Culture

I Came In Second To Last In A Major Marathon

One runner officially became a marathoner and learned a lot about herself in Berlin.

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*Courtesy of RunHaven 

I ran my first marathon in 6 hours, 31 minutes, 40 seconds, and it’s something that I will never forget. Everybody says that the moment you cross the finish line is unique—that it’s a feeling you won’t ever forget. But in my case, I can just remember all the people cheering on their way back home, the huge group of people standing at the big door of Berlin, 300 meters of empty seats and one guy screaming: “Is she the last one? Can I disconnect already?” while he disconnected the wires that measure the time.

Don’t get me wrong—the fact that my memories of the last kilometers were not as I had hoped didn’t make the experience any less amazing. The whole experience was unique. Even if I try to explain how wonderful and painful it was at the same time, you won’t understand until you actually run every single kilometer or mile.

I must say that the best part of the whole thing was the people. Early in the morning, I started chatting with a fellow runner who was also making his way to start of the race. We started chatting like we were best friends and continued to do so until it was time for us to drop off our bags and part ways. Before separating, we both wished each other good luck. Because I was so scared and alone, it meant the world to me. Runners wish you the best, cheer you up (even if they are in the same pain as you are), touch your back to encourage you to continue and keep cheering (even if they finished three hours before you).

Once the race started, I ran/walked the first 30-32 kilometers. From the beginning, I had pain in my feet. When I arrived at Kilometer 32, it hit me hard. It hit straight to my core, my mind and it took everything from me. Plus, at the same time, I felt a crunch in both of my knees. That’s when I made the decision to walk. I wanted to be able to do a second marathon, and I was afraid that if I pushed too much, I might damage myself badly. I can’t afford that with a little one at home who loves to run around.

Looking back, I think that I didn’t take the distance as seriously as I should. I missed a lot of the last weeks of training due to some cold that my daughter had. The closer it got to the race, the more scared I was. I even refused to talk about it with my husband, and I truly didn’t find the time or the strength to do cross-training or to do the beloved planks. (If you are mum of a toddler, you may understand. And if you are still capable of doing it, I truly envy your energy).

In the last 2 kilometers, I just wanted to cry—it was so painful. I looked for my husband in the crowd, but I was not able to locate him. Somehow, I think that it was for the best because otherwise I wouldn’t finish on time. By the time we met after the race, the feeling of crying vanished, and I just had this huge joy in my chest. Later that day, he told me that all runners in the course were fighters, that he was able to see the effort that each one was making in every single step, that besides the 2 percent who actually run for a medal, we were all in the same struggle. What we all wanted was just to finish in the best way possible.

But there are some things that I will do for sure for the next marathon. YES, there will be a next one. Cross-train. Make sure that my upper body is strong. Take my sleeping hours as seriously as my runs. (Before the race, I slept only three hours). Prepare my running stuff before I leave my house. (I had forgotten the plastic zip for my water bag, so I ran without it. This was a HUGE MISTAKE. By the last hour, I was out of energy, and it was all my fault.) Last but not least, I’ll be careful with my diet.

At the end, I managed to fulfill my expectations—I was not the last one. I was the one before the last one. Although I didn’t manage to lose those extra 10 kilograms, I did exchange some for muscle, which is good enough for being the first time.

I will keep in my heart every single stranger who cheered my name during the entire 26 miles—every single person with whom I walked and talked during those long, long, long last three miles. I won’t ever forget the huge hug that I shared with the last girl that crossed the line behind me. At the end, we made it! I made it! I ran 26.2 miles—slowly and in pain—but I officially am a marathoner. (You can check on the official page of the Berlin Marathon).

More from RunHaven:

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So You’re Thinking Of Running Your First Ultra—Here’s What You Need To Know
5 Things I Wish I Knew Before My First Marathon
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