined a running club over here and the track speedwork sessions are definitely improving my overall speed so I would recommend Bob’s equivalent sessions if you want to improve times. Does not beat NSRG for friendliness and camaraderie – cheers for the experience.

If anyone is planning on visiting Europe and wants to run and needs any advice let me know if I can help.

Cheers

Mark

PS I had my 5 seconds of fame. Berlin marathon was live on Eurosport and I was in shot for a while