Monday, October 02, 2006

Personal Race Report: Berlin Marathon (September 24, 2006)

Summary result

Completed without permanent injury in 3:36:30 (personal best).

Overall assessment

A good event for me. Performance under the prevailing conditions was in line with my running fitness. Average heart rate of 172 (86% of maximum HR, 81% of HR reserve) and splits adjusted for conditions show near constant effort pacing - in keeping with race plan. Failed to raise intensity in final 10K due to incipient cramping in right calf (known weakest link for conditioning).

Course Overview

Berlin is flat and fast - the current world record was set on this course. There's more shade along the way than I would have guessed. There are a lot of very enthusiastic spectators all along the route. Aid station support is excellent. The one-loop course goes past many significant landmarks, and running through the Brandenburg gate makes for a spectacular home stretch.


As the winner came in only 61 seconds off the world-record pace, it was clearly a great set of conditions. Sunny; warming throughout with humidity declining -> near constant dew point.

My start was 09:10am.
Time Temperature Dew Point Humidity
09:20am 59F 50F 72%
10:20am 64F 50F 59%
11:20am 66F 48F 52%
12:20pm 70F 48F 46%
13:20pm 73F 50F 44%

Winds: 9 to 14mph from ESE/SE


Berlin has a few waves of starters; my wave was the second of the general masses. I joined my section moderately early and looked to slot myself in the top quarter to top third of the wave. I've never been in such a large athletic event (14,000 or so runners - it is one of the five world marathon majors). The enthusiasm was genuine and unforced - there's no grandstanding when you're another wavetop of a human sea.

A long way along the event, past 34K, I was still seeing a few runners who had been close to me at the start, so my slotting was reasonable. The downside was being held up by those ahead who come up to pace more slowly, and those who should have slotted themselves further back. Although my first split was fine, I expended a certain amount of energy working around people, slowing down, speeding up, and moving laterally. I think the second split shows a bit of confusion around the first aid station (should avoid the first table of water cups - there's some chaos at that point of the stations), but also some bunching up still occurring at choke points especially around bends. For a continent with such appreciation of cycling, the runners weren't exceptionally good about holding their lines.

The long middle portion of the run itself was smooth and fun. I occasionally waved at bands or percussionists along the route, and did exchange handslaps with a few groups of children who were extending their hands.

I learned one notable thing from the bystanders. You see, I had lined up near a few folks identified as Danes by flags or lettering on their shirts; there were often one or two of them in my vicinity throughout most of the run. Now, I have always considered Denmark as a country. Sunday, I learned that Denmark is not only a country, it is also a team! The number of spectators calling out "Go Denmark!" or variants was extraordinary.

As lore has it, the second half of a marathon begins at 32K. Somewhere not too much before that I'd had my first motor-control moment, dropping one of my fuel belt flasks as I tried to put it back in place after drinking. I hope it caused no difficulty - at least they're small. Earlier in the race I'd kicked a full-sized (empty) waterbottle to the side; I can only hope that someone else similarly cleaned up my mess. There's no going back when you're in a 14,000 person stampede!

Not all that much past 32K my right calf began signalling an incipient cramp. This nixed the plan of strongly ramping up intensity. Instead, the priority became flexing the toes upward. I attribute the minor blood under my left foot toenails to the gait change from managing my right calf. When I went to pull out another salt tablet from my runner's wallet, I failed to feel them amongst other junk and assumed that I'd dropped them when last I took a tab. Cognitive slip - I found later that they really were still in there.

I ran the last 8K avoiding the aid stations. I had enough Gatorade left in my 8 flask fuelbelt to be self-supported; this was useful because keeping pace steadier helped with my calf. On top of having extra Gatorade still available at 34K, I had only consumed half the amount of energy gel planned; I hadn't paid enough attention to nutrition during the race. I did pretty well hydrating at the aid stations though.

Somewhere in the last 5K I considered a downside of such a big event. The home stretch is littered with runners who have cramped or otherwise blown-up. Sure, they're a small percentage, but it is a bit grim to run past so many people who are in the midst of trying experiences. Just Keep Running.

The run through the Brandenburg gate near the finish line was a rush - actually finishing the marathon a couple of minutes later didn't measure up, but of course was its own reward.

Learning Points

o strength and flexibility conditioning need some more emphasis;
o should up calorie intake with a steadier consumption of gel;
o can attempt slightly higher overall intensity if address calf (et al) conditioning;
o should tweak equipment for carrying salt tabs;
o slot aggressively if seeking to hit a time goal.

In Closing

My thanks to the organisers, volunteers, spectators, service personnel (police, ambulance, and medical), sponsors, and other supporters. It's a great event - a true showcase. And they have free beer after the finish!

Appendix: Splits

5km: 0:25:03
10km: 0:51:27 / 0:26:24
15km: 1:16:51 / 0:25:25
20km: 1:41:46 / 0:24:55
25km: 2:06:56 / 0:25:10
30km: 2:32:35 / 0:25:39
35km: 2:58:11 / 0:25:37
40km: 3:24:38 / 0:26:28

first half: 1:47:24
second half: 1:49:06
total: 3:36:30


Anonymous Wendy said...

Great race -- personal best!!! (Excellent blog title, too.) Naturally, your race report is as thorough as I'd expect! (I was working on a post called: Run Brent Run. See Brent Run. It's more my speed ...)

10/02/2006 10:29:00 am  
Blogger Bolder said...


i think you set the record for sorta lurking about blogland!!

outstanding race results. all your hard work has paid off.

great report too.


10/02/2006 10:51:00 am  
Blogger Brent Buckner said...

Thanks for the comment love folks!

But I won't get addicted and go whoring for comments.



10/02/2006 05:40:00 pm  
Blogger Spokane Al said...

Great job on a monumental race. I envy you for having the opportunity to run in one of the world's great marathons.

10/03/2006 12:44:00 pm  

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