How It Feels to Run My Tenth Marathon (and the 44th BMW Berlin Marathon Review)

On September 24, 2017 I ran and surpassed my finish expectations for my tenth full marathon by completing the 44th BMW Berlin Marathon in 4:19:58.

Berlin Marathon Finisher

Berlin Marathon Finisher

My marathon “career”, hobby, passion, self torture began in 2006. Here’s a running list (while mind you there have been dozens of half marathons, 10km, mud runs, and fun runs and thousands of miles from training,  also in between):

• Boston Marathon x3: 4:13:15, 4:24:43, 4:30:45 • Cape Cod Marathon 4:15:54 • Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon 4:21:07 • Walt Disney World Marathon 4:19:12 • Chicago Marathon 4:36:30 • Paris Marathon 4:49:59 • Rome Marathon 4:38:05 • Berlin Marathon 4:19:58

While my times stay somewhat, relatively consistent within 30ish Minutes, I’ve definitely become slower over the course of time. I’m ok with that and had started labeling myself as a 4:30 marathon runner. 

I don’t like sprint work, I don’t like the feeling of my heart pulsating out of my chest, and I don’t like not having a fun time, being able to talk to others and take in the atmosphere and experience of my runcation. These are the main reasons I’ve never felt to push myself to obtain a personal record with each of my races.

Running for me, personally, is something I do for relaxing my constantly running mind (if that even makes sense) and a way to stay healthy. No more, no less. For some running is about being the best they can be every time and for others it’s learning how to complete the impossible. Running is a personal sport that can make some feel self love or self hate. The gigantic community of runners can make you feel big and small at the same time. Everyone is allowed their own reasons of why or how they run and no one has the right to judge or criticize someone’s journey. 

Berlin, particularly for me, was a huge goal to knock off my bucket list. It would be my 3rd Abbot World Major and the lottery or qualifying system to get into one of the 6 majors (Boston, Chicago, Berlin, NYC, London, Tokyo) is a huge long shot. So when I applied last November for this race, I assumed I wouldn’t get into it as I’ve been rejected from NYC and London several times in the past. I even signed up for the Rome marathon at the same time for April because I figured I wouldn’t get into Berlin. Well, luck was on my side and I made it! But I then realized I had to run 2 full marathons in 2017.

I’ve been in training since November 2016 meaning I was running 5-6 times a week, including 2x a week doing speed and hill workouts because in the back of my mind I was thinking maybe I could get a personal best on this acclaimed flat and fast course. But after Rome in April and two half marathons this summer, my body was beat. The training cycle for Berlin, specifically, was brutal. I was tired, sore, mentally drained. I wasn’t hitting all my distance targets nor completing most of the sprint work. Personally for me, more than one marathon a year tends to shut my brain and body down. I honestly was not looking forward to running Berlin about 10 weeks into my training. But then I had a mental shift to remember that having fun is more important to me than a time goal and I learned to forgive myself for having a legitimate reason to feel tired. Then the mental game clicked and I was super excited to get to Berlin.

The atmosphere of a world major marathon is one of the best experiences. The city is swarming with people from all over the world to each take on the same task. The Expo always gets you ramped up when you grab your number and buy a souvenir or two. One disappointment was that finisher shirts were not included in the entry fee. If you wanted any piece of memorabilia besides a medal, you had to spend at least 45€ and the cool jackets were closer to 90€ but that’s a rant for another day. That evening, btw my dad and most loyal spectating supporter had flown in for the marathon as well, we made our way over to Checkpoint Charlie and saw some pieces and read about the history of the Berlin Wall.

Berlin Marathon Expo

Berlin Marathon Expo

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie

Dad and the Berlin Wall

Dad and the Berlin Wall

 

Any disappointment from the overpriced merchandise at the Expo was quickly wiped away with the free Saturday morning breakfast run. The laid back 6km run started at the Charlottenburg Palace and ended on a lap around the track of the 1936 Olympic Stadium with a breakfast included. One of the best parts of the weekend plus I got to meet up with a fellow Run Janji ambassador and my favorite British couple that I met at the Virgin Sport British 10km in July. 

Lauren and Jonathan from U.K.

Lauren and Jonathan from U.K.

Run Janji Corps Ambassadors

Run Janji Corps Ambassadors

Jennifer and I running around the Olympic Stadium

Jennifer and I running around the Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium Olympic Stadium
Olympian in the Making

Olympian in the Making


Saturday afternoon we did a 3 hour Bike Tour of Berlin. It was leisurely and educational plus we got to spectate a little of the inline skating marathon that was taking place. After our bike tour we made our way to the sombering Holocaust Memorial and Museum.

Bike Tour

Bike Tour

Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate

Holocaust Memorial

Holocaust Memorial

Holocaust Memorial

Holocaust Memorial

 

Sunday I was scheduled for the 3rd wave slot that had a 10am start, with an elite start time of 9:15. Easy subway transportation allowed me to sleep til 7am and head over around 8am. I chose not to bring a drop off bag but the organization at Tiergeten Park was well defined, although you did have to walk about a mile and a half from the closest metro stop to get towards the start. Plenty of porta potties, lots of musical and video entertainment on several big screens helped the 40 thousand of us stay occupied til the gun. 

The race went off without a hitch, The temps were cool (10C/50F) with a little rain to start. The race was crowded, honestly, in its entirety. The crowd support was awesome with live bands every so often along the way. Because Berlin is built on mostly water, there aren’t many skyscrapers and the buildings are all about the same height making everything look the same with little standing out, so it was nice to have the entertainment as a distraction. The course itself is exactly as they say, fast and flat, and my starting times were, for me, quicker than I was planning. But I felt good, so I held onto the 9:15-9:30 pace up until the half way point when I was looking for my dad. I thought to myself, “if you go fast now that means you can slow down later”. Which, btw, is opposite of what pros would tell you to do. After seeing my dad I maybe had a mile at about 11 min pace but felt good enough to go back to my original pace. The volunteers and aide stations were fantastic and I really felt energized by the crowd and cool temps. So I pushed on at this pace comfortably through the second half. Upon hitting the Brandenburg Gate, I was sprinting and smiling towards the finish knowing I would have one of my best times since 2009!

The Start of the Berlin Marathon

The Start of the Berlin Marathon

Some Motivation

Some Motivation

My new Baby

My new Baby

All Smiles

All Smiles

#10 in the books

#10 in the books

 

I’m so elated and proud to have completed my 10th marathon with my 4th best time after having a crappy training cycle. My enthusiasm is renewed and my goal will be to push forward and complete all the world majors! But first a break from racing for the rest of 2017 😉.

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How to Stay Motivated with Exercise

Social Media Takeover

Recently, I was a guest host and did a social media takeover on both Instagram and Facebook for Legend Compression Wear. (Read more about their Graduated Compression Guide at their blog Here and receive $15 off with my referral Link.) 

Legend Compression

I was asked to give tips and strategies on how to stay disciplined with exercise. So, here are my 4 ways to keep motivated!

Exercise Motivation 1

1️⃣: choose a goal, write it down, set a timeline, follow a program, tell people!

***

Pick an an event, race, or challenge – whether it be a mud run, 5k, 10 push ups or an Instagram fitness challenge with an achievable end date. Commit by journaling, letting your friends or family know, creating an accountability page, then research a program that fits your work life balance and start 👍

Exercise motivation 2

2️⃣: change your train of thought regarding exercise – think of it as an act of daily living as opposed to a chore

***

I’m going to safely assume everyday, most of us, wake up and shower, get dressed, eat, brush our teeth, automatically put on our seatbelt in the car, work, take care of children, etc…or something to this effect. We have to think about exercise exactly as we do our daily tasks, that it’s just a part of life…a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle.

If this is a challenge for you regarding time or motivation, begin with an activity that you find enjoyable and is fun. You like nature? Go for a hike. You like music? Try Zumba. Trying to keep up with your kids? Bike 🚴. It doesn’t matter if it’s morning, lunch or at night, Fit it in as if your life depends on it because essentially…it does!

Exercise Motivation 3

3️⃣: practice daily positive affirmations & actions

***

In order to get motivated to create a goal and get our mindset to believe the goal is worth doing and achievable, we need to work on ourselves to get our minds in the right place.

Everyday we should be practicing positive actions including: healthy eating, meditation, journaling our gratefulness, and/or practicing acts of kindness. When we treat ourselves gently we can then transfer it onto others as equally or far greater.

Perhaps today you’ll sign up for a race that benefits your favorite charity, compete in honor of a friend or loved one, or volunteer some hard labor to those in need. When the deed isn’t about you anymore, these small actions lead to big impacts and, in the world today, I think actions certainly speak louder than words ❤️

Exercise Motivation 4

And finally…

4️⃣: plan to reward yourself when you meet each goal 

***

You’ve heard keep your eyes on the prize? Well, why not make that a reality?! You’ve worked hard to stay dedicated, spending time and energy, you deserve a little something. Plan a spa day, a night out at your favorite restaurant or new workout gear (like Legend Compression Socks 😉). Then you can stay motivated in your new gear to sign up for your next event!

456 Hot Air Balloons

I’m always searching for something interesting to see or do, to broaden my horizons or purely satisfy my curiosity. 

Luckily for me, I’m living about a 30 minute drive away from the annual Mondial Air Balloons held at Aérodrome de Chambley in Hagéville, France. 

It’s an annual week long international Hot Air Balloon Festival held at the end of July. Several countries participate with, weather depending, morning and evening flights.  People can come watch and peruse local vendors with outdoor activities for the kids. And best of all it’s free.

This year was particularly special because they were planning for what’s called “La Grande Ligne”. This was a plan in hopes for the most hot air balloons to take off at once, to set a world record. The days for take off kept shifting due to storms and wind but finally was set for a 6:30am on Friday July 28. I didn’t want to miss it!

I woke up at 4:30am and drove the half hour to claim a front row view. Then I waited. I wasn’t alone with some other brave early risers but the weather was cool and damp, with no indoor waiting area, and nothing to look at. We were staring out to empty runways and I think most of us were hoping we were in the right area. We waited some more as 6:30am came and went with no action. But around 6:45am we started to see cars with trailers, what seemed like thousands, driving out to line up on the runways. This went on for a good 45 minutes. Then the pilots and crew started setting up by laying the ballons on the ground, attaching baskets or single seats to the balloons, checking the ignitions of the fire and then started to blow the balloons up. What seemed to take forever and seemed like thousands of balloons, was actually 456 balloons that anti-climatically lifted off around 8am. With a suttle wind, the balloons were seemingly all in flight and began quickly drifting north all within minutes. 

I grabbed as many photos as I could and ran to catch a great action shot. I watched them raise higher and drift more north as I made it back to the car and started to drive home (which was north). So surprisingly for me, I got a great view of them as I headed back home.

Are we in the right place?

Starting to see some action

And it’s take off


Such a cool experience. I highly suggest catching a festival, maybe next year I’ll make friends with a pilot and be on one!

Running versus Life

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind and that’s not the best plan of action while training for a marathon.

For Christmas, I traveled back to the US to Boston. I was able to get 3 runs in and a strength training workout. In the meantime, I focused more time and energy seeing friends and family that I hadn’t seen in 6 months or longer. There was a wedding, winter park outings, friendsmas dinners, Christmas shopping, and chocolate martinis.

Then this past week, I returned home and I had a friend from NYC fly to France to visit and do some sight seeing. I made 3 out of 4 runs but my strength workouts fell to the wayside. The fun part about my long run this week was my friend Liz, who ran the NYC marathon in November, was able to run with me. Training and having a life and making memories are difficult to accomplish at the same time. However, I’m going to not be too hard on myself. My legs keep moving, my lungs are strong and I’m completing 75% of my workouts while allowing myself to take a few days off to spend time with friends. I think it’s a fair trade off for my mental health as well. I was able to have fun and I’ll be back on track this coming week, that’s what counts. 

Being back home, I was able to show Liz European Christmas markets, Strasbourg,  Luxembourg castles, NYE the French way and a couple days in Paris.

Don’t beat yourself up if you fall off the wagon. Enjoy life and then get back on the horse!

26 days until the Paris Marathon

As you may know I’m in the midst of training for my 8th full marathon which is 26 days away. I will be running the Paris Marathon on April 3, 2016 and aiming for a 4:30 finish. This is my first marathon where I’ve documented my 18 weeks of training on Instagram @thefitwanderluster and on Facebook.

  
This week is the hardest week of training. In total (Saturday to Saturday), I will have run a total of 52 miles (or 83.7 km). Not including hill training, which I will do today and cross training (consisting of body weight, resistance and core training) on Monday and Friday, along with active recovery on Sunday (rest day but typically includes stretching, yoga or foam rolling). This week, as in all of my past marathon trainings, is tough both mentally and physically. I will be running or working out approximately 10 hours and 50 minutes of my week.

Let me just break it down for you:

  • One week consists of 168 hours
  • Let’s estimate I sleep 8 hours a night or 56 hours of the week, 33% of my time
  • Daily chores, errands, activities of daily living (cooking, eating, showering, dressing) 48 hours of the week, 28% of my time
  • I’m working part-time at 16 hours of the week, 10% of my time with commuting 6 hours of the week, 3.6% of my time (total 13.6%)
  • Watching TV or doing other hobbies  and blogging 20 hours in a week, 12 % of my time
  • Hanging out with friends, entertainment, etc 12 hours a week, 7.2% of my time
  • So running/working out consumes 10.9 hours in a week, 6.6% of my time!

The importance of the mileage buildup gradually over time is to prep your body for the impact, increase your endurance and stamina, and prevent injury when it comes to race day. You may have seen “How I Met Your Mother” and Barney Stinson finishes a marathon without training, which sure there are few people that can do that, however when he does finish and takes the subway home he can’t get up from sitting. It’s actually pretty funny.

My long run this week will be 22 miles or 35.4 km. It will be a comfortable pace with some walk breaks for water and goo. But I still dread 4 hours of running. The only thing I like to do for 4 hours straight is binge on Netflix House of Cards Season 4! Marathon training isn’t just about the run itself, it’s the commitment and motivation. While training with others makes the process easier and more fun, the reality is your mind is what will keep you going in the end. Because I have been posting and blogging about my program, the process makes me accountable and gives me a goal to reduce my thoughts of failure.

 The next few weeks will be about my taper and nutrition. The last 3 weeks before the marathon the mileage decreases until race day. This allows for muscular and joint recovery to due to increases in aerobic enzymes and muscle glycogen. The taper also allows for mental recovery.

For my nutrition, I will be focusing on easily digestible foods that are high in carbohydrates and protein and lower in fat and fiber along with hydration. This means I will be cutting back on alcohol and processed sugars.

My typical meal plans will look something like this:

Breakfast:

  • Shakeology
  • Oatmeal
  • Muesli
  • eggs

Snacks (2x per day):

  • celery and peanut butter
  • carrots and hummus
  • oatbran pretzels
  • grapes
  • berries

Lunch:

  • turkey or roast beef lettuce wraps
  • egg salad or tuna fish
  • goat cheese salad
  • chicken quesadillas

Dinner:

  • Broiled Steak with mushrooms, cauliflower and acorn squash
  • Asian seared Pork Chops, broccoli and sweet potato
  • Pasta Primevera
  • Chicken Piccata with spaghetti and broccoli
  • Salmon Cakes with Tuscan Penne Pasta
  • Spicy Chicken and Veggie Pasta

And if I’m craving desert, I’ll treat myself to:

  • Fruit (Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Canteloupe)
  • Yogurt or Sorbet

Wish me luck!

  
 

 

It’s All Becoming Real

I’m pushing forward into my 3rd week from leaving my little, independent life in Boston to Europe. I say Europe vaguely because we have been splitting time in Metz (weekends) and Luxembourg (weekdays). This will come to a halt next week when we lose free reign to the apartment we have been offered because the tenant will return from his vacation on the 22nd. So even though I left with 3 bags and a backpack, currently, I still live out of a bag and a backpack.

Plans to establish a bank account and a foreign phone number have been stalled because there just isn’t enough time in the day. We get back in the afternoon on Saturdays to Metz from Lux and half the day is lost (also from being hungover, I won’t lie) but after re-grouping, doing laundry, cleaning out old food and trash that has been neglected from being away in Lux, then already having organized plans to meet up with several friends, you are pushed for time. Although I’m very happy to have the moments and laughs and drinks with friends, nothing is open on Sundays to do errands. Honestly, you can’t get to a grocery store. It’s mind boggling, plus difficult to food prep between bouncing back and forth. So these necessities, not crucial, but essential will be placed on back burner for next weekend.

This past week has been full of mulled wine, dinner with friends and family, Christmas shopping and running. We also had a family dinner with Julien’s family and got to meet his brand new 4.5 month old niece. Trop mignon.


One problem I encountered with my American made electronics is the need for an adapter. I have one but left it in Metz. So phones, computers, curling irons etc just won’t work without one. Luckily most things are convertible through USB but my curling iron definitely is not. And let me just tell you, the weather is almost always humid, even if it’s cold. Not good for hair that tends to have frizz. I thought the solution would be Luxembourg’s huge shopping mall/Target/Wal-Mart-ish store called Auchan. It’s magical, efficient, with name brands and others I’m not familiar with and I’m finding that I’m becoming obsessed with European fashion (mostly black, white, with a splash of color). Unfortunately, they did not have a US/Euro adapter but with the right tools, my handyman boyfriend made my hair products work like a charm.


  
The grocery store within Auchan is an adventure. Everything is in French and it takes me an hour and half to get 15 ingredients, but I am able to budget healthy meals for two now. I’m learning my way around and starting to be able to differentiate between sour cream and yogurt.


  
I started my first day with Lux Chiro yesterday as a sports/deep tissue masseur but at least minute my client cancelled. The time was well spent learning the appointment calendar system and sending several emails to network to local sport club teams in regards to my services. I’m excited to build a name for myself with athletes in the area.


Running has been allowing me to learn each city. The roads are like Boston, cowpaths, no perpendicular or parallel concepts to help a tourist find their way around. There are buses in both cities but I find the rivers or forests or main streets help me get a visual and perception of my direction in space. And buildings and landmarks and names of roads help too. One fun fact is that in Luxembourg the buses are “basically” free, no one pays that I’ve seen and I have yet to as well. But from a previous blog, I’ve mentioned, one wrong direction and you could end up basically in Germany so…I take advantage of another fun fact about Luxembourg City, that there is free wifi provided everywhere. It’s a pretty remarkable concept. So I try to google map my directions on runs while on wifi and if I lose the wifi, I at least still have GPS to follow my path of direction. Hence this is brings me back to why I need to get my new phone service, say heaven forbid, I also ever got myself into a real emergency.


  
  

This weekend I have to get errands done. I’m starting to feel this is not just vacation mode. I’m really living in Metz and will have to commute starting next week – eek. However, France has come to their senses and stopped controlling borders into and out of Luxembourg, so traffic should be less intense (instead of 4 hours it will probably be 1-2).

And no, I still can’t speak French but I did learn this expression: if someone asks you a question and the answer is obviously yes, you may respond with this catch phrase – Ne demande jamais un aveugle si il veut voir. (Never ask a blind man if he wants to see)

Au Revoir!