And so the VERY big day is rapidly approaching now. Indeed in just two days time I will be in Berlin (or I hope I will anyway :O) getting nervously ready for the big day on Sunday. It has been a long road for sure…..
It feels a bit incredible now that I started my training plan for this event in May. Especially as we sit here now with much cooler days, the nights drawing in, and yes, I saw Christmas decorations and mince pies in the supermarket yesterday – ridiculous but true!! Since then I’ve covered approximately 700 miles, gone through two pairs of trainers (they tell you they last 350 miles and I’m a stickler for the rules!) and countless energy drinks, tabs, gels and the like.
I’ve also bought several new running vests (it is going to be about 17 degrees in Berlin and that demands being as cool as I can get), new shorts, some fancy Alphafly shoes that I may well not even wear (more on that below), and had the flight cancelled that I was supposed to be going on. But no matter, I’ll get there, by hook or by crook, and give it my best shot.
Speaking of best shots, I’ll put it down here now – I will as things stand be (only a little bit) disappointed if I don’t/can’t break (but just!) 3hrs 40 mins. That’s the target, and I’m going to everything I can to get to it. 3 hrs 39 mins and 59.9 seconds will do – that’ll have me cheering/doing metaphorical cartwheels. When I started my training, using Hanson’s Marathon Method (great book, but VERY detailed :O), I wanted to get to 3 hrs 45mins, and so that’s what I’ve trained for. That is 8m 35s miles. To put that into perspective for me, my only marathon was in New York, 3 years ago, and I did 3hrs 54mins, and I was delighted with that.
I’ve found though that as the training has gone on, despite the odd hiccup (like having to go for a colonoscopy in week 15 for example!) I’ve got generally stronger in terms of how relaxed it has all been. That doesn’t mean faster, but in terms of heartbeat. I ran today for example, for 5 miles, at an overall average of 9mins 2 secs, and my heartbeat averaged 133bpm. I think at the start of this programme that would have been about 20 beats higher. So that doesn’t necessarily mean I can do much better in terms of outcome of course, it just hopefully means I have a greater aerobic capacity to get through it. According to my Garmin watch too, my VO2 max predictor has gone up from 48 to 52 over the programme. Again, it doesn’t mean diddly squat when it comes to the day necessarily, but hopefully it at least brings confidence. After all, a lot of running is in the head too.
But what it has translated to is a faster pace per mile in training on tempo runs without getting over-exerted. My tempo (marathon pace) has gradually slightly been lowered (by me, based only on ‘feel’) to around 8 mins 20 seconds a mile, and that would equate to 3hrs 38mins and 20 seconds (precisely!). So let’s see if I can sustain 8:20 pace for 26.2 miles, and see what happens!
So the schedule is to get to Berlin (early) on Friday morning, go to the Expo (which is mandatory as you have to collect your bib etc there) in the afternoon, and then just chill as much as I can. There is a ‘shakeout’ run scheduled on the Saturday morning which I may do too though. In fact there are a couple of those – one with Sports Tours International (the company with whom I’ve booked the trip), and one with Ben Parkes and his followers. Ben is a 2:25 marathoner and esteemed YouTuber, who I follow too https://www.youtube.com/c/BenParkes – he’s a bit geeky but also entertaining and informative. He unsuccessfully attempted the UTMB a few weeks ago, and I found myself absolutely crying with him even on the starting line he was that emotional.
Interestingly, in Ben’s very latest post he was deliberating on choice of shoes. He can’t decide between three different pairs, and you’d think that someone who is a 2:25 marathoner would have it nailed down with three days to go, but apparently not! That makes me feel slightly better as I can’t decide between two pairs. I have loved Nike Vaporfly since I bought them before New York, but I bought some Nike Alphafly this year, intending them for this very race. However, the Alphafly are a bit heavier and clunkier (I wore them for the Great North Run two weeks ago), as opposed to lighter and more nimble for the Vaporfly. But, most of the serious athletes (including none other than the GOAT Eliud Kipchoge who I noticed arrived in Berlin today (not that I’m stalking him or anything :O)) choose the Alphafly, and quite honestly I’ll take all of the artificial advantages I can possibly get my hands on!
I’ll take both pairs to Berlin and it might be a toss up in the morning of the run as two which go on my feet, but the Vaporfly are favourites at this point in time, probably :D. First world problems indeed!
So the run itself begins at 9:15 on Sunday morning. I will have to try very very hard to contain emotions of just being by the Brandenburg Gate, where it also finishes. The Brandenburg Gate is just such an iconic monument in history. When I saw it last time (I’ve only been to Berlin once and was fortunate enough to have a little run through it too) it was almost overwhelming then, so what it will be like with the excitement of the event I can only imagine.
When I did New York I was very lucky to have Dan and Sadi come and cheer me on and meet up at the end. And the picture below was during the post race beer (or two) we all had in some bar afterwards. I love this photo so have put it here for at least my own posterity! Unfortunately they can’t be with me this time, but they’ll be tracking me (or watching Eliud Kipchoge on TV anyway, hopefully breaking the world record, as is rumoured….). I am so thankful for all the support and cheers that I’ve got along the journey from various other people too.
Wish me luck, as I badly need it, and see you on the other side……….