***Ciara Devitt’s Berlin Marathon***

***Ciara Devitt’s Berlin Marathon***

At the time of writing it has been 17 days, 8 hours, 43 minutes and 20 seconds since I crossed the finish line of the Berlin Marathon. Apparently this is the exact amount of time it takes to recover from tight quads, lower back spasm, a smothering head cold and a badly bruised ego.

All stories have a beginning, and my “Road to Berlin” began approximately twelve months ago, when having spent a period doing middle distance on the track I was at a crossroads and unsure which way to go. What better way to solve this dilemma I thought than entering a marathon lottery. I know, I know, but it made perfect sense at the time.

Then in the depths of winter, when I’d almost forgotten my moment of madness, I received an email in German which started with “Sie sind ein Gewinner!” Hmmm I thought, surely they haven’t sent me a PFO with an exclamation mark at the end. Although Germans aren’t known for their sense of humour that would have been particularly cruel. It turned out, having scrolled to the English end of my notification, that I was in! Initial excitement turned quickly to horror as I slowly realised the task I had set myself. Berlin may be pancake flat but I was in for an uphill battle.

Now I’m not sure how anyone else’s road to Berlin is surfaced but mine was bumpy – more boreen than autobahn if you like. Building the miles was challenging and my first test was to be the Ballycotton ’10’ in beautiful East Cork (or Kark as Alan likes to call it). It was my fifth time running Ballycotton, and if I’d known then that it would be my last I would have tried to enjoy it more. Instead I sweated, spluttered and choked my way around one of Ireland’s most scenic race routes. I will miss Ballycotton — I won’t miss the hill though.

Next came Paul Gorey’s 5 mile and the Clonee 10k in quick succession and despite all the miles I had added over the previous months I fell flat in both and began to doubt myself. Then, the day after Clonee, I was diagnosed with anemia. There is a God I thought. I realise this is not a usual response to illness but lets face it, club runners are not well people.

Two weeks of iron (or road resurfacing as I like to call it) later came the real test of my progress. I travelled to the midlands to run the Mullingar 10 mile and despite a conservative start I managed a 4.5 minute pb with relative ease. This gave me a great confidence boost and I returned to marathon training with strengthened resolve.

Another pb in the Rock n’ Roll half marathon further solidified my confidence that the marathon goal I had set myself was within my reach and before I knew it, it was marathon day.

It had been raining the night before the marathon and so I was relieved to see it had lifted somewhat on the morning of the race. In hindsight it was clear that the air was saturated but at the beginning of the race I was distracted by the spectacle and so it didn’t really register with me. Apparently they mentioned the 99% humidity over the PA system but I was busy listening to the voices in my head saying “you can do this”, “you have trained for this”, I think one of them might even have been singing “Eye of the Tiger”.

So off we went and all was fine for the first few miles. I took on water and Lucozade tablets at the first refreshment station and continued on my way. The plan had been to take an energy drink at the second drinks station but as I couldn’t see any I took water instead – so much for German efficiency I thought to myself. I wasn’t slagging off the Germans for long however as very soon after taking the second drink I felt a horribly familiar feeling. It was the same feeling I’d experience in the 2014 Dublin Marathon when major stomach problems hampered me badly. I pushed on and tried to tell myself it would pass but as I went through the 10 mile mark I knew I was in serious trouble and by 14 miles I’d come to a complete stop.

The rest of the marathon was challenging to say the least. I have very little recollection of the day – the renowned supporters, historic route and even the famous blue line which I had followed religiously at the beginning became a blur as the all encompassing nature of my GI discomfort took hold. I wish I could have enjoyed the moment that I passed under the historic Brandenberg Gate but all l could think was “What!! This isn’t the finish…how much bloody further do I have to run!”.

And so my road to Berlin finally came to an end, not in the way I had anticipated but that’s marathons for you.

All was not lost however. One of things I love about running is that it gives you lots of time to think and it was during one of my marathon training sessions that I decided to ask my family, friends and colleagues to support a cause close to my heart — organ donation. The response to my request was truly overwhelming and I sincerely thank everyone who supported me in this way.

I would also like to thank everyone for the good wishes both before and after the marathon. If good wishes could be translated into performance then I could have given Kipchoge himself a run for his money.

Finally as many of my club colleagues brace themselves for the 2017 Dublin Marathon I would like to wish them all the luck in the world. May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind always be at your back and most importantly may the humidity be low!

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