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.

13.1 Miles: Stepping Back in my Shoes

At the end of March, I did something I hadn’t done in a very long time. I put on my running shoes and went for a run; and on June 11, I ran my first half marathon: The Isle of Skye Half Marathon.

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Pre-run selfie with Emilie

It was a registration made on a whim. I learned about the Isle of Skye Half Marathon from Emilie and decided I had to go back to Scotland. At that point, I had never run more than 10k in one go.

I used to run – never long distances and never that seriously, but I used to run religiously at one point. I have a complicated history with running. In Philippines, where the sun is merciless, it meant getting up at dawn to commute to the starting point. Cebu was definitely not like Berlin where you can find a park for running anywhere within walking distance of where you are.

And then there was the time from when I entered university to when I dropped out, a phase of my life I rarely talk about. Nobody likes talking about mental disorders.

All my life, I was constantly aware of my weight. I had a mother obsessed with skinniness and everyone around me was always telling me how fat I was. I never was that big, but in a family so exposed to airbrushed models, I seemed so. When I was sixteen, I decided I was tired of being called fat and succumbed to the craze on skinniness.

I started running and not long after, obsessively counting my calories. I lost weight, fast. I reached what I could be but I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t stop counting the calories and wanting to see how much skinnier I could still be. Better legs. Thinner arms. I had anorexia, and in a culture where psychologists are  generally unheard of, I was never given professional help. When I started running, I was a healthy 48kg. But that was too fat for the ladies in my family. At my worst, I was 37.5kg at 152cm. I didn’t menstruate for a whole 6 months and wouldn’t have until I went to see a gynecologist who started me on the pill so I would eventually get back to regular cycles. I was very depressed and I kept running. One day, the anorexia turned to binge eating and I struggled with it for a few months until I moved to Berlin.

I stopped running and for a good two years went about life without it. Then I met somebody who loved it, and I was so jealous. I wanted to get back on track, but it was constantly a mental fight with the memories of that awful stage with every tread.

Somehow, I did it. Silenced the voices, just like that.

I trained with Nike+ but my job made it impossible to completely follow the program. I was mostly just preparing according to my own pace. I was also constantly running with my trail running shoes which had very good grip but was awful on asphalt. It was also a little too tight for me so I (in a panic) bought new shoes just a week before my run. I had to break into them and I ended up doing that by running a 20k because I was feeling so good I didn’t want to stop.

On the day of the run, I had to wake up early to get to Portree two hours before because that was the only public bus in. Despite my carbo load, I was famished by the time I got there. So 90 minutes before the start, I succumbed and ate the fattest bacon I’ve ever had. (I normally hate bacon).

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On hindsight I could say that the hilly Isle of Skye Half Marathon was not the smartest pick for a first, but as I finished it in a good time (for me) 2:10:20, I won’t. It’s a beautiful route that wounds through open fields. And hats up to being marched to the starting point by a bagpipe band.  How Scottish can it get from here?

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A lot of people are still asking ‘Who the fuck put that hill on the starting point?’

It was such a humid day that I had a little too much to drink at the first water station, skipped the second and had the much-needed Powerade boost at mile 6. By the halfway point I was feeling amazing, still pacing off this senior man who maintained his tempo throughout the whole run. That’s when I started wondering how long a half marathon is in miles… (True story). By the 9th mile, I was really pushing myself and had to take a walking break. I spent almost 10 minutes walking in total. I was looking at finishing it at slightly under 3 hours as I hadn’t run for almost two weeks before that but it turns out I underestimated my Volkspark Prenzlauer Berg training.

I would have done better and actually pushed myself had I studied the route before and had the mind to turn my Nike+ on. Then again, the goal was to try.

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So there, you can hike and run your first half marathon the day after with an okay time. It must have been the much needed bacon I had for breakfast. I ended up at The Isles Inn after the run and had a beer and haggis for this accomplishment. I only ran 21k right?

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Life’s a sair fecht for a hauf loaf.