Getting to the start line of a marathon is always risky. It’s usually some sort of injury or illness that stops people getting there. But for some of us, it was so much bad luck it was almost like a sign telling us not to go. Mairead Lonergan’s flight was overbooked, leaving her stranded in Amsterdam. There were rumours of sabotage by fellow passengers Ian Roche and Derek Costello but these were later proven to be false. Luckily Mairead was allowed to board literally seconds before they shut the door. For me, my flight was cancelled, and I needed to stay in Paris for one night. By the way, if anyone needs to stay in the Novotel hotel in CDG airport, do not get the shuttle-bus! Turns out it’s a totally different hotel, with the same name, literally miles from the airport. Google Maps is useful for discovering these mistakes after you have made them. Derek Costello also had some bad luck, suffering 2 hamstring tears just a week earlier. After arriving in Berlin he also discovered that when a menu says Jam-Pizza It really is jam, and not ham. Strawberry jam on an authentic thin crust base with cheese, anchovies and olives is risky business the day before a marathon.
Eventually, after making it to Berlin on Saturday, it was straight to the expo for me to get my number. In and out job, no messing about. I didn’t stay there long as I was in search of coffee and chocolate cake. A bunch of us met for a carb loaded pasta lunch and then went to a cafe owned by Karen Bevan’s mother’s cousin. It’s a kind of 70’s retro style cafe, undiscovered by hipsters. The kind of place where you can have an excellent coffee and cake without the bearded men in skinny jeans. I highly recommend the Russian chocolate and pear cake.
I read somewhere that Berliners don’t eat bratwurst, It’s just the tourists and marathon runners that eat them. But if Berliners don’t support the bratwurst industry, they sure make up for it in support for their home marathon. The crowds along the course were something else. There is nowhere along the course that is not packed with supporters. Things that stand out in my memory of the race was an old lady with a clacker about mile 23 shouting ‘new world record’ causing a standing-wave of cheering by all the passing runners. Another memory I have is a group of locals in an apartment balcony over the course with a massive sound system so loud, their neighbour’s ears must still be ringing.
There were some impressive runs by Eagle AC and other Cork runners on the day. Mark Smith running a PB of 2:32, not far behind Mike Morgan (St Finbarrs) who knocked out a 2:30PB. Vivian Foley ran an incredible time of 2:41 after coming back only recently from injury. Vivian did get beaten very badly by his rival Donal Coakley (Leevale) though, who ran a PB of 2:38. This rivalry goes back to 12 months ago from when Donal got badly beaten by Vivian.
Karen Bevan and Lisa Boland ran a close race, just 12 seconds apart, both finishing in 3:31. Derek Costello, coming into the race with 2 hamstring tears and a stomach full of the jam-pizza, amazingly finishing in 3:57. Mairead Lonergan, who I believe also ate the performance enabling jam-pizza ran a great 3:47.
Another couple of heroes I have the pleasure to train with, Sean O Keeffe and David Craig (Bandon AC) knocked out solid PBs of 2:42 each.
Ian Roche ran a strong time of 3:37, a good way off his PB but will remain fresh for Dublin in a few weeks. A couple of us had not such good races. Ronan Boland who was in fantastic shape, unfortunately had to pull out due to a hamstring injury. My own race didn’t go according to plan with me bailing out at 32K with another sore hamstring. I chatted with Alan O’Brien for a bit and he convinced me to get going again and finished what felt like my toughest marathon. Eluid Kipchoge (not Cork) ran a solid 2:01, breaking the world record. It looks like this record may stand for some time so it was a privilege to take part in this historic race.
After the race we gathered by the Brandenburg Gate near the finish line. Drinking Erdinger and eating bratwurst in the sun like real marathon runners, we swapped stories of the race and swore never-again.
From here a few of us went to Brlo Brewhouse. Made from old shipping containers with an outdoor deck-chair seating area it’s the perfect place to chill out over a beer with some food. There is even a kids play-sand-pit which would have been perfect for Olympic style long-jump attempts, if we could just get our turn. As I sat in the deck-chair in the last of the evening sun, I thought to myself, we did it, we made it. It felt great. The day reminded me of a quote by Hunter S Thompson – [It was a classic affirmation of everything right and true and decent in the national character. It was a gross, physical salute to the fantastic possibilities of life in this country-but only for those with true grit. And we were chock full of that.]