Marathon Date: September 28, 2008
My Age: 72
My Finish Time: 4:38 * 38th out of 107 in age group
My Marathon Rating: Most runners – 54,000
Memorable Moment: Finishing the marathon running under the Brandenburg Gate.
Lessons Learned: Always carry money, local currency, with you in your running shorts pocket in case you need money for a taxi after the race. Never leave credit cards, money, or any valuable items with the clothes that you drop off to wear after the race.
Marathon Selection and Registration:
After much deliberation I decided to run the September 28, 2008 Berlin marathon which is one of the world’s largest races with over 45,000 runners from over 100 countries, 1 million spectators, and more than 70 bands. The 2008 Berlin marathon will be the 35th running of this world famous marathon that has the fastest course in the world. I will be traveling with Marathon Tours and Travel and they will be handling my hotel reservations, ensuring that I would have a race number, and bus tours of Berlin.
Marathon Training Program:
I started my 18-week 750-mile training program on May 25th with a right hamstring injury as well as a sore left heel injury. Because of the injuries I decided not to do any races [5k, 10k, ½ marathon] as part of my training program for the Berlin marathon. By week 10 of my training program my hamstring and heel injuries were no longer bothering me. My training program was setup so that I would meet my Berlin marathon finish goal of 4:30 and when I reached week 18 of the training program I felt very comfortable that I would meet my goal.
I stayed at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, which was about 30 minutes walk from the start and finish of the marathon. The hotel was centrally located and was in walking distance to a number of very good restaurants. I used my American Airlines frequent flier miles and flew from San Diego to Dallas to London [Heathrow] and then on to Berlin.
The Racecourse of the 35th Berlin Marathon is a very flat course and almost a complete sightseeing tour of the capital. During the 26.2-mile race athletes pass a large number of Berlin’s best-known landmarks. The Victory column is the first landmark along the course. The Federal Chancellery which houses the German Parliament will be passed after 6.5k. That was where John F. Kennedy said the famous words “Ich bin ein Berliner” [I am a Berliner]. At mile 23 runners pass the National Gallery and the philharmonic Orchestra of Berlin. The marathon ends after the runners run under the Brandenburg Gate – the most famous spot in Berlin.
I decided to go to the Expo on the 26th – 2 days before the marathon – to beat the last minute crowds. The taxi ride to the Expo took forever, as there were traffic jams everywhere and very little parking near the Expo. There were thousands of runners jammed into the Expo to pick up their numbers which made it difficult to find out which line I needed to be in to pick up my number. Once I finally got in the right line I was able to pick up my number  very quickly. When I looked into the bag of “goodies” they gave me, I asked the person who gave it to me where was my free race shirt? He told me that the race shirts are not free and I would have to pay $65.00 US Dollars for the shirt – sorry but I was not going to pay $65.00 for a race shirt. Eventually I ended up inside the Expo where there were hundreds of booths with long lines of runners. It was very difficult to walk through the Expo with all of the people cramped together. After about an hour of bumping into people I decided it was time to go back to the hotel and get something to eat. I went out to eat with a few of the runners that were staying at my hotel we walked to an outdoor restaurant about an hours walk from the hotel. I was very tired from all the walking I did at the Expo and decided to stay in for the rest of the evening – went down to the Lobby and read a book.
Woke up at 5:30am the next morning, the day before the marathon, and went to breakfast in the hotel with a number of the runners who came with marathon Tours. After breakfast the Marathon Tours Representative Cliff walked the group to where the Marathon will start so we will know how to get there on race day as well as showing where we needed to drop off our clothes. We walked back to the hotel and I stayed in the hotel and rested for the rest of the day – no running or walking – went to bed at 9:30pm.
Woke up at 6:00am on the 28th – marathon day and put on my race gear, number and race chip on my shoe and went down for a very light breakfast of Oatmeal and a Peanut Butter sandwich. At 7:30am, an hour and half before the start of the marathon, Cliff got the Marathon Tours runners together and we all walked to where the marathon would start. We got to the start position around 8:00am and it took me about 20 minutes to get to where I had to drop off my clothes that I will wear after the race is over. It took me another 20 minutes of walking to finally find my start location [G-my projected finish time was 4:30], my start area was already packed with wall-to-wall people and I had a hard time getting in. Once I was in it was impossible for me to move either forward or backward – I was locked in.
The weather at the start of the race was in the low 60’s. At exactly 9:00am the race started but I just stood there for about 5 minutes before the people in front of me started walking to the start line. By the time I finally reached the start line it was 9:10am – once I crossed the start line I set my watch and I was off and “walking”. When I reached mile 3 I was able to finally break loose from the crowd of runners and run at my planned marathon pace. I lost about 3 minutes over the first 3 miles towards my goal of a 4:30 marathon and unfortunately felt that I would not be able to make up the time in the latter parts of the race.
At mile 12 I stopped to get a cup of water at the water station where there were so many people lined up to get water it was difficult to get near the people giving out the water. I finally was able to get a cup of water and I was just about to drink it when a runner came running by and took the cup from my hand and ran away drinking my water. When I reached the ½ waypoint in the marathon my time was 2:12, which meant that if I kept up my present pace I would finish in a time of 4:24, which was six minutes faster my planned finish time of 4:30. The 1 million fans along the complete race route really made a difference and they really got me moving when I started to slow down – the 70+ bands seemed to be everywhere – what an event!
At mile 14 the weather had changed and now it was getting much hotter which made it difficult to keep up my present 4:24 pace. I finally hit the “wall” at mile 22 and it was very clear to me that I would not meet my finish time goal of 4:30. From mile 23 to the finish not only was I fighting fatigue but also wasting time having to run around people who were walking 5 abreast and blocking the route for the people who were still running. When I finally ran under the Brandenburg Gate and crossed the finish line my finish time was 4:38 [* 38th out of 107 in age group] 8 minutes over my goal of 4:30.
After I finished the marathon and received my medal I went in the wrong direction and ended up outside the finish area and was not able to get back in to get some food. I spent the next 45 minutes getting my clothes that I left and changing to walk back to my hotel. While walking back to my hotel I finally found the finishers food area and was able to get a couple of bananas, health bars, etc. I tried to get a Taxi but they were all filled up with runners so I started walking back. I was very sore after the race so it took me about an hour and a half to finally get back to the hotel, showered and went down to the lobby to meet up with some of the runners to go out and celebrate. We had a great time telling our individual stories about the Berlin marathon – left for the hotel around midnight and had a great night’s sleep.