Week 14 Training (April 2-8): rests, birthday run, and a half marathon

There were a few highlights this week, but overshadowing the whole thing was generally feeling crummy. Didn’t I say I probably wouldn’t run until Thursday? Should have stuck to that… But who knows? Maybe a half marathon race was what I needed to reset and get back into gear for these last two weeks before the marathon.


If you recall, I’ve been struggling through runs since the 22-miler. Really, I think it started when I ran a 1:41 half and then eight miles the next day (stupid, stupid!). But I took it really easy in week 13, and this week was a continuation. Despite having some decent runs every other day, none of them were the kind of effortless, fast runs I’ve had through week 11 of the cycle. Either I’m feeling marathon fatigue, feeling the taper, or warding off an injury. It’s probably the latter, but I keep telling myself it’s the former.

Still, all things considered, this was a good week! Or so I keep telling myself. This close to the marathon, positive self-talk is the best weapon I have against a breakdown in body and spirit. :-)

I traveled from Florida to Berlin on Tuesday and purposefully pushed the pace a little on Monday, knowing I would take a day off. I landed on Wednesday (trips from US to DE are usually overnight) and after unpacking and a nap, headed out for 8 miles. They were tired miles, but still felt decent. 9 mpm are normal after an international  flight, right?! On the other hand, I probably should have just used the extra day off, because Thursday, which was supposed to be a glorious birthday run celebrating 27 years of life, I couldn’t wait for the run to be done. I ran paths I hadn’t run before, though, and felt okay about it afterwards, but it was the slowest run I’ve done in a while.

Still, sushi and quiet celebrations seemed perfect afterwards.

Then came the shocker (though I anticipated it):  The Berlin Half-Marathon was happening on the 8th of April, and my brother wanted me to run in his stead.

So Friday and Saturday were standard pre-race fare: day off and 2 mile pre-run with strides.

See, my brother had expressed an early (October) interest in running the Berlin Half-Marathon, since colleagues were running it as well. Since he is not normally the active instigator of running or races, I held myself back and followed his cues on registering and training. Well, the registering never happened in time. By the time he got around to wanting to do it, the tickets were sold out (December?). So plan B: look on E-bay. I had switched my entry to the Munich Marathon in 2016, so I knew there were always people looking to buy or sell entries online. However, the annoying thing about the Berlin Half-Marathon (and I imagine the full that happens in Sept.) is that the entries are non-transferable, which means that what we were doing was kind of illegal. Apparently, the costs of having someone manage all the changes are too high for the SCC race-organizers. Psh. Whatever. It’s lame, because people can’t run for legitimate reasons and the race in also non-deferable, so if people can’t run, they are forced to either lose the money or, well, have someone run for them. The organizers even have a no-tolerance policy for packet pickup: the person registered MUST be the one picking up the bib. This means that a certain amount of coordination is needed as well. At least the SCC Event organizers got rid of the color-coded race bibs. The non-gender specific bibs would make it easier to find someone to race for (it also helps to find someone who has a name that is given to both boys and girls).

At any rate, since I was also interested in maybe running, I put out the call for me and my brother, got a few replies, and then decided I actually wasn’t keen on paying 60 Euro for a race two weeks before my “A” race. So I found a nice young lady who couldn’t run because of a confirmation happening in North-Rhine Westfalia, got everything organized for my brother to exchange starting packet and money on April 6th, and then watched my brother plan to train, fail to train, and wind down to race week with a pitiful look on his face. He really figured until last weekend he could maybe wing-it. But it’s 13 miles, I kept reminding him, The longest he’s done in the past two years was 5 miles. So he took my offer to run it for him after all. I’d pay half. So I ran the Berlin Half for 31 Euro.

map of Berlin half marathon

The course really is as advertised. If you recall, I’ve actually done the route from the TV at Alexander Platz through the Tiergarten to the Golden Else many a time, and I live in Berlin now, so some of the sites the race boasted for internationals were pretty standard for me. Still, it’s not everyday I get to run on the streets themselves! With other runners! And the weather was gorgeous!

It wasn’t all sun and awesome sites/people though. Since the girl I was was running for my brother for hadn’t done a half before, she/he/I ended up in block F, which was the last group to run. So while my net time was 1:51:26 (more on that in a few lines), my total time was 2:30:51!!! Seriously, I spent over 40 minutes standing around/slowly walking forward. My tracker had me at 17 miles for the day, and a lot of that was the small steps forward. But I could live with a delayed start. I could also live with the human obstacle course. I forgot that ending up further back meant ending up with runners with slower paces. I added 400 meters to the race by doing diagonals across the course, looking for gaps. I haven’t done a run like that in a while- and honestly, I don’t have to do that again anytime soon. I like being able to catch my stride and keep it, early on. Also, I was annoyed that the race took 6 hours out of my day… but I shouldn’t complain about that too much. Volunteers spent 5-6 hours on the course (I should know, I almost volunteered). It was a good last harder effort before my marathon.

The race itself was okay. I ran about an 8:10 pace with one restroom break and, as I mentioned, did a lot of lateral running, which I felt today in the legs. I can’t explain why I feel worse today than I did after the 20 and 22 mile runs, but I’m chalking it up to probably coming down with a cold and the post-jet lag and the continuing battle with sore butt and hamstrings. I used kinesio tape for the first time on my back and right leg, and got some weird looks because it’s not really a thing in Germany. I still haven’t decided if it actually works or if it is a placebo, but it worked as a placebo for me!

And the race atmosphere was on point yesterday. The people were happy, the sun was shining, and no attacks happened… though, ****. It’s a pretty dark world if one of the thoughts during the pre-race jitters in a crowd of happy, life celebrating people on a glorious sunning day is “what if something were to happen?” Thank goodness nothing happened yesterday. Though it’s not that it didn’t run through my head- and I had prepared for it. Five years ago, especially before Boston, I wouldn’t have thought twice about the dangers of running in someone else’s name. Yesterday though, one of my concerns was being able to be identified should anything happen. There was a space on the back of the bib for personal information and emergency contact info- you can bet my name and bro’s contact info were there is clear, bold letters. Okay, okay. I think it’s enough with the negativity, already.

If the Berlin Half-Marathon had been my goal race, the energy yesterday would have carried me to a PR, probably.It was incredible! But since I was using effort to not go fast and not injure myself, I was more mellow than anything. Had a few great moments, though! I am a little concerned about the effort it took to hold even a 8:10, if I’m aiming for 8 mpm for the marathon, but I won’t worry about that now. Now, it’s two weeks to the marathon, serious taper time and I’m going to try and get these niggles taken care of and out of the way by then. No stupid business!

Medal and Daffodils

I wonder, if marathons had been a thing in the 18/19th century, if Wordsworth would have run.

Cheers, and happy running,


Running with a Different Kind of Fuel Through Berlin


(From Sunday, August 3)

Today is my last day in Berlin; tomorrow, I fly home to the suburbs of south Florida. This likely means that my run this morning was the most interesting one for a while.
Usually while in Berlin, I opt for the trails right outside my door (well, .8 miles from it, but still) and run a standard path I know through the Gruenewald (a large forest literally framing the whole south west corner of the city) and all the derivatives from it. Since I don’t have trails this accessible to me in the States, I love every run I get to do on them while in Germany. Yesterday’s run was especially rewarding.

However, since today is my last day in the city and I knew I wasn’t going to run tomorrow (7:15 check-in time), I decided to do a serious Berlin run.

My family stays in Charlottenburg, so I start off pretty far west in the city. Still, it’s only four miles in a straight line to the Brandenburg Gate. I made the Gate my first destination after deciding to go for about 1.75 hours. The route there takes me on one of Berlin’s most busy streets, but on Sunday at 6:30 AM, the streets are fairly empty. For those familiar with Berlin, you’ll know that the square mile to the west of the gate is a large park, a huge, green space in the middle of Berlin with small lakes, tea houses, creeks, the Spree to one side, and lots and lots of rabbits. I saw a few runners here, but generally I had the park to myself. I followed some different paths than I usually do and accordingly saw new things, like the Luise Insel, but made my way back to the Strasse des 17. Junis because that’s the street leading up to the Gate.

A beautiful face on a beautiful morning; running through the Berlin Tiergarten, one can see the LuiseInsel, a secluded little spot with gates against the rabbit plague

A beautiful face on a beautiful morning; running through the Berlin Tiergarten, one can see the Koenigin Luise Denkmal in the LuiseInsel, a secluded little spot with gates against the rabbit plague

I passed the Soviet Memorial, which was imposing as always, and of course, once I got to the Gate, had to run through it. I feel empowered as I do so, because I know that for about 50 years, going through the Gate like that wasn’t possible.

The Brandeburg Gate and Pariser Platz are especially impressive without the "Menschenmassen." Looking through the gate towards the west, you can also see the Siegesaule.

The Brandenburg Gate and Pariser Platz are especially impressive without the “Menschenmassen.” Looking through the gate towards the west, you can also see the Siegesaule.

At any rate, to avoid being boring, I’ll try not to be too detailed in recounting this run.

I ran past embassy after embassy (taking a few minutes to risk the stares of guarding policemen as I looked at the British coat of arms [who knew there’s French written on it?]) and found myself in Berlin Mitte near the Holocaust Memorial and Hitler’s bunker (to me, the closeness of these two spaces provoke some thought). I made my way over to Potsdamer Platz and took a moment to run through the Sony Center. Then, I started to make my way over to the Kürfurstendamm where I wanted to run down so that I could see the Kaiser Wilhem Gedächniskirche again as well as run by a sea that’s near our place.

One of the last impressive things I saw on my run was this church along the (as Berliners like to call it) Ku’Damm.

We ended up swimming in that sea, so I was glad to have explored the route to our house. The last eventful things I saw were the huge convention centers (Messe Nord) and the Funk Turm (the Eiffel Tower of Berlin).

As you can probably tell, my family gets a lot of Berlin when we come here, and I’m glad I was able to take advantage of all the sights one last time.
I’m also glad I was able to take advantage of one free morning. I hate having to sit long hours in a plane with active legs, and I didn’t want to have to do a long run tomorrow, so I did it today. The thing is, while I used to do all my runs without bringing food or water, I had started doing so during my last year of marathon training. I find myself able to go faster on these long runs if I have something to eat before and during than if I don’t (go figure). However, I haven’t been running a lot these past few weeks (30 rather than 40+ miles per week) and I’ve been eating more, so I felt like I had enough in me to carry me at least two hours. Turns out I did, and the sights were my fuel to some extent, but I would likely have run better with some water at least. It was a humid, warm morning. The end of the run felt harder, but that’s also because I had negative splits. All told, I ran 11.45 miles (not really long) in 1:43:04. The first half of the run was in 9:08 mpm pace, so one can calculate what the second half was. My TomTomGPS Runner hasn’t been translating to Runkeeper that well lately, and so I can’t give accurate splits.

So all told, it was a good effort, especially considering what I did yesterday. I didn’t mind running without fuel because, like I said, the sights were amazing and I have a bit of vacation weight to lose. Another thing I noticed about running “fasted” (I ate dinner around 10 PM and ran at 6:30 AM, so I wasn’t really fasting) is that I don’t have a roaring appetite throughout the day… I usually make up for it the next day, but the day of the long run, I’m able to limit myself to just eating what I need to recover.