A Night (Half Marathon) in Rostock

Sometimes we end up doing quite stupid things on hindsight – ‘Well everything worked out fine’ – and last Saturday was exactly that.

I couldn’t get a day off for what was to be my second half marathon so I was (literally) up on my legs from 6:00 – 15:00. Just the night before, I was silently bothered to read the mail from the race organiser when I really should have been sleeping. That’s when I learned that the Rostock Half Marathon was not the breeze I was assuming it to be. The starting line was not that easy to reach on public transport, apparently. I had my bus from Berlin to Rostock booked at 16:00 and I would get there by 18:50  to make the run at 19:55. The optimist me said this was doable, everyone else said I should really have a Plan B.

A little negative influence later and my lack of real interest in the run, I thought I really wouldn’t make it. However, Saturday noon I decided to try my luck with BlaBlaCar. Within 2 hours, I got myself a ride who agreed to pick me up at Brandenburg Gate, and by the time I finished work at 15:00, it was a mad dash to find my driver. Stupidity aside, I learned what a Panzer was that afternoon as I met my driver in front of the Soviet Memorial.

I had never been to Rostock and did not do any research. I had no idea where to be dropped off and the man did not speak any English so I ended up bleeding out my German sentences. Just as things finally lightened up and I thought I could make it before 18:00, our car got stuck in Autobahn traffic, halfway along Berlin and Rostock, and there was nothing for me to do but nap.

After those agonising 20 minutes, the man just raced on the Autobahn. We must have driven over 200kph for the rest of the journey. So yes, I made it to Rostock just minutes before 18:00, and was asked to get off by the light and walk the final 200m to the port. I always thought my friend’s ramblings about his flying BlaBlaCar driver to Stuttgart was a joke but my first ride proved there was a fine line between that and reality.

Surely, you can’t be that stupid.

-BlaBla driver who wanted to get me to my destination at 18:00 when I didn’t even know where my destination was

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I managed to meet up with my friends Gaurav and Emilie to take the last ferry to the starting line and save me all the trouble of finding the place on public transport, only to learn that the great Omar was still nowhere near us. He had left Berlin 2 hrs before I did, but ended up stopping a little too many times along the way that it ended up becoming a 4 hour drive for him.

I had not eaten anything apart from my sandwich at 11am, and starving, I ended up eating most of Gaurav’s protein bar which he had procured for the run. I hate protein bars. They look like earth and if I know better, I’d say they taste like earth, but I must say if I didn’t have that protein bar, I’d have given up halfway through.

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On the 18:15 ferry to the starting point

I’ve learned a while ago that when it comes to certain people (especially Omar), worrying is pointless. The guy has this totally chill aura and always makes it. He showed up for his first half marathon five minutes before the start.

The weather was glum. It was windy and drizzled a bit, and it was very grey. Thankfully, the drizzling stopped by the time our run started and it stayed dry the whole evening. I would have said ‘all is well‘ except for the route.

My first half marathon, the Isle of Skye Half Marathon, had been a hilly challenge and I spent a good ten minutes walking. The Rostock Half Marathon was a kinder version of Skye. Instead of the hill at the starting point, it was a downhill run through the Warnow Tunnel leading to an agonising first climb. Only, after a loop around, you go through the downhill-uphill tunnel experience again.

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Despite the unwarranted ascents, badly-placed turns and poor crossings , the route kept me entertained – lots of greenery and even a bit of trail running. I had no music on for the whole run as my phone was running low and I had to save battery. To add insult to injury, my companions left me by the 3km mark. I managed to catch up to Omar by 8km and then refreshed by isotonic, sped on to leave him, banana in hand.

The sunset was beautiful that day and the wind nice and cool. It was cute how people had drawn with coloured chalks on the asphalt, listing names of people they were cheering for. There was even a quote that made me smile.

‘Lächle, du machst das freiwillig.’

Smile, you are doing that out of choice. 

By 18km, I was ready to stop any minute. I was not tracking my time and was always running behind the 4:00hr marathon pacer despite my best efforts. I was on the edge. I felt like I was really pushing myself to speed up but in reality, I was just barely keeping up with my pace. Luckily, I met 2 locals who suggested we run the last 3km together. They were also ready to stop but didn’t. They’d done the course before so they knew exactly what was up at the end.

The last 3km were agonizing, and the final steps to the finish line was awful. The ascent made me feel like crying. To make matters worse, they put two arches before the actual finish line. I was ready to stop by the first arch after the gruelling uphill climb but was cheered on by my running companions. ‘Almost there,’ he said for the third time.

We pushed through to the end without stopping and I made the finish line after 2:01:47.

What’s the best thing about running in Germany?

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Beer at the finish line.
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