Written on: February 27, 2018
“Ihr seid helden” – The Erdinger banners at the Berlin marathon resonated deeply with me and reflected my experiences of the event. I was fortunate to participate in a small group tour hosted by Run Fun Travel and Australian running legend and 1990 Berlin Marathon Winner, Steve Moneghetti. To participate not only in the world’s fastest marathon, but to complete it alongside one of my running idols was an opportunity I never imagined possible. The inclusion of Eliud Kipchoge, Wilson Kipsang, and Kenenisa Bekele, who aimed to break the world record at Berlin 2017, added to the excitement as I trained for many long, cold hours through the Australian winter.
My time in Berlin was a whirlwind with an itinerary of events that spanned the full four days of the tour. To partake in these activities as part of a cohesive and collaborative group added to the enjoyment of these events. The pre-race dinner hosted by Fran Seton and Dave Cundy from Run Fun Travel and Steve Moneghetti was a highlight of the tour. I was privileged to sit next to Horst Milde and was captivated by his stories of founding the Berlin marathon and growing it into an international World Series event over the course of 30 years. I was honoured to meet Uta Pippig whose kindness, warmth, and advice would prove valuable to me when running on the Sunday. I was also elated to see Kipchoge, Kipsang, and Bekele up-close on the Friday night as they were presented with their marathon bibs and hear them interviewed in the lead-up to the world record attempt.
The day of the marathon finally arrived and after a quiet contemplative morning, it was time to run. The morning was cool, raining, and humid. Conditions I had never experienced at home or in training. The start area was like a village and I was astounded to see just how many people were taking part in the marathon. I enjoyed starting in the Tier Garten and felt the forest-like walk to the corral provided a sense of calm in the lead up to the start of the marathon.
Within the starting corral, I revelled in the atmosphere created by race organisers and other runners who were singing, dancing, and laughing despite the 42.2km journey ahead. This carnival feel would follow me for the duration of the run with musicians and dancers lining the streets, providing constant entertainment, and offering a welcome distraction from fatigue and pain. As I crossed the start line, I felt that I was part of something big, unique, and special. The start area (and entire length of the course) was deep with supporters cheering runners and offering encouragement, which was a key motivator to keep going particularly in the later stages of the event.
I started well, hit my paces, and was amazed as the first 10km quickly passed by. Although I knew the course would be flat, I was surprised by just how little elevation I noticed. My body was struggling with the high humidity and for the first time ever, I experienced cramps. At the 28km mark, my hamstring twinged and I felt a sharp, intense pain in my leg. After assessing the damage I was not sure if I could keep going, however, decided a finish no matter how long it took me, was better than a DNF. I remember very little of the next 14km as I focussed solely on getting to the finish line.
At the end of it, I missed my goal time by 15 minutes but still managed a 23-minute PB. I told Mona that I had missed my goal time and he gave me some sage advice: “The only time you should ever aim for is a PB”. I had done that and more on September 24 and would later claim I had beaten Kenenisa Bekele and Wilson Kipsang who did not finish. I thought about Eliud, who despite winning did not break the world record, and realised perhaps there were others who felt they had left something on the course that day. However, that is the lure of the marathon. We can only control so many variables, and as I later read in a Runner’s World article, “sometimes the course wins”, that is why we love the marathon. In short, the 2017 Berlin marathon gave me the opportunity to strive beyond my limits and even if for just one day, feel like a hero.
Our heartfelt thanks to Stephanie Selth for taking the time to write this account of her 2017 Berlin Marathon trip