Berlin Marathon 2016: The Report

And so only 7 months on from the race, with all but the faintest of details remembered, we’re able to publish the McCarkiss Endurance Project Berlin Marathon 2016 Race Report. We make no apology for it’s delay – in truth nobody could be arsed to write it, and given Simkiss’ result, he didn’t have a great deal to say. What’s left is a jumbled mixture of vague memories of the day, mixed in with some attempted humour which will hopefully passify the McCarkiss subscribers.

If you haven’t already, if may be worth your while reading the pre race amble, before sinking your teeth into this

The boys awoke on race morning having tossed and turned throughout the night. Adcock having the best night’s sleep, followed by Jordan who’s pre race nerves and paranoia from the day before (despite him being the best prepared of our athletes) had settled – his only sleep disturbances were the violent phone vibrations on his bedside cabinet as Simkiss messaged the McCarkiss ‘whatsapp’ group to inform HQ back in the UK that he was wide awake and unable to sleep.

Simkiss Berlin Brekky

Breakfast in the Humbolthaus

Coffee and breakfast plan executed perfectly, kit bags loaded and the trio set off for the race village, a bright but cool morning greeted them outside the Humboldthaus and as nerves began to set in, the cold was even more evident.

Baggage drop found, and with little more than an hour or two remaining the lateness concerns were setting in for some. The threesome found compromise on timings as Simkiss buckled and the communal McCarkiss kit bag was dropped, as was last nights dinner after a short queue for the plentiful portaloos. Nice.

Adcock (or was it Jordan?) did a sterling job of locating some adidas endorsed Thermal Polyethylene Sports Ponchos to ensure maximum ridiculousness for these supposed (sub)elite athletes… Walking towards their start pen access gate they crossed paths with George Birt of Hermie and then Ludo of Corrie – conveniently bringing the nice little group together just in time for everyone to go off in their own directions to warm up after a few minutes trotting together.

Jogging, strides, stretching, drills, nobody really knows what the f#ck you’re supposed to do for before a marathon, but a combination of all the above, in varying amounts, combined with new leg flailing warmup techniques copied from other ‘quick looking’ athletes were all completed in an attempt to make sure the past 6 months of meticulously planned training came to fruition.

Meanwhile, Jordan and Birt had long since finished warming up and had been hassling security to let them into the starting pen, with 30mins until the start the pen still wasn’t open for entry – adding further fuel to the rumours that Berlin isn’t as well organised as London… “This wouldn’t have happened on Bedford’s watch”. Adcock and Ludo joined later, and finally Simkiss – frustrated at feeling obliged to be in the start pen over 5mins before the race start.

Some elaborate video montage was played on the big screen above the start line, showing clips from prior Berlin Marathons, the Brandenburg Gate, some other stuff, and footage from the other World Marathon Majors. As the actual elites joined the start, it was about to happen… and a chill passed down the spine in anticipation.

*BANG*

Race underway, to the sound of thousands of watch bleeps – Simkiss weaving his way through the clusters of runners to settle in precisely 1 second per kilometer behind Jordan – this lasted approximately 600m.

The target pace was ingrained in Simkiss’ mind – 5:43/mi (3:33/km) was needed to break 2:30, but 5:40/mi was the target, and being a European event, km markers would mean splits of 3:31/km. The same for Ludo, and Adcock would be somewhere between the 3:31/km of Simkiss/Ludo, and the 3:30/km of Jordan… or so was the plan.

Weaving around and settling into a rhythm, km numero uno passed in 3:38 – sending Ludo, Adcock and Simkiss (all in close proximity) into a “I know I cannot afford to panic this early into a marathon” type panic.

A subtle increase in pace saw km’s of 3:30, 3:27 and 3:28 – only seconds ahead of target pace, bringing them back in line with target pace by 4km… would hitting 2:25 marathon pace, even for such a short period cause problems further down the line? Probably… we already know Simkiss struggled with cramps later in the race (don’t we? if not… that’s buggered the report somewhat…!).

The BMW pace car, obviously instructed to follow the lead German female(s) was something of a nuisance in the early km’s… clearly it’s primary objective was its only objective, as it swerved from one side of the course to the other, regularly blaring its loud horn in the ears of Simkiss, Ludo, Adcock et al… with scant regard for any of the other athletes running at a similar pace to the prize rearing of their countries female athletic stock, causing breaks in stride on several (yes several!) occasions.

Jordan was edging further away, and Ludo and Adock had gapped Simkiss – who 7 months on, can’t remember how or why he wasn’t able to keep up.

5km passed in 17:34 for Simkiss – virtually bang on target, Adcock only a second ahead, and Ludo (running with Adcock according to Simkiss’ memory) 5 seconds up the road with a split of 17:29, Jordan was motoring along clocking 17:24, a solid 2:26 marathon pace.

The next 5k passed just as you would expect in a marathon – the pace had settled and the splits a little more consistent – Ludo was up at the front of the group with Adcock close behind, Simkiss had fallen to the back of the group and was trying to work his way back up alongside the familiar faces, all were within seconds of their first 5k split. Jordan some length ahead and now little more than a McCarkiss coloured dot to his following compatriots (though he’d dropped a few seconds over that 5k), as was the Green vest of Mr Siggers of Kenilworth. Simkiss closed the gap over the next 3miles to Ludo and Adcock who remained consistent – Jordan picking up the pace to clock a 17:17 5k, while the sub 2:30 bus was clocking a whisker under 17:40. Fairly uneventful, aside from the relentless annoyance of the BMW cars and camera crew on bikes continuing to make life a misery for anyone who wasn’t a leading German Female… Simkiss almost came a cropper as the 1-series thought it best to take the racing line round a sharp left hander whilst applying the brakes halfway round, this is almost certainly the cause of issues later in the race. Possibly.

Simkiss had experienced his first ‘wobble’ of the race with a strange feeling in his left hamstring as they crossed the river just before 10mi, but as the halfway point slowly drew nearer the sub 2:30 bus was motoring along comfortably and even had the talented UK female athlete Charlie Purdue aboard. With everything moving along swimmingly, Adcock surged to the front in anger, demanding an outlined plan of pacing duties in a Brownlee-esque fashion, one weaving foreigner engaged in conversation whilst the majority ignore this British nutter and continue at a steady pace.

It is assumed Jordan was moving along swimmingly, he was a good minute (rather than a bad one) ahead of Adcock’s Barmy Army and had clocked his fastest 5k of the race in 17:11. With Adcock’s rage subsiding, he drifted backward (even behind tail gunner Simkiss) as Ludo headed up the group.

Halfway:
1:13:10 – Jordan
1:14:12 – Ludo
1:14:16 – Simkiss
1:14:18 – Adcock

Through 25k and Jordan clocked 17:22 for the 5k, making him too quick for the video footage Simkiss paid for – Siggers just about made it into shot. Ludo was starting to move away from the group, Simkiss was hiding from all forms of motorised vehicles and a gap was forming to Adcock who was heading up a small cluster about 11 seconds back and looking like he was running out of steam.

 

Simkiss caught and passed an injury plagued Siggers at 14mi, who’s (potentially contagious) niggle was beginning to cause him grief in the race. Simkiss, presumably infected with Siggers’ niggle, had a wobble spending about half a minute trotting along in a state of pre-cramp tension… electrical misfiring-a-plenty in his right hamstring as it was about to cramp, but didn’t. He broke stride for approximately 0.37seconds to give the affected muscle a thorough stretching, getting underway asap mindful of his time goal and fearful Siggers would re-pass him. Nearing the 18mi marker, cramp struck again (actual cramp this time…) and so he courteously moved to the side of the course for fear of blocking the racing line, whilst not really being sure what to do for the best to resolve the issue. 7 seconds of stretching felt like minutes lost as he got underway again – at least the problem seemed to have subsided for now. Matty Adcock, perhaps in sympathy, perhaps owing to being at the summit of biggest climb on the Berlin Marathon course dropped to a walk at the precise same moment, albeit 400m further down the field.

Through 30km, 17:13 for Jordan in what was his second fastest 5k split of the race, spurred on having missed his last 5k target split by 5 seconds (he’d been operating on a lowly 3:31/km for that uphill section of the course). Ludo was labouring, but having been scorned twice before by the 2:30 barrier he sure as hell wasn’t going to give in yet, losing only 4 seconds versus target pace over the 5k and splitting in 17:39 – still nicely under 2:30 pace and keeping him in a decent sized group. Simkiss appeared relaxed as he negotiated the drinks station, benefitting from the kinetic energy stored in his bouncing moobs – the sub 2:30 dream was still very much alive, though having left the Adcock Barmy Army he was finding himself in a one man ‘Balmy Army’. George Birt, also targeting sub 2:30, was making good progress, catching Siggers of Kenilworth as they crossed the timing mat. Adcock’s >30sec sightseeing at the summit of Mt Berlin saw him fall out of video shot with a 19:24 split.

 

35km came and went for Jordan in 17:39, his slowest 5k yet; was the McCarkiss fast boy of the year beginning to flounder? Ludovic valliantly fought fatigue and continued metronomically whilst the other McCarkiss members dropped time, completing another successive 5k in 17:39. Passing 35k in 2:03:56 (5k in 17:55) Simkiss had found a friend to run grind along with, and whilst the average pace for 35k was enough for a forecasted 2:29:26 finish, the current pace would soon see that time in the bank spent and in his overdraft. For madcock, hope of a PB was gone… but at least he’d given it a good shot. If only he’d bought those Saucony Fastwitch’s at the Expo.

For a sub 2:30, you need to be passing 40k in 2:22:00
– Chris Jordan

Jordan Ludo Rich Adcock
40 km 02:20:03 02:21:44 02:23:07 02:26:24

Since Jordan’s target was sub 2:28 and not 2:30, it therefore stood to reason that he needed to pass through 40k 2mins quicker at 2:20:00, and with that in mind, despite struggling through his slowest 5k of the race in 18:28, Jordan was ready to push on over the final 2.2km with renewed vigour to achieve his target. Ludo too was beginning to feel the gravitational pull of the finish line, despite a constant desire to pull out from 20km all the way to 38km he could sense the reality of becoming a 2:29 marathoner was within reach… and an easy 3:46/km or faster would snatch it.

Simkiss was bonking – his pace had dropped and he was struggling to stay under 6:00/mi, the ever diluting hopes of sub 2:30 ultimately being washed away by another bout of hamstring cramp at the 39k marker – 13 seconds spent stretching bought relief for a good 30 metres, until the helpless McCarkissian stopped to stretch once more – now punching his leg in a manner akin to how man fixes machinery with a lump hammer…. “that should do it for now”. That 6:22 mile put Birt in close contention with Simkiss, although he was struggling himself – rumour suggests Birt had been caught out pacing himself by watch, and that GPS inaccuracies had sold him short of his 2:30 target.

 

Jordan - First Man Home

Jordan – First Man Home

Jordan had reached the monumental colonnade synonymous with the Berlin Marathon finishing straight… the Brandenburg Gate, whilst at the same time Adcock crossed the 40km timing mat, and a struggling Birt overtook an even more struggling Simkiss; “having been passed by multiple runners now, being passed by a familiar face [familiar in the sense of meeting for the first time not 24hrs earlier] was somehow harder to take” said Simkiss.

Unsure whether the foreshortened home straight works for or against the fatigued athletes Jordan was first man home in 2:27:52, Ludo finished strongest of all the McCarkiss athletes in 2:29:32 to finally secure his membership to the sub’ [2:30] club. Newfound ‘friend of the Project’ Birt in 2:31:13, Simkiss in 2:31:21, and Adcock, casually sauntering over the line in 2:34:38.

Jordan was understandably elated, Simkiss understandably dejected, and despite his ‘nice guy’ persona, was struggling to muster any positivity towards the overly enthusiastic and congratulatory volunteers beyond the finish line.

“I was of course delighted for Jordan’s success, but nothing could overcome the overwhelming sense of disappointment, dejection, misery and emptiness that I felt at that time. I walked off ahead with my arse firmly in my hands, moping at what felt like an utterly disastrous result”

Post Race

The threesome of Adcock, Jordan and Simkiss collected their bag and following the short debrief in the finishing zone, wandered homeward towards the Humboldthaus. Christ it seemed like a long way, and it wasn’t long before the boys were in search of sustenance, after all, it was Beer O’Clock. A riverside table was procured and Beers were ordered whilst Ludo and Valerie made their way to locate the trio based off nothing more than the vaguest of instructions and location descriptors, for the three did not know themselves quite where they were. Half a beer down and Jordan was nearly asleep… Simkiss barely able to formulate a sentence through his slurred speech and Adcock was doin’ his thang of pestering other tables to find out what they were eating/drinking, and whether it was any good. The Steak Tartar came highly recommended and thus was ordered for all, joined now by Valerie and Ludo. Birt and partner Petrina were now attempting the same mission to find the group based on loose instructions, they too succeeded and as hours passed by in what felt like minutes, it was time to move on, and perhaps find more food, it was dinnertime after all.

Berlin's TV Tower

Berlin’s Fernsehturm / TV Tower

Kilometers were walked based on someones direction (memories are a little hazy by this point, partially alcohol related, partially 7 month time delay related), and an eternity later it was getting dark, the group had walked 3 sides of a square to find an eatery probably 100m from the last. Mountains of food was ordered, the only memorable thing being Jordan’s order of what could only be assumed as the local delicacy titled ‘Hand Cheese’ as part of a sharing platter.

Farewells were bid as each party headed back to its Hotel, the boys opting for a change of clothes before heading back out to investigate the Berliner Fernsehturm. Cocktails are a post marathon tradition in the McCarkiss camp, and cocktails whilst overlooking the entirety of Berlin seemed quite apt, as Matt offered to get a round – ordering in the Long Islands before wandering off to strike up a conversation with a stranger and leaving Jordan to foot the bill.

As the blog descends further and further into vague recollections of what happened, which mean less and less to anyone who wasn’t there, it seems an appropriate time to finish the Berlin Marathon report. As the night drew to a close and the McCarkiss Trio headed back towards their room, mystified as to why everywhere would be either closed or closing as midnight on a Sunday drew near. Time for one last stop, to order a platter of nachos for three just as the chef was packing up ready to head home. Sat outside under the night-sky under warm blankets eating piles of nachos and chilli… that’s what the Berlin Marathon is all about after all right?

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