It’s been a long while since I’ve written a real blog. I’ve got notes and part written sections again, but pulling it all together on a weekly basis just seems to allude me. Actually, if you consider that my adventure has daily new twists, I’m surprised I manage to record anything! Haha..
But here we are.. floating in the sky again, heading to the US for the 4th of this year’s Majors – the Chicago Marathon.. A couple of days ago I struggled through marathon number 40. The two weeks prior, I felt like I could do anything, then the Scottish sky came crashing down to remind me that I’m very human.. The race began in the rain and ended in sunshine, but my body did the opposite, kicking off pretty well, but disintegrated across the 42km to Inverness.
I’m going to rewind a little and talk about the previous 2 races. I won’t go into as much detail about the marathons themselves, but I do want to try to explain the strange waves I’m carried on this year. It’s getting closer to the end and I guess I’m beginning to ask the same questions that people have been asking me – “How are you doing this?”
This question has become more interesting in the past few weeks, specifically in light of running 2 relatively fast times in 2 weeks. For me, they were Personal Bests. For some, these times are bad days on the track, nowhere near their current levels of ability. I’m ok with that. Marathon running is a very personal battle against one’s self, so getting faster is more side effect than goal. What I like is that I am getting more comfortable with running fast for a long time.
My basic strategy this year was to run a fast race every third time, so I wouldn’t ruin myself for the races to come. I figured it would be more interesting to get faster, rather than slower. I also want to know my potential. It was all tracking to plan until I threw in those ultras and mountain runs in July and August. I probably didn’t need to, but once again, I want to test myself, not just do what is expected.
I was very sick after Mongolia. I started to get faster though, then struggled again after the Bornholm 100km race. It wasn’t long before I was running drunk and crazy in Médoc, probably the worst kind of marathon training/recovery I can think of. Bloody great fun though!
So… before Médoc, I made a pact with my excellent French friend, Clément, that I would try to run very fast in Ljubljana.. We’re talking 2:50, but what that says to me is a very comfortable sub-3.. I figured that my 3:09 in Argentina was now a very long way off that kind of speed. I decided it was time to test myself again, to start the process of being fast, rather than coasting. I could just run 3:30s every week and everyone would be excited. Going the distance is plenty. Doing it weekly is fantastic. Holding that kind of pace is impressive.. But is it enough?! I want to do everything this year. I haven’t failed my expectations yet. I haven’t given up on myself or my mission to be all I can be. I haven’t stopped believing I can do more..
3:06 in Wachau, Austria.. a 3 minute PB.. I have a string of people to thank for that race. Clément and his brother Cédric’s family, for making me so relaxed in the Bordeaux region. Brooke Tulley in Melbourne put me in touch with her Austrian friend Monika, who in turn contacted a running friend in Vienna – Gerhard. Gerhard and his wife Jennifer were so welcoming and extraordinarily giving with their time. They have a 6 month old baby, Lillian (she’s so gorgeous it’s ridiculous!), so time isn’t something either of them are blessed with. In fact, when Gerhard heard about me he was in Hong Kong on a work trip, but as soon as he got back he made time to run with me and introduced me to one of the most impressive running parks in Europe. It’s Prater Park and has a 5km stretch of pedestrian boulevard straight through the centre, with markers so you can pace yourself out. Man, you could do some blistering training down that road.
Fact is, I’d run a few times that week, preparing myself for Berlin. I figured if I had a chance anywhere, that was the one. I was ready to push myself and decided Wachau would be a good training run if I focussed on even splits for the whole race. Gerhard drove me the 80km to the start line on Sunday morning, which is huge for me as I got a little more sleep and felt a lot more relaxed. The race start was in a small town called Emmersdorf by the side of the Donau River (the Danube). It winds its way through the Wachau Valley, which is a rich wine region in Austria. It’s supremely beautiful and the valley itself is crested by rolling green hills. The towns of Emmersdorf & Melk are dominated by a huge (seriously… bloody HUGE) old convent that overlooks the river. The sun was out and I wasn’t cold, so it was the perfect place for a Sunday run in September.
There were about 700 marathoners. There were certainly a lot more doing the 10km and the half marathon, but around me 700 hundred very fit looking men and women were preparing to power through this race. It was well organised and I had plenty of time to use the toilet, so I had no excuse but to stick to my plan. We kicked off with a shout and ran a few kms up river, before turning back on ourselves for the long run to Krems. The road we were running on actually follows the river perfectly, so it was just a wonderful scenic route to take, with acres of vineyards on one side of the track and the powerful Donau flowing with you on the right. The elevation also mirrors the flow of the river and although it kicks up a few times, the overall feeling is a very gradual decline. Just as the river flows downhill, so does the track, but if you think about a river, its decline is so gradual that it’s almost imperceptible.
Interesting Marathon Fact #1096 – Did you know that an official marathon track can only have an overall decline of 42 metres?! True story. I only found that out in Norway. Can you imagine how difficult that must be to assess in some places? Take it from me – Trés Difficult!
Anyways, the starters raced away and I did my very best to not get caught up in the excitement. I’m a sucker for a rabbit, so when 50 odd competitors race away in front of me, I have to stick a leash on my inner greyhound (his name is Sir Drinksalot!) and ease into my own rhythm. I found myself still passing a number of runners though in the first 7 or 8 kms after the initial wild beginnings. I sat for a while on 4:18 per km, but registered that this was a little fast and dropped a few seconds per km for a more comfortable 4:20-23. At this stage, it was still just a strategic training run…
I remember the Cougar (later posted a magnificent 3:04 PB with injury), telling me that a guy he knew had been advised to try faster long runs… It’s usual practise to run slow on the weekend and sprint in your shorter sessions during the week. It’s played on my mind for a while, because this gent had smashed his PB by easing his weekly mileage up, but running his Sunday session at marathon speed. Fact is, I’ve been having trouble fitting in my weekday runs around all the travel and recovery, so it seemed a logical thing to trial.
So, although the Wachau Marathon wasn’t meant to be anything special, I found myself sitting at this pace very comfortably, only a 5 seconds per km off sub 3 hours. Somewhere around the 15km mark, my opportunist nature got the best of me… I started the calculations. If I held this speed through the halfway mark, then I’d be looking at a 93 minute half… If I could hold onto that…
“Training run dude, let that crap go…”
I ran in a couple of groups for a while. Everyone was running too fast to be chatting, so I didn’t try to make it uncomfortable for myself or them by striking up conversation. I just stayed with a few guys as often as possible to give me something to pace off. A number of runners had powered on past me up until the 10km mark and as the halfway point cruised by, I saw a few familiar singlets ahead of me. It’s rare that I get to run at that kind of pace and not be on the receiving end of the back half shuffle, but I was still holding my speed and feeling in control.
I had a few lads that I had passed earlier sit in behind me. Now, apparently, I was the pace setter! I didn’t change my speed, but they obviously decided to step it up, because at about the 30, they edged by me and I tucked in behind them. They caught another guy ahead and jumped instep with him, but about a km later I realised that everyone had slowed down, so I pushed past and continued my own race.
I had my good kilometres and my bad ones, but I was holding my own and as I came through the 35km point, I found myself among a big mix of walkers and runners from the half marathon and the 10km races that were using various start points on the same track. I could pick the marathoners though and became fixated on passing as many as possible, using consistency to wear them down.
And, against all logic, I calculated once more and saw a PB looming. As I said, I’m an opportunist, because I have no routine in these travels and every day provides hurdles to having a good race. So who knew what would happen in the coming week before Berlin.. May as well make tomato sauce while the tomatoes are ripe.. Ha! (Hey, when you write a blog, you can write whatever crap you want too).
So I downed another GU, looked at my watch for some quick & hazy arithmetic and did the only thing an idiot like me is gonna do… I legged it!
Running into town, I got a great reception from the local crowds. At this stage of the race, I was edging top 50, so seeing a marathoner was still exciting for the supporters. I passed more struggling runners. I spoke to the camera, almost in disbelief of the upcoming outcome.. And I crossed the line in a totally unexpected 3:06.16.
I hit the deck not long after and my legs began to spasm. Now and then I get pains in my legs that feel like daggers being eased deep into the muscle tissue. It hurts a whole lot.. I was worried about it in the early days, but now I know it will only last for around 15-20 minutes before I’d be able to walk again. I chatted to a group of Austrians from Graz while I sat on the grass. They loved my story, but I was more impressed with the guy who’d nailed 2:52 and still called it a bad race. Everyone’s expectations are different I guess.
I messaged Cougar and asked him what his Melbourne Marathon time was last year.. He’s my traditional training partner and friendly rival, so when he messaged me back telling me “that I was a bastard and had beaten him by 11 seconds”, I knew he was happy for me too. I texted back reminding him it had only taken me 38 marathons to better his time!
I stayed with Gerhard and Jennifer another night. They were wonderful people to celebrate with. We had lamb… I love lamb, especially on Sundays. Gerhard was incredulous that I looked quite normal after my mammoth effort, but I assured him I felt a whole lot worse than I looked.
By Monday night I was in Berlin. I love Berlin.. It’s got a phenomenal atmosphere and just happened to be having a late burst of Summer when I arrived. I spent a few glorious days relaxing at the Circus Hostel, a very cool place to stay in old East Berlin, near Alexanderplatz. Lo, from Prague’s Czech Inn, had recommended it and she was spot on. Great atmosphere, nice people. One of the staff located a running track for me nearby, so I headed up Tuesday and had a very gruelling session. A lot of locals were pumping out laps too, making the most of the unseasonably warm weather. I was shocked to find myself running as fast as ever, even after Sunday’s efforts… something was up..
I caught my bro that morning too. Chris came to town from London, with his wife Janette. I really didn’t think we’d see each other on this trip, but Janette had some family in Germany, so they managed their plans to get to Berlin for a few days to catch up. I was so happy to see them. I truly love my brother. He’s easily one of my greatest friends and it made my month to see him! His gorgeous wife Janette was seeing Europe for the first time and her eyes were like saucers as she stared at everything in wonder! I was so proud to see them, but it was only for 45 minutes before they hopped a train to see Janette’s family. They were due back Thursday, along with my sister Alexis and her fella James. The train slowly pulled away and I waved them off.
I even went on a pub crawl on Tuesday night and kinda remember getting home. Pub crawls are an absolute must in Berlin, as there are too many bars through the city to figure it out yourself. On Wednesday, I caught up with the beautiful Dagmar, a German girl who’d worked at Google in Sydney for some time. She’d gone home when her father took ill, but it was lovely to see her in her home environment. Thanks for lunch Daggie!!
Thursday was a huge day, as my family and the Tribal boys poured into town. I had breakfast with Alexis and James at their hotel. It was so nice to meet James, who I’d heard many great things about. And Alexis looked relaxed, which just doesn’t happen often enough, as she’s a bit of a workaholic.
The Tribal boys were on scattered flights, but we were all staying in two apartments not far from the Circus Hostel. In fact, here’s the link, as the positioning of these apartments are second to none. Thanks Kevlar for sorting that out, you’ve outdone yourself once again! We had apartments in 2 buildings, but they were at the same height, so we could yell at each other from our windows. Felt like school camp!
I’ve got to introduce you to the players:
Kevin Leiberthal – (aka Kevlar) who I’ve mentioned is one of the team that came to Comrades with me. He’s a helluva runner, conservative, but consistent – always gets the job done. He doubles as a physio and running technician! He likes long walks on the beach, flowers on a sunny day and biltong!
Shane McGrath – (aka Ooh Aah McGrath) is a bad man with a big heart! He’s had a number of sub 3 hour marathons, but seems to have settled into fatherhood and generally mature behaviour in his 30s. Loves a boys trip though and I was worried about what this might lead to. Likes pubs, cocktails and dew on a Spring morning – before football or horse racing!
Derham Moss – (Mossy) the real danger to everyone’s health.. One of those guys that can balance work and play with equal amounts of over zealousness. Has had way too much field experience at creating the ultimate boys trip, so I knew things could go haywire with Mossy onboard. Likes gambling, lattes and ladies underwear (not for himself).
David Nanfra – (The Nanf or Toughest Man at Tribal) Blockbuster owner and all round good guy. Dave’s one of those guys that just adds a bit of happiness to everyone’s life. He also has an evil side that only comes out when there is the potential to party all night. He likes VHS, nudity and hijacking limos!
Shane Campbell – (Yabby, Yab, The Yabster) was in Tokyo already with me this year. Is one of the fastest runners I know, but also likes to get loose with the boys. Looking for a 2:55 or better which would be a cracking PB. Likes football, the ladies and pictures by Anne Geddes.
Ali Holmes – (aka Allan) the sole female in the group who was quickly renamed Allan so she could join this boy’s trip.. She’s also a Comrades finisher, but opted out of this marathon, content to just drink and party for a couple of days instead! Allan likes collecting Passports, outdoing other blokes at anything sporty and Tequila..
So, you begin to understand my concerns about staying healthy for a few days before running Berlin… Actually one of the cool things I found out, was that McGrath, Mossy and Nanfra’s lovely wives (Nicole, Nicky & Pauline) all organised a lunch while the boys were away on their cowboy tour of Europe. The lads got in ahead and called the somewhat pricey establishment to make sure a rather large sum was put behind the bar to pay for the affair… to which the girls responded with a photo of huge smiles and expensive champagne! Loved it. That’s a healthy way to support each other’s need to blow off steam. So awesome.. I was taking notes ladies & gents!
It was Yabby’s birthday on the Thursday. We went to Berlin’s oldest restaurant, Zur Letzten Instanz, that was apparently frequented by none other than Napoleon Bonaparte! What an honour to spend time in the same restaurant as a little madman with a whole crew of madmen! We ate a lot of meat and sauerkraut style food, which was tasty as hell and super filling. The wonderful thing about eating in Berlin is that you have to be incredibly unlucky to eat at an expensive restaurant. It’s a city for the people and happens to have a huge number of artists, students and misfits living there, so food and living prices are probably the lowest in Western Europe. Time to eat and drink way too much!!
After dinner, we had all the best intentions of kicking on for the night and headed to a club where famed house DJ Steve Lawler was to play. Problem was that the doors didn’t open until close to midnight, so keeping everyone out for an extra couple of hours was unlikely. The Tribal crew bailed, choosing to conserve their energy for the big race on Sunday.
My sister Alexis could have bailed, but she listened to my brother and my arguments that we should have just a couple of drinks at a nearby bar then finish up. So James, Alexis, Chris, Janette and myself found a trashy bar pumping out drinks by the dozen and had a range of shots and cocktails, including Jaeger Bombs, Tequila and Mojitos. By the time we left there and headed back for a second crack at this club, Week End, it was after 12 and we were pretty drunk… The club was busy, but not packed, the views across Berlin at night were wonderful and the tunes were cranking! It wasn’t long before I decided I was the world’s coolest disco dancer (think Bill Oddie from the Goodies pulling moves from Saturday night Fever – Electric!) and my brother was strutting about, flapping his wings and crowing like an eagle – Ca-Caaaaaawww!! Janette was ordering more Tequilas, James was hugging strangers and Alexis was tired but still dancing. Great work all round!!
I got home at about 5:30am. Barely remember, but was noshing food, so I must have had some forethought to sort myself for the coming days. I woke to find everyone had left for the day, but I pulled myself together and met the guys at a café near the Berlin Wall at about 11am..
The questions started to fly immediately.. You did what?! How late?? How many drinks? You really are nuts… The boys were incredulous as to how I could go and have such a big night a couple of days out from a marathon. Truth was, I looked fine, but there was no doubt I was still a little drunk.. I’m going to try to explain this now.. I want to put a couple of things on the table here and hope that people will still take me seriously as a person and a runner..
Maybe I shouldn’t be drinking before a race. Maybe I shouldn’t eat rich local food, or go dancing, or walk for kms as a tourist, or sleep in cheap hostel dorms, or fly every few days.. If that’s the case then maybe I should have just stayed home.. This trip has been and continues to be about breaking down all the barriers we set in front of ourselves. There is no doubt that these barriers are there for a reason, to guide us, but sometimes you just have to do all the fun stuff too.. My brother and sister were with me in Berlin! Chris was only going to be there until Saturday, so it was really the only opportunity we would have to party and celebrate life together on the far side of the world. It was a fantastic opportunity, too good to miss. My brother is a very funny guy and even funnier when he’s drunk. We laugh so much that it usually hurts my sides the next day. Other than a hangover, it’s all pretty harmless. One day, I’m sure we’ll be too old for this nonsense, but I’m proud to say that day hasn’t come.
This brings me back to the reality of a massive hangover 2 days before a big race.. Not ideal, don’t recommend it.. Especially when you go site-seeing and just want to throw up over the side of the open topped double-decker site seeing bus.. Probably not too cool to heave over the side in front of Berlin’s magnificent parliament building.. Chris was barely hanging on too, but somehow Janette looked like nothing had happened! Little trooper!
We saw some cool stuff around town and drove through the centre of Berlin’s magical Tiergarten. It’s always amusing to see a whole lot of nude blokes laying about in the grass on any day that get’s over 15˚.. They’re a strange lot, the Germans, but you gotta respect em!
We went to Nike Town too and got some gear. I’ve never been too keen to stand around in a sports store, but when it’s marathon time in a city, these places are a hive of activity. The Expo was enormous too!! We got around it in a couple of hours, but it was a frenzy of activity out at Berlin’s old central airport. You know an Expo is big when it fills 3 commercial airline hangars!
Allan arrived that night. We were all pretty stuffed by then, but I hadn’t seen her/him since December, so we went next door to a very kitsch café/bar named White Trash. This place has a helluva reputation and has some similarities to St Kilda’s Espy. The do a lot of food and some of their own beers like Dirty F$%king Weisen.. They have a tattoo parlour downstairs, stages for bands and some very interesting rockabilly staff. Allan and I chatted for a long time and it was great to relax with a friend and catch up. White Trash quickly became my favourite haunt in Berlin!
Saturday was a bit slow. We got up early and went to a pub to watch the Aussie Rules Grand Final. Collingwood slogged it out against St Kilda and it resulted in the first draw since 1977.. Any other code in the world would have added 10 minutes, but the archaic laws of AFL forced a replay the following week.. The news took a minute to sink in to the huge Aussie crowd packed into the pub.. A resounding “BOOOOOOOOOO” went up.. I laughed. It was fun to be around so many Aussies celebrating one of our biggest annual occasions on the other side of the world. I didn’t really care about the result. It was 8am and I’d already had a beer, day before a marathon… Hilarious! I even met a Melbourne guy named Gerald who was there with his sister and daughter to run the marathon. Great guy, but I got a bit of a shock when he said – “Are you Run-Crazy?!”, getting down on one knee in the street, laughing as he did so. Funny stuff. The boys gave me some stick about that later.
Back at the apartment, the team pulled out a few items they’d brought across. It included a commemorative jacket, some new Nikes from the lovely Schweffy, a big blow up Kangaroo named “K-Bone” and an Aussie flag signed by all my friends at Tribal back home. Then they all said a few words of encouragement too. I was taken aback again.. I never really know how to deal with my friends telling me that they’ve been inspired by my adventure, but it was a wonderful gesture and for the 1000th time this year, I was humbled by their open support and friendship.
We went to Checkpoint Charlie and saw a couple more obvious sites. It was time to relax and get race ready. The boys were all pretty serious and I must admit, I got a little caught up in the pre race anxiety. One very clever thing we did was hit a thrift store up the road from the apartments. Great idea and I managed to purchase probably the most exciting piece of clothing I’m ever likely to own – a purple ski suit with crazy orange panels, circa 1983. It was two sizes too small, which added to the butt accentuation.. You cringe now, but my little runner’s butt has never looked so sexy!! Ha! At €12 it was definitely worth it even if I would only have it for 12 hours.
Race day arrived. I was just happy to go to the start line with my good mates – Mossy, Kevlar, McGrath, Yab and Nanfra. It was very cool see them all amped for the race. Berlin is one of the biggest races in the world and is the site of my hero’s 2 World Records in 2 years. Haile Gebrselassie laid down an astonishing 2:03.59 in 2008 to beat his 2007 time by 27 seconds.. In 2008, Haile held the top 3 fastest times of all time, but today he still holds the top 2 – both from Berlin. You can imagine how this race has become hallowed turf. If you can run fast, then this has become one of the places to achieve a new Personal Best! It’s funny, because although I am not fazed about the start of a race anymore, I felt a little tingle when jumping into our start group. We’d all managed to wangle the same corral, so it was very exciting to have the countdown with the boys. It had been an extremely stormy night, so everything was wet around us. I ditched my sexy purple jumpsuit and looked a little emaciated compared to the bubble body I was rocking with the suit on. Things got pretty blurry in the final minutes before the race, because there was a lot of nervous excitement all around us. When the gun went off, people all around tried to bolt from the gates. It was a little too cramped to get moving straight away, but you could feel we were all going to scatter, so we said our goodbyes and the race began..
I had a little problem with my Garmin to begin with. It wouldn’t pick up a signal, so I wasn’t going to be able to gauge my speed too well. I played with it a little and it seemed to catch on, but I was already losing sight of the fellas, so I thought I should crack on a bit. I caught McGrath and Mossy further along and sat in with them. But before I could get comfortable, I realised that they were settling into a pace that would not quite reach 3 hours, so if I really wanted it to happen, then I needed to haul ass. “To run with my friends or run fast, but alone?” It’s the eternal question.
“Good luck fellas”, I called out as I got a move on. “Go well mate” was the response.
Because it was so wet, puddles had formed all around. People were in a hurry as we raced away from Brandenburg Gate, down through the Tiergarten, so they were all vying for the dry bit on the road. This meant that a lot of runners were stepping sideways into the path of other competitors, which felt like it would soon end in catastrophe.. I’m guessing Haile never had to deal with such shenanigans when he set his records, but I also understand that a race this big is full of people with very high expectations, so craziness is bound to ensue..
The rain continued to come down. It wasn’t heavy, but it was a little frustrating. The great thing about running in the rain is that your muscles stay relatively cool. The bad thing is that your shoes slowly get saturated and although I wouldn’t class them as heavy, it definitely changes the dynamic of your footfall as your foot slides within the shoe. This creates the obvious blisters, but also makes your feet swell with the water. Not super comfy.
I picked up the 3 hour pacer in the first 6km. It’s funny to see the balloon bobbing ahead of you, but you can’t turn up the pace to catch him. You just have to select a steady speed that reels him in, then pass him all casual like.. If you blast past, you know you won’t stay ahead for long.. Turns out I only had about 20km in front of him before he caught me again.. I hate being passed by the pacer, it’s always very disheartening.
I ran well for the race though. I was consistent and was lucky enough to have Alexis, James and Allan to look out for throughout the race. James had K-Bone hoisted on his head, so I could see him miles away. The girls flew the Australian flags and I saw them at most of the checkpoints they’d suggested on the maps. I can’t tell you how much it means to see friends out on the track. It’s really rewarding to see a familiar smile and a cheer. If your friends or family are ever running and you have the opportunity to give them just one cheer, then please make the effort as it’s a huge lift for their spirit.
By 30kms I was flagging.. I still held a pretty good pace, but having passed the halfway mark at 1:28, I knew I was motoring and probably couldn’t hold it. But I didn’t need to walk just yet, so I kept trying to hold my kms under 4:30. Didn’t work too well, as each split bounced between 4:25 and 4:55. But the overall result had me as close as ever to that magical 3 hour marker.
My excellent German friend Dietmar Mücke, came up by me at about 34kms. I’ve seen Dietmar at 2 other races this year, including Rome and Bad Füssing. His trick is that he runs in a crazy outfit for every race AND he runs barefoot.. And yes, he was gliding past me at 34km. “Tristan!” he shouted. He told me he’d seen my logo on some guys earlier and that he’d kept looking for me.. “Come with me my friend, we go under 3 hours!” “I would if I could Dietmar!” I laughed in response. This guy’s excitement is so infectious, but I was out of gas and now just hanging on to the end. He kept on motoring away and I could only shake my head in disbelief as his bare feet slapped against the ground.. He looked nimble though, so you really can’t fault him.
I cruised closer to the Tiergarten and found myself passing more and more runners as they fell apart just minutes before the end. I saw K-Bone one more time and gave the support crew a grimace and a little wave on the way past.. They screamed their support! I couldn’t pull a sub 3, but a new PB was on the board and it would be my most impressive effort to date. I pushed and pulled my body along, every piece of me screaming now. There are a ridiculous number of turns in the track to the end of the Berlin marathon, but you’re passing monumental buildings too and snaking your way to the mouth of the Tiergarten..
About a km to the end and my body went numb to the pain. I didn’t hurt anymore and I could feel the end looming. One last turn had me facing the Brandenburg gate. Just past the gate, the finish line beckoned. People lined the streets in thick rain jackets and screamed and cheered us on – “Schnell, Schnell!!!” (actually, no one said that, but it would have been cool..) I dug as deep as I could, looking for anything my body had left to dish up.. There was a something in there.. and so I ran faster!
What a finish.. What a rush?! I wouldn’t call it my favourite race in the world, but it has to be one of my best performances.. I finished.. staggered a little.. righted myself.. then decided I was fine and wandered off to find my friends. First person I found was Dietmar, “Tristan! How are you? I wanted to run with you my friend!” Dietmar seems like he’s on happy pills, but actually he’s just such an effervescent character who wants the world to run and be happy.. “I’m pretty tired Dietmar, but I’m happy with my result. How about you?” “2:59”, he chortles, “I had so much fun!” I looked down at his feet, then I looked at him, then down at his feet again and slowly shook my head.. He hugged me, “It’s the natural way Tristan, I keep telling you!” I loved this guy. I hugged him back. I asked him a few more questions and he told me he’d been doing this for 11 years and that his record for 24 hours barefoot was 160km. His record for 12 hours was an astonishing 116km! Unbelievable… There really is something in this barefoot thing.
I went and waited at the meeting point. Everyone showed up slowly, smiles and hugs all round. They’d all had excellent races:
Kevlar – 3:27.44
McGrath – 3:08.43
Mossy – 3:12.11 PB
Nanfra – 3:33.20
Yabby – 2:54.37 PB
T-Bone – 3:03.31 PB
Three Personal Bests!! What an extraordinary day on the track. Our fantastic support team was there and we got tons of photos to celebrate an epic day in the rain!
The next couple of days were spent exploring as much of Berlin’s nightlife as we could fit in. The boys went out till all hours on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday night!! I managed a couple of late ones on Sunday and Tuesday, but I was falling apart by that last night. In one club, Nanfra eased up next to us and said quietly, “I don’t often go to places where I feel I might be killed, but we’re in one now…” We found some other cool bars and ended up at the Matrix nightclub, both nights I went out. I was gutted, because I always end up at that club when I go to Berlin! But it was the beginning of the week and it had cheesy tunes so at least we could put our hands up in the air and dance like idiots. It totally worked for the occasion! Joe the taxi driver managed to drive us there and apparently the next night another taxi driver offered to dump a sleeping Yabby into the river, so he wouldn’t hold the other fellas up from a big night out!! Crazy Germans!
Kev and I also spent some time in the Jewish Museum. It was a memorial of sorts, but much of the Museum focuses on the history of Jewish culture through Europe, up until the persecution of the Nazis in the 30s and 40s. Fact is, there was so much information about a history of relentless and unnecessary persecution and racism. But it was presented in a very factual way and you leave wondering how the Jewish people have coped so well and managed to forgive the atrocities inflicted on them. They have their own issues in Israel now and I’m sure they also have a number of their own regrets. I’ve now seen many of various persecuted groups around the world, (South Africa, Rwanda, South America) and I have to wonder why humanity constantly needs a scapegoat to further their political misdeeds. It was a sobering visit and very well presented. I recommend it to anyone.
The last bit of stupidity I added was when I left my passport in a photocopy machine while trying to sort out my entry into the Marathon Des Sables in the new year… I noticed much later at night and when I joined the boys at White Trash, I mentioned it by making a joke of my stupidity.. They were incredulous as to why I was so calm about it?! Afterall, I was to fly out the next day! Well… I guess I just expect the worst these days, so I was just annoyed at myself. The Germans are good people though and I was confident it would be there in the morning. As luck had it, they had put it in the till for my pickup when I arrived the next day. It was kind of poetic, as the bloody thing was full and only had to get me through one more flight before being replaced.. Another nervous moment in my astonishingly lucky year.
I want to thank my family & friends again for coming to be with me. I was moved in so many ways and I will never be able to really make them understand how much I needed to see them. You guys keep me going.. You keep me sane.. You keep it real for me.. Thank-you.
By the time I got on the plane on the Wednesday I was a complete mess. I caught up with the lovely Jackie in London and could barely keep myself awake at dinner. I’d really taken the challenge to a whole new level and it had left me drained, busted up and with a couple of very sore big toes that would soon become infected.. I was just lucky that the magic of Vijay was on hand at The Happiness Centre to work through my shoulders and my legs to reduce the tension that had been building up.
Making it to Scotland to catch up with the Mighty Deano was a highlight. I met more excellent runners and only wish I had more than a few days to take in the spectacular nature of XXXX where the race is held. But it was a beautiful race to run, even in the rain. I had a bit of a shocker and dragged myself through, only to find myself with very sore infected toes after and doubt in my mind that I could even keep going.. The Scottish highland spirit was all around me, even present in the beautiful countryside I passed through on the train heading South, but I was torn apart and I just wanted sleep..
I’m going to stop there. This is already way to long and it’s been weeks already since I started it. Since then, I’ve had adventures in Chicago, Istanbul, Ljubljana, Athens and New York!! I’ll try to punch out another blog in the next week to keep you entertained, my wonderful friends.
Thanks for continuing to be a part of my adventure… Remember why I’m out here though – trying to do something good for me, but also great for charity. If you enjoy the story then please donate $10 to either of these amazing causes:
You know these donations are worth the small effort it will take to click a link and make a small effort.
How exciting is the upcoming final marathon?? Please find more details on this link and register to be a part of it – there’s 10km, 21km & 42km distances available. And you’ll run straight into history with me!!
I’ll leave you with a little tune I that was playing through my head the whole time I was in Berlin:
Man… what a year?! 5 to go.. I’m going to get there..