Today I accomplished what is certainly the acme of physical prowess in my life to date. I ran the Berlin Marathon, and completed 42.2 kilometres in just over four hours.
I have run a few half marathons, most recently in May. After each one, I was exhausted, and could not contemplate turning around and running back to the start line. This morning, I effectively did just that.
After spending the summer training for this event, I believed I could reasonably expect to run the race in 4:45, and if I had an exceptionally good day, I would achieve four and a half hours. Needless to say, I am extremely proud of my time. I managed to run the entire course without breaking stride, except at drink stations and when there was a glut of people in front of me moving at a slightly slower pace than I was maintaining.
There are two large differences between Toronto half marathons and the Berlin marathon. The sheer number of people running in this event means that one is constantly jostling against others and constant awareness of your surroundings is required to avoid colliding with fellow runners. In Toronto it is possible to pretty much run on autopilot after the first couple of kilometres. In today's race, there were people lining the streets for the entire 42 km, with music (drummers, live bands, and loudspeakers) keeping everyone's spirits up for the whole way as well, except for perhaps a total of 2 kilometres.
There were minor differences, as well. Runners and spectators from Denmark were everywhere - there was never a point where there was not a group of Danes in front of me. In addition to water and Powerade, there was also fruit (bananas and apples) available at most stations. At one station about 25 km in, there were gel packets given to runners. I don't know what is in them (I am in no way a professional runner), but based on the effect it had on me I would guess some combination of analgesic, heroin, and amphetamines. (I suppose that the right mix of proteins, carbohydrates, and sugars might achieve similar results, though until today I was rather skeptical of the efficacy of the numerous running products hyped at the booths when I pick up my chip and bib.)
Right now, I am sore and tired, very proud of my accomplishment and enjoying a glass of red wine. I'm off now to enjoy dinner with my family and look forward to sampling numerous German beers in the days to come.