A couple of weekends ago, I had an out of body experience. I went to Berlin with my friend, Christoffer, for an extended weekend and what you might call an extended run: The Berlin Marathon.
We headed down Friday and arrived late at night at our hotel in Berlin Mitte. We chilled the entire Saturday — picked up our start number and running accessories at various locations and, of course, tried to eat as much as possible.
On Sunday morning, the sky was clear from the very beginning. After breakfast and getting ready, we headed for the start zones.
Everywhere you looked, there were people and a lot of them. About 40,000 runners and a million people as spectators in the street. Unfortunately, Christoffer and I had to part ways from the start, as we were to take off from different start zones.
It was a strange feeling to stand among all these people before the start. You could feel so much energy below the surface — waiting to burst and to be released. It only grew more intense as the first start of three went off. (I was in start three of three). And as the second start went, it almost felt like the ground was shaking. People were excited and full of adrenalin. Finally my start went off, and the entire group of people started moving slowly forward. The closer we got to the start, the faster we were able to go. The group was a jumbo jet taking off with a slow and tense acceleration.
I was headed out for the longest run of my life — and about twice the length of my longest one so far.
My first 10-15 kilometers went great — on track to a four hour target time. After that, I had severe problems with my stomach after having eaten some very energy-dense gel. I had never tried it before, and clearly a lesson learned: Never experiment on race day.
The mood on the route was out of this world. Almost all over the place were spectators, cheering your name, cheering “Denmark, Denmark”, bands playing jazz, cheer leaders, random people high-fiving with you — and I could go on. You flew through city on endorphins, high on people. Wow.
At kilometer 20 I was in good shape again, and I ran at a decent pace until kilometer 32 or so, where my muscles started aching as I had never been able to imagine before. I didn’t hit the wall at all, my energy level and form was fine throughout, but my muscles ached and forced me to stretch once per kilometer.
At kilometer 38 or 39 I was able to run without stretching again. The crowd in the inner city carried me. About a kilometer before the finish line was a gate, which I thought was the finish-gate. I felt like I had a little surplus energy, so I started sprinting all the way up to the gate.
Imagine the feeling, when I found out that it wasn’t the finish line, but the 1 km-left-marker.
But there were tonnes of spectators. They cheered and they cheered. If I didn’t know better, I could have thought that I were a formula 1 driver getting out of my car in the pit lane.
The entire last kilometer I was almost bursting into tears. I felt like I was part of bigger thing, a cohesive whole of positive emotions, with people carrying each other through — and not the least, an enormous physical challenge. Finally, I crossed the finish line, and in front of me was an old, grand father-like man, awarding the official medals. I went up to him and he put my medal over my neck, put his hands on my shoulders and said Herzlichen Glückwunsch with such great empathy, that I then burst into tears. And I cried on and off until I picked up my clothes.
It took me 5 hours and 21 minutes.
To all I met on the route, and to all of you who helped and supported both me before and after — thank you so much. Pictures from the weekend are on Facebook.