Berlin, Germany

Checkpoint Charlie

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.

Found a beerfest!

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.

Just passing the Brandenburg Gate

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.

Greg battling through the race with an injury

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.

Part of the wall

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.

On our last morning, we explored a new neighborhood where we went to some recommended places, Passenger for espresso, and Five Elephants for nice drinks and cakes.

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.

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