Following my lottery rejection for Berlin Marathon 2020, I was informed another easier route to an entry through tour operators, and I chose interAir GmbH, requiring me to simply book a hotel through this travel agency. When the marathon was canceled due to the pandemic, I chose the option to defer rather than receive a full refund, not foreseeing even in late 2021 the world would be battling the inconveniences of COVID-19. Not even two weeks left, I mentally laid this down, unable to figure out how I could make the trip work after waiting so long due to so much uncertainty surrounding the event and the lack of communication from the organizers and I had just taken on an evening project with my employer. By the time I thought about booking flights, the prices had skyrocketed; yet, miraculously I found a deal on Expedia I could not pass up by bundling flights and a hotel, and I finally pulled the trigger. Preparing the logistics, especially locating a testing center open on Sunday after my race and having to test negative in order to return to the United States the following morning, stressed me so much, not to mention United Airlines canceled my first flight past 10:00 PM the night before departure, I believed wholeheartedly running the marathon would be the easiest thing I would do on this brief trip, September 23-27, 2021.
Leading up to the race, I predictably walked exponentially more than I should have, even climbing up and down the Berliner Dom that caused my legs to violently shake the day before, and I woke up the morning of the marathon with sore legs. Albeit the weather on race day up until a couple of weeks prior was forecast ideal for a 26.2-mile run, just that one day suddenly turned on us with unexpected heat of nearly 80 degrees and humidity. Because the event website asked runners not to wear headphones, I for the third consecutive race and first for the marathon distance ran without music and again enjoyed the purity of the run itself. I took a slow pace but still moved faster than most in my wave, for 4:15 or slower or first-time marathoners. A mile in, I had to squeeze through a couple, common in a race of this immensity, and politely said, “Excuse me.” What sounded like a British accent came back with, “Go around,” which I ignored until I heard what followed: “Dickhead.” I never expected to be cussed at by a stranger in a marathon out of all places and instinctively turned around and replied, “Shut the f–k up, b-tch,” to which the troublemaker remained silent and likely frightened. This immature incident bothered me for the next mile, but I quickly shook it off and told myself, “I am in Berlin. Enjoy it!” I even faced difficulty on mile 3 maintaining my pace, thanks to the virtual barricade that had formed of countless slower runners with no space for me to pass. I atypically had to stop by a porta potty, or so I thought, past the 20-kilometer split timing mats; I could not pee and wasted 30 seconds. Here, whether from the short stop or the adverse conditions, perhaps both, my flow was abruptly snapped and I could not relocate my comfortable strides. 16 miles in, I began struggling. I already knew a personal record would be a push but still thought I had a 4:30 in me, which proved to be too big of a B goal for the day. I swallowed my pride and significantly lowered my goal to finishing under five hours, and when I noticed my Garmin and the kilometer signs did not coincide, I pushed the final mile and a half harder, knowing I would be nowhere near the finish when my watch reached 26.2 miles. I crossed the finish line in 4:57:42, by far my slowest marathon to date, at 26.8 miles on my Garmin; at my slow pace at the end, this distance discrepancy meant a difference of 6-7 minutes. Nevertheless, I was filled with gratitude toward God that He even allowed me to do this that seemed to be impossible until not even a couple of weeks previously. I would have to be a selfish brat to be upset over something as minute as my finish time when many participants could not finish and many more could not toe the line for a variety of reasons; I witnessed one lady lying on the ground being attended to about 1.5 miles to go, which made me feel emotional for her.
After chugging some complimentary beer, returning my timing chip, and getting my embarrassing finish time engraved on the back of my finisher’s medal, service I paid for during registration, I proceeded to the testing center quite a distance away and received my negative result twenty minutes later, which squashed my biggest concern of being stuck in Germany. I thank my Father for orchestrating and watching over me throughout this entire journey. Two Majors down, four to go!