I awoke at 6pm to get myself mentally and physically prepared for my race. It was important that I did not experience gastrointestinal upset during the race. ‘Runner’s stomach’ is a very unpleasant and uncomfortable condition. I enjoyed a light breakfast with a strong cup of coffee, before we departed for the flag-off point on foot. The 1.5K-walk was a chilly one, but I was wrapped up well in two layers (compression wear with a long-sleeved, riding-top). The walk served as a mild warm-up.
Upon reaching the Brandenburg Gate, it was packed with eager runners squeezing their way to their respective pens. I finally found my place in pen E (3:15-3:30 expected timing), and squatted there. I realized I earned my place there and no post-injury mindset would deny me my spot in a prestigious Big 5 Marathon with 1 million spectators, 40,000 runners, 80 ‘live’ bands, 8 world records and the one chance to complete a 42.195K run. Berlin Marathon, New York Marathon, London Marathon, Boston Marathon and Chicago Marathon are the Big Five ‘World Marathon Majors’ series, and ‘must-do’ races for marathoners.
The gun went off exactly at 9.00am, with the professionals leading the way. I inched my way forward and it took just over-5 minutes to cross the start-line. I engaged my Garmin 310XT to measure my own timing.
I set about running my own race at my predetermined pace of 6 minutes per kilometer. I vowed to conduct regular systems checks/self-assessment during my course: rate of Perceived Exertion, heart rate, pains and discomfort on injured area, cramping/tightness, fluid intake, and GI problems. These checkpoints were crucial to my main goal of completing the race in decent time, and with no risk of further injury.
I was doing well for the first 21K until I realized I could not hold the pace for too long. 1:53 was conservative pace for a half-marathon, if I were to earn a negative-split. However, I knew intuitively that today was not the day when I lost speed for the 3:30 pacer. If I could keep up with the 3:45 pacer, I could still earn a decent timing. Eight weeks of no running, except three short, test-runs the week before the marathon meant that I had to pay the price. I had lost precious fitness after Ironman Switzerland (15 July), and my swimming and riding merely maintained some degree of my aerobic fitness/endurance. My legs lacked the strength, stability and conditioning to run at a sustained pace for at least 30K.
My pace started to dwindle after the 25K, as I was not conditioned to hold the race-pace for longer. Once I lost sight of the 3:45 pacer, I knew I was on my own. Damage control and revision to my race-goals had to be made. My mental calculations and decision making was akin to taking the finals in my GCE A-Levels. Distance-running and racing is a stressful sport if you aspire to develop your excellence and personal mastery. I feel exhausted, mentally and physically, after all the mental arithmetic and physical gymnastics.
I was relieved to cross the line after a fast last kilometer (through the main shopping belt, akin to the Gangnam area in Korea), encouraged in a large part by the many fellow runners who were determined to break the tape. Buoyed by the many spectators, volunteers and runners I floated to a happy finish marked with many deliverables: a safe run, no symptoms of injury, no GI issues, achieved goals, and pleasant positive emotions at the end of this race. A mild disappointment may have been not to crack the 4-hour mark (missed by 57 seconds), and potential for a PB/BQ were I not injured. However, this became water under the bridge when a spectator hung my medal around my cold neck. Berlin and the marathon has a special place in my heart for its energy and enthusiasm bestowed to athletes and tourists.
I received my preliminary results after my exit from the recovery area. 4:00:53 was not far off my expected mark of 4 hours. My original goal was 4:30, to which I revised a few times based on my recovery progress. To think that I almost threw in the towel for this race after I was properly diagnosed with a stress fracture of my metatarsal. I was pleased that no troubling symptoms manifested themselves throughout my race. My lack of race-specific fitness can be addressed in two months before the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (2 December). Thanks to Dr Roger Tien for treating me, and Dr Bao Ying (both of Changi Hospital Sports Medicine Centre) for keeping a close eye on my training exploits. I also appreciated my well-intentioned friends for helping me refocus on my goals. I was glad to have run the race than play frustrated ‘spectator’.
I spent the rest of the evening having dinner (knuckles and beer) with Kum Tho and Derek: KT scored a 3:53 and Derek 3:57 (his PB). We cheerfully reminisced about our officer cadet days, and the untold stories we harbored. We noticed many of the patrons at Paulaner’s (a popular microbrewery/restaurant franchise) wore their finisher’s medal with pride. I believe that they valued this event at various depths of meaning and relevance. I was pleased for them. I wonder how I would look like with all my finisher’s medals around my neck. No point risking whiplash, I reasoned. I will have my proper shot at the Boston Marathon in 2014. 2 December – here I come!