A few years ago, I came to terms with the fact I’m now a runner. I didn’t really want to be a runner, I always preferred team sports. But I caught the running bug on the streets of London and its bite was hard. After a 3h:10m London Marathon I set myself a goal: sub-3 in the Berlin Marathon. The holy grail for amateur runners in the fastest marathon city of them all.
Here’s what I learnt en route…
1. You don’t do it alone!
Running is a team game. Anyone who says a marathon is a solo effort is a liar. Build a support crew. It’s what gets you through.
2. You’re all alone!
Running is lonely. It’s about you and the road on mornings and nights when it would be much easier to be on the couch. Get out there. I’ve had some crazy voices in my head but I’ve learnt to love them. In the words of Mike Skinner: “stay positive”.
3. Sunday is runday
Your weekends will never be the same. Wherever you are, however you feel (hangover or not), Sunday mornings are made for running. If you’ve got a weekend trip, even better, pack your trainers and explore the city all before breakfast.
4. Faith in numbers
I try to avoid stats as much as possible whilst running. I prefer to listen to my body and run on feel. It might sound like a hippy vibe, but it feels better than running to the clock. That said, for sub-3 I learnt to love numbers: I now run blind from data, but track my route to give me the stats to review at the end of each run. En route to the Berlin Marathon, I knew the minute per miles needed for 2.59, (6.50 min/mile). Which is useless as Berlin is measured in km!
5. It’s all about race day
Race day is a celebration. Get out there and enjoy it. All the work that’s been done before is for this. It’s you and 26.2 miles of tarmac (or 42.1km even)! When doubt hits in (for me it was at 37km), and you genuinely think you’ve blown it, dig in, kick on and fight the pain. You’ve done the hard work, it’s meant to hurt!
6. It’s further to the finish than it looks
Regardless of all the advice people give you before the race about Brandenburg Gate NOT being the finish line, as soon as you see it you’ll think the end is near. Beware! On the Saturday shake-out run we observed the 400m distance from the Gate to the line. On Sunday it looked longer!
7. You’re going to look bad in pics
You dream of that finish line moment. 2 hours something on the clock and a face full of joy and pride caught on camera. But actually, what you get is a picture of pain! You think you’re smiling but, well, you’re not.
8. Social media works!
I may be biased, but making your marathon ‘social’ helps. The training pics, the shoe selfies (Boston #Boost!), the kit layout and the medal shot. My Instagram feed became a running diary and I was totally overwhelmed by the support I got. Use hashtags like #berlinmarathon or #berlinmarathon2018 to connect with other runners.
9. It’s not about the time
All I wanted was to see 2hrs something on the clock as I crossed the line. I dedicated months to be part of the sub-3 club. But a week on, I’m already planning how to go quicker. The more I think about it, I’ve realised no matter how fast you go, every marathon runner goes the same distance, and that’s what it’s all about. Sub-3, sub-4, sub-2.03; whatever pace you run, by crossing the line you’re part of the 26rs.
*This story was originally published on October 10, 2014 and has been updated on September 10, 2018.