The 2021 BMW Berlin Marathon

This one has taken a long time for me to write.

Sorry about that.

I just couldn’t face it right away and I think you will see why.

I am getting ahead of myself, though, so let’s start at the beginning.

Here is my 2021 BMW Berlin Marathon experience.

Why Berlin?:

I’ll be honest, as much as I did want to visit Germany, the deciding reason for my going to Berlin was that it plays host to one of the six Abbott World Marathon Majors.

Interesting fact: The 2019 New York City Marathon, which I ran, was the last in-person, mass (meaning not just for the elite runners) Major before the pandemic. The 2021 BMW Berlin Marathon was the first one back!

#restartrunning #finallytogether #runforjoy

Entry:

Here are the ways you can get into the Berlin Marathon (if I missed any, let me know!)

  • Elite (i.e. super fast people)
  • Qualify based on time
  • Travel agencies with marathon/tour packages
  • Ballot (lottery drawing of sorts. Berlin has better odds than most)
  • Charity
  • Claim a deferred entry
  • Jubilee Club (run 10 Berlin Marathons, join the free club, and have guaranteed entry for life)

I did enter the ballot in 2019 (for the cancelled 2020 race) as a part of a team and was unsuccessful.

The second time around, I again entered as a part of a team (two-person team this time) as I still believed it would increase my odds.

You see, if either/any member of your team is drawn, your entire team is in.

Knowing my luck as I do, I knew my other team member’s luck would be doing all the heavy lifting.

Thanks to Nicki, or Captain Nicki, we were drawn!

Side note: Even though you are on a team, your registrations are treated individually. This means, if someone cannot participate, it does not effect the rest of the team...other than you missing them, of course.

Hotel:

I stayed at the Berlin Marriott Hotel and split a room with another friend who was running.

Splitting it kept it within budget for me while still being able to enjoy the many “finer things” this hotel had to offer.

Staying here felt like a big hug!

My friend found this hotel and it was incredible!

Thanks for finding it and being my roomie, Jen!

It was right by Potsdamer Platz, was close to the start/finish line, had a couple of restaurants connected to it, had an executive lounge for free drinks and buffet-style food, AND had post-race perks that I will get into later.

(Tip: Budget for taxis! Not everything is within walking distance and there aren’t a ton of transportation options.)

Expo:

I went to the Expo as soon as I had met up with everyone in Berlin.

Jen and I dropped off our bags and our group headed back to the airport.

A different one this time.

The very unique and cool thing about Berlin’s expo is that it is held at an old airport called Tempelhof.

Preparing for takeoff!

While I LOVED the venue, I didn’t much care for the photo lines.

We certainly weren’t at RunDisney (where you pic and run) anymore!

(Note: We did have to wear masks practically everywhere and show our paperwork for a special wristband we had to wear throughout the entire event (i.e. any event/race space). Some people even leave them on until they fall off. Mine lasted until the morning after I got home before I cut it off.)

I did buy some merch and was even able to locate the turns-out-to-be elusive plush of Fridolin Flink.

(Tip: The mascot’s “friend” sold them. They are not sold inside with the official merch.)

After getting my bib, shirt, and some pictures, we headed back to the hotel.

Shopping sure takes a lot out of a girl…and her wallet!

Pre-Race:

I didn’t have NEAR the things that I wanted to do in Berlin versus New York but, through research, I was able to find a “few” things.

I saved most of it for after the marathon to try to save my legs.

Ironically though, our first activity wasn’t really “leg-saving” in nature.

Unlike previous races, I WANTED to do the pre-marathon shakeout run called “The Breakfast Run” but, with Covid still running rampant, it was not held.

I figured out a way to still have this experience.

Although, it wasn’t free or quite the same.

It was more of a “Breakfast Walk”.

My friends and I DID get breakfast (at the hotel) and DID get to go to the 1936 Olympic Stadium.

We just didn’t get to walk/run the track.

That might’ve been for the best, though, because we got to really soak in our time there…and the little bit of rain that fell while we were there.

I REALLY wanted to go to the stadium after reading the book “Fast Girls”.

I fell in love with the story of Betty Robinson and even had replica Team USA tanks and a sweater made.

Before you think I’m too crazy, go check out Betty’s story on my Instagram.

I dare you NOT to be inspired!

After that, we found our names on the Hall of Fame wall and headed to our next activity…spectating the inline skating marathon (another unique part of Berlin’s event weekend)!

The costumes were fun and it was interesting being on the other side of things for a change.

Unfortunately for me, and the group who had to deal with me, I felt AWFUL.

UPCOMING TMI ALERT!!

Being a female stinks sometimes.

I literally had to sit most of the spectating out on the nearby sidelines.

I rallied a bit, but between the issue I mentioned above, my stomach-churning nerves, and probably some sneaky jetlag, I was kind of a party pooper.

Sorry!

At this point, we needed to be getting some dinner and getting to bed.

The pre-race dinner we chose was close to the hotel and a chain I was familiar with.

Both key, I think.

It was called Vapiano.

The only thing to report here was actually getting to the restaurant.

While Vapiano was close to the hotel, I had just drug my friends around Tiergarten after spectating the inline event to go on a total “goose hunt” for a set of trees with the “Stand By Me” lyrics carved into them.

My directions were wrong and it was a lot more walking than it should’ve been to get there and to dinner.

Oops! Sorry again!

Thanks for standing by me and my crazy ideas, guys!

The Race:

Verse chosen for this race

Getting There:

This is where, again, the choice of hotel was ideal.

After breakfast at the hotel, the girls and I made the walk to the starting area with no issues (but plenty of bathroom stops!).

O, in case you were wondering, Jen reminded me about deodorant so that I wouldn’t have that issue to deal with.

Thanks, again, Jen!

Start:

This race was different than a lot of other races for me.

I was attempting a world record and, thus, was running for time…an extremely ambitious time for me.

Despite training hard for this goal, I was FREAKING OUT!

Luckily, we didn’t have to linger long.

I met up with someone who was going to help pace me and take the necessary pictures for proof along the way (every 2 kilometers) and, after the pre-start clapping Berlin is known for, we were off.

Kilometers 1-42 (Berlin is NOT marked by miles):

Since I was going for the record, I set out with my pacer instead of with Jen and Nicki.

I was planning to stay with my pacer for as long as possible with both of us having the option to strike out on our own, at any point, if needed.

That plan lasted all of about 6k until I exercised the option to fall back.

I just couldn’t keep up AND weave other runners at the same time (it was very congested in the beginning).

I willed myself to keep fighting (you never know right? It’s not over ’til it’s over!) and continued taking the “proof pictures” the rest of the race…even long after all hope of the record time was gone.

(Note: Even though I was setting the record instead of breaking it, the application I sent in after the race was denied. I knew it was a long shot, but it hurt all the same.)

That fight became a downright struggle early on in the race (well before the halfway point, if my memory serves me correctly).

I didn’t know if it was lingering “female problems” (which I’ll spare you from any more details there), jetlag, not hydrating properly, or the hot and humid weather, but I DID know my legs were SO tight.

I went from focusing on the record to hoping I could just get to the finish line in time.

I remember even looking behind me a couple of times expecting to see the sweepers coming for me.

I counted kilometers down and took a lot of walk breaks, but nothing seemed to be helping much.

Although, a cup of Coke (the race was, uniquely, offering tea, too. I took whatever I thought could help at this point) and some runners (most of them speaking German) commenting on my outfit were brighter spots.

Side note: I was wearing a very traditional German dress called a dirndl for this race. One lady, early on, came up to me speaking in German and pointing to my dress. She seemed so disappointed when I said I couldn’t understand her, so I just nodded along like I understood EVERYONE after that. I wish that I knew what all was said to me that day, but it all seemed positive!

I somehow made it to the road leading up to the Brandenburg Gate and looked over to the spot we had spectated at the day before.

We had agreed this would be our meeting spot and where Alex would stand to cheer us on.

He was there and was signing the number “1” to me.

Marathon brain was real at this point, so I couldn’t figure out what he meant.

I couldn’t believe that I was the first one to that point.

I thought Jen and Nicki passed me long ago and I had simply missed them in my haze of pain.

Turns out, he did mean that I was the first one he’d seen.

Finish:

FINALLY, I crossed the finish line (it is not as you pass under the Gate like some people might think) and got my medal.

Side note: Doesn’t Berlin have the BEST race photos?! Not only did they mask a lot of my pain, but they were so artsy! Prost to the photographers!

Then, unimaginably, the struggle got worse.

I turned in my shoe timing chip (so I wouldn’t be charged. I would’ve just kept it, if it had been cool, but it was plain) and saw a photo op.

I knew I’d regret it later if I didn’t take a picture in the finish area and I saw no other backgrounds set up, so I got in line.

I could barely stand at this point.

The runners around me in line, recognizing this, agreed to hold my place so that I could sit down until my turn.

I got my picture, thanked those runners, and started the “long journey” out of that area.

Smiling through the pain

Now, I had really wanted to go to the currywurst stand I had scouted the day before (I didn’t want to risk trying it pre-marathon) to (try to) celebrate…and to get some carbs.

Those usually help.

I thought I had some time and it was in the same general vicinity as the meeting place, so I started hobbling there.

All along this walk I had to take breaks, I considered asking for medical attention, and I questioned why I was doing this (running) to myself.

I swore I would NEVER do this again.

I felt THAT horrible.

I made it to “Wurst”, got my food (which did help), sat down, took a couple of pictures, got “checked on” by another runner, and headed to the meeting place.

Meet-up:

My group wasn’t at the meeting place.

Unlike London, I knew Alex had been/would be in that exact spot, so I (correctly) assumed that I had missed them.

It had taken me FOREVER to walk there, after all.

Then, I made the best decision of my entire trip.

I decided to take a cab to the hotel with the emergency cash I had stashed in my race belt along with my credit card and room key.

The only cabs around at the time, since roads were still closed/filled with runners, were bicycle cabs.

The cab-cyclist wasn’t sure about taking me at first but, after I told him what hotel I was staying at and he saw the pure desperation in my eyes, he decided to take me.

Enjoying the view…and the ride

I made it back to my room and the first words I heard were from Jen and were something along the lines of, “Hello, Miss Berlin Legend!”.

That was nice to hear…even if I wasn’t really ready to celebrate or fully accept congratulations at that point.

Then, I got caught up on Jen and Nicki’s race experience* and felt even worse for inwardly complaining.

*Since that isn’t my story to tell, I’m not going to elaborate.

I was broken.

In body, in mind, and in spirit.

Nevertheless, and only because I had such a great group “gently pushing” me, I showered and joined them for a celebration dinner.

Post-Race:

For this race, I took my own advice again and stayed an extra day for “Marathon Monday”.

(Tip: Be sure to get up early the day after the race to secure a paper. ALL runners are in this one! I tried too late, again, and spent most of the day making detours to try to find one. Luckily, it turned into one of my favorite moments from the trip when a runner I met in the airport said he’d send me one free of charge. Thanks, again, Andrew!)

I was still disappointed, but in a slightly better headspace when I got up that morning and I was going to do what I could to keep it that way.

I made sure to do what I could to stop the lactic acid from building, too.

The morning started with Jen and I having brunch at TV Tower (while there was an elevator, there also were some stairs. UGH!).

We could see the start/finish line from where we were eating as well as the Victory Column.

I decided that was my sign to be thankful and to try to declare victory.

I finished, after all, and was one step (or star) closer to completing another/the main goal.

Then, we proceeded to do a few other things.

These things included walking (some of) the remnants of the Berlin Wall, visiting the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, checking out Checkpoint Charlie, putting our legs up on some walls, and enjoying the hotel’s infrared seat (uh, yes please!).

Then, I got a Covid test, packed up, and started the long journey home.

While this journey did include Whataburger, it also included a long delay and an unexpected welcome home.

You see, the morning after I got home, I went to work only to be permanently sent home within the hour… and after I had struggled up the stairs, too!

That, coupled with my race experience, really did a number on my confidence…as a runner and as a person.

That victorious feeling from the top of the TV Tower was gone…in record time.

I found it hard to declare victory in the face of that much “defeat”.

That is why it took me SO long to blog about this race.

While I try to disassociate the race from the trip and the trip from losing my job, it is hard to think about one without the others…and that makes it ALL hard to think about.

Yet, here we are.

Being reminded about the good things helps.

I am thankful for those and for the lessons I learned (you sometimes learn more in the struggle, you know) and now, many months later, I am reclaiming my victory.

Despite all that happened through my “less than stellar” race and return experience, I really enjoyed Berlin (the people were SO nice!) and I would love to go back to Germany someday.

Please leave me a comment below if you have any questions.

YouTube Berlin Marathon Video:

That’s all from me and Star #3!

Next up: The 2022 Boston Marathon

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