May 4-7: The focus of this weekend was my 25km race through Berlin that Brian’s uncle Greg talked me into. He’s done it a few times. It sounded like a fun race and would be a good opportunity for us to see Berlin. It was a three-day weekend due to a Bulgarian holiday on Monday, so we left Sofia on Friday night. Our friend, Daphne, joined us for the weekend.
On Saturday we spent the morning on a free talking tour of the historical center. This provided a good historical background and gave us a general overview of the main sights. Later on, we wandered through the city and stumbled up on a pretty impressive selection of draft beer at a beer festival. We found a good spot and stayed for a while. Greg and Carroll joined us for a drink, too. In the evening we walked to the East Side Gallery, a long stretch of the old wall that is now painted by all different artists.
Sunday morning was my race. I met Greg and two of his friends and we went to the start together. We arrived at the Olympic stadium with plenty of time. The 12,000+ runners all started at 10am. Going into the race, I didn’t have big expectations because my training hadn’t been as consistent as I’d hoped. I had a general goal of running 8-minute mile pace.
The first mile was crowded, but it quickly opened up because the street we were running on was very wide. After a couple of miles my legs started to feel good and found a rhythm around 7:45-7:50 pace. I was relaxed and my breathing was smooth. My first mental checkpoint was around 10km near the Brandenburg gate where Daphne, Brian, and Avery were waiting for me. I found them and waved! The plan was for them to walk a few blocks south to Potsdamer Platz and see me again there. Somehow we missed each other, though.
At 10 miles I had my gu. It was super thick and I didn’t have any water so it was a little challenging. My breathing became irregular and soon I was developing the pain in my side. This went on from 15km to 20km and I had to slow down so it didn’t get so debilitating. At the 20km aid station, I took a 30 second break to catch my breath, drink some water, and rub out my side. It helped for the next 2km but then it came back. At least by that point I was close enough to stick it out to the finish. The finish was fantastic running through the tunnel under the stands and then out onto the track. I finished in 2:04:20, an average of 7:57 pace, so I was happy with it.
I met Brian and Daphne back at our apartment and soon after we headed out for more exploring. We went to Maurerpark which was a big hippy/alternative hangout and flee market. Then we ate giant, delicious burgers at The Bird. We capped the day off with some beers at a beer garden in Tiergarten with Greg and Carroll. We had excellent weather all weekend and it felt wonderful to be outside.
It was a nice introduction to Berlin. It’s definitely a cool city and has more to offer than I expected. Tons of good restaurants and coffee shops and then all of the museums too.