“The most beautiful ten miles in the world”. That’s how the Grand Prix von Bern is also called. A few numbers to start with, just for comparison: the number of participants at the Prague International Marathon – 10 thousand, the number of participants in the London Marathon – 40 thousand, the number of participants in Bern GP – 30 thousand. So much for the idea of knowing how big it is. But I had no idea when I saw the promotional brochure for the first time two years ago …
I was really excited for the GP, but at that time I was pregnant, so any attendance for me was not worth considering (although I believe there would certainly be some women who would manage this sixteen-kilometer race in the fifth month of pregnancy. But me certainly not.). The next year was also out of my reach because half a year after giving a birth, I was in the condition to manage maybe the shorter, five-kilometer run. But I wanted to sign up for the main race. And finally, this year I managed! In today’s post, I´ll walk you through my impressions of this run, as well as the fragments of what has happened before it.
Evening before the run
That’s what I’m going to do for the early evening run to make the body prepare for tomorrow’s important day. And all of a sudden I can not find my favorite (uh, actually the only) running hair headband. And without a headband in my hair, I can not just run (rituals are rituals, you know that)! I fall through a slight hysteria, setting off for my last run without it, and I´m thinking about where it could be since I was sure I definitely put it in place with other running things after washing them. Apart from the thoughts about the headband, I suddenly feel that my knee is “kicking” and the tennis elbow is beginning to hurt (maybe I don´t have to say that I don´t play tennis, right?). And my stomach makes me feel like I’m not going to make it tomorrow.
In the evening, I still can’t find my headband at home, and I have an urgent feeling to eat a bag of peanut puffs after dinner and flush them with a bottle of wine.
Before going to sleep, I check the weather forecast and almost fell off my chair finding out that it will be raining during our run.
A few hours before the run
I am arriving at the site of the EXPO Exhibition Center in Bern three hours in advance. At first, I was planning to arrive later, but when I saw on Facebook how many people were picking up the starting numbers the day before, I was afraid to miss something being late. But surprisingly everything goes smoothly (actually, why am I wondering, I’m in Switzerland, where the term “perfect organization” is almost a mantra :)) and when I get my start number, all of a sudden I have a lot of time.
I walk through the area where there is something like a sports fair held, and in the mood for the thought of leaving a credit card at home and taking with me only twenty francs. Otherwise, I would probably buy super duper running accessories, great running shoes starting with protein sticks ending.
I also have to force myself to suppress my mom blogger’s instincts and stop watching if there are activities for children or if I can get here with a stroller (yes, there are and yes you can :)) and have concentrated on enjoying the pre-run atmosphere just for myself as a participant and runner. And I’m happy that I do not have to solve now if kids want ice cream, sugar candy, a bouncy castle, or they want to go to the toilet.
With the approaching start time, my nervousness increases. I’m watching the end of the 5km run, and when I see how everyone is bloody exhausted, I wonder if I need this, to look like that (or much more) in the finish. I rather go to the grassy field behind the grounds. But I’m even more nervous here because I see other runners circling around as a part of their warm-up. Well, I’m joining too – there must be something about it, or they wouldn´t do it anyway. And it’ll shorten my waiting. Then I participate in a common warm-up where I see people in T-shirts with logos of various Alpine marathons they have attended. And my self-confidence is really sinking deep down. What am I doing here for God’s sake?
Before 4 o’clock I slowly turn into my G10 sector. Together with others who predicted that they could finish the run in one hour twenty minutes. In front of me I can see our “pacemaker” – a runner who has two blue air balloons tied to his hand with a time of 1:20 written on them and will keep pace so that we can finish the run in that time.
During the run
Exactly at 16:13:30 we’re starting. Already after the first kilometer, I feel that the pace I’ve set has been much overvalued and I can not really keep it the whole run (and we’re running downhill!).
The gloomy thoughts pass me for a moment as we head into the center of Bern. I want to stop and capture the beauty and atmosphere with the camera: colorful cantonal flags are floating on every house, people are encouraging from their tables in the restaurant gardens. I do not even think we’re running into a tiny hill, now I’d be able to run up the Jungfrau – so euphoric I´m now.
We turn to Rathausgasse. I’m running down the mild hill at a good pace because next to me suddenly “my” pacemaker appears. At the same time, I realize that my shoelace loosened. Such an amateur mistake, I blame myself. How come I did not check my laces before the race? Well, because this has never crossed my mind. I have run into these shoes a lot a lot and it hasn´t happened yet. Why today? I stop, bind, break into a run again, and fortunately, I see some people form my “sector”.
There comes my first crisis at the fourth kilometer. I wonder how somebody can volunteer to run a half marathon or even a marathon if I do not even enjoy its one-tenth. I´d like to pack my run in and go home. Fortunately, refreshment comes and this idea suddenly disappears. Surprisingly, I still have a pretty good pace and I have a time of 25:03 at the fifth kilometer. Between the fifth and the sixth kilometer, I run really well, on the flat road along the river, just the clouds in front of us are somehow dangerously turning black.
When turning into the Jubiläumstrasse, a not so steep but quite long uphill is waiting for us. For someone moderate, but there are also those who stop running and just walk. I break my psyche and I’m still running. Although my pace is more like brisk walking. But I’m running. Fortunately, another refreshment at the seventh kilometer then we run into the woods. Here a lady tries to cheer us up with a bell. Sounds like a death-bell. Do I really die here? “It’s in the stars” – Palo Habera is just singing in my headphones. Well, let’s see.
Some fellow runners run behind the bushes. I’m thinking when such an urge will come to me and if it goes the upper or the buttom way (readers forgive, but runners know).
Before we run out of the woods, we can see a sign that tells us that we are halfway through. And besides, it stands there (freely translated): “Stay on the track, or stay here (Drinn bliibe, oder hiir bliibe)”. I’m on the track, I won´t not give up when I’m halfway through!
We’re out of the woods. But damn, it really started to rain. Fortunately, nothing serious, such a pleasant refreshing rain. We run down a moderate hill through embassy quarters. I pass Canadian, Austrian, Saudi Arabian … very beautiful villas. Why don´t we live in this beautiful residential area? Well, because after paying the rent we would have eaten bread and water a whole month. And maybe not even that. So that´s why!
At the ninth kilometers, I see a tube of energy gel on the trail. It looks almost full. I’m tempted to lift it up and to suck it because of my losing energy. Fortunately, there is a refreshment in front of us in the form of a giant water vat. I guess I put it in my ear. Not possible. I have an earphone in my ear. Thankfully it works.
We run on the bridge and the wind accompanies the slight rainfall. In front of me, I see my “pacemaker” and my heart jumps that I could handle this run for the planned time of one hour and twenty.
At the eleventh kilometer, I can see a fellow runner lying on the sidewalk having cramps in his calf. It’s not a cheerful look.
I cheer up a little bit at the twelfth kilometer, the probable merit of the energy gel (no, I did not pick it up before, I took a new one at a refreshment station). And it also encourages me to think that I’m in the last quarter of the race.
At the thirteenth kilometer, my toe tips are starting to burn. But it stops bothering me in a moment when we are heading again to the city center and the atmosphere is just amazing. At the moment a guy in a blonde curly wig, a pink ballet leotard, and a tulle skirt gets ahead of me, I start laughing. And so does the audience too. I remember the autumn Hallwilerseelauf where I started next to Santa Claus. Do I attract such types somehow?
We run down to Nydeggbrücke, and I am glad to realize that the end is coming slowly. But still, the worst is ahead of us. Running up the Aargauerstalden hill. At its foot, we have the last refreshment. Even though I try to force myself to run, I’m still slowing down and then walk. At least, I try to look like I’m searching the audience for my little fans. Finally, I’m starting to run again. At 15.5 km, I see the guy being taken away by the medical staff on stretchers. I feel sorry for him. Just before the finishing line.
16km. I can´t believe my eyes. Finally! But I still have a few dozen meters to the finish. I have not understood how anyone can speed up after so many miles. And that’s it! Really! I’m crossing the finish line and I’m very happy. I’m letting someone hang a medal around my neck, I take a banana, an isodrink, and I’m gonna get the SMS that I’ve finished the Grand Prix von Bern in 1:26:17. I do not feel disappointed from worse time, I’m glad I´m alive: D
In a few minutes, I meet the rest of the family and guess what kind of question children welcome me with? “Mummy, can we get an ice cream?” No kids, not now! First, I wanna drink my beer that I deserve! I think no one has such a refreshment after finishing the GP Bern 😀
PS: If you wonder how it is possible that I have a headband in my hair, the explanation is simple: in the morning before the run, I ran to buy a new one 🙂 But I found the original after all – the day after the run in our common laundry room. Maybe I forgot to take her out of a washing machine or dryer and it got in some of the neighbor’s clothes. One of the drawbacks of a common wash. And if you don´t know what I´m talking about, read this post.
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