Followed by last year’s great experience of running the Berlin Wall 100mile Race, I decided to participate in this race again for the reverse route. It would enable me to experience the race, the city and The Wall from a different angle and I wanted to get my back-to-back medal! Also, this was going to be my 10th Ultra Marathon and my whole my family – John, my two daughters Nadia, Claudia, and another 3 wonderful friends – Nick, Lesley and Callum decided to come along for the ride as my support crew! 6 crew members for ONE RUNNER!
This year we weren’t as fortunate with the weather as last year. We didn’t get the glorious sunny days, in fact, the rain started right from the start of the race, and seemed to follow us for hours as we worked our way out of the city limits into the forests and along inland waterways. Within the first 50km I already needed to change my running gear, both John and Nick paced me for 1.5 hours each and experienced the heaviest of the rain. We could barely see the view, just stuck together, dug in, heads down and very focused on the directional markers as some of them were already getting washed away by the rain. It was a shame that as a result of the bad weather we missed many of the scenic views, the beauty of Potsdam turned into a very bleak and rather chilly welcome, and not many people came out to enjoy their weekend. We even missed the nudist colony and their members coming out for their sunbathing!
I found my legs were getting heavy and realized this was going to be a hard race! Eventually, after around 8 hours, the rain subsided and it was Cullum’s turn to pace me for 1.5 hours. It helped mentally as I kept changing the conversation with my crew members either cycling or running alongside me. I started to feel more positive and I forgot my heavy legs, we picked up the pace and got into a good rhythm. My Garmin beeped the 100km mark as I was chatting with Claudia (who was cycling beside me) when I just thinking “Ah Gigi, this might be a good day!”, then I realized I haven’t seen the rest of my crew or the checkpoint for quite a while!!! When I was doubting and asked a runner next to me, he said he just passed the last checkpoint about 3km ago… At that moment it was just like someone slapped my face! I can’t believe I had got lost and missed the checkpoint by over 3km. I had to turn around and ran back uphill about another extra 3km back to the missing checkpoint. I can’t explain enough how painful I felt to see those runners I had originally passed now saying hi and pointing me in the right direction, backwards! By the time I reached the checkpoint, the checkpoint distance was 103.3km. I stole a glance at my Garmin which read 109km! All I remember was I shouted to my crew with my grinding teeth, “How can you guys do that to me! I lost 40mins! 6 EXTRA KILOMETRES.” I know I am not coming to win the race, but I felt that I deserved a proper timing and a proper place. I don’t think my friends and my daughters had ever heard me swear so much! Everybody just quietly either ran or cycled beside me.
I refused to talk to them, refused to take food or drink from them, acted totally like a child, kept running but with anger and disappointment, full of negative energy! My crew tried, again and again, to convince me to eat and drink, after about another hour of running, I asked myself, how I can get so upset with them, for everything they have done and are still trying their best to support me! The real crew is when I keep running forward when they are just staying beside me and forgive my childish behaviour! Sometimes we need to go through just enough pain for us to get compassion! Now I would say I can understand and feel for those runners who have got lost in the races which before I would have no idea!
The rain continued to follow our route and the sun dropped down and we entered into a new stage of the race. In the darkness, we paid a lot of attention to track the directional arrows as many were now washed away by the rain. By the 130km checkpoint, I knew I wouldn’t be able to make up the lost 40mins. The route led me back into the rough backstreets of Berlin. It was very rough; I could smell the exhaust fumes all around us. I had Callum and Nadia for 7km then insisted that John to take over from Nadia as I couldn’t relax running through this part of the city. I picked up the pace a little and focused on a positive running attitude. Again with everybody’s efforts, I made it again! I managed to get to the finish line in 20hrs 27mins. The result exceeded my expectations – I had come 1st in my age category and fifth overall female. I hurt so much but I had also never felt so good!
This was my 10th Ultra Marathon since 2009. I can’t remember how many 10km, Half Marathon, 32km, and Full Marathon races I have participated, but one thing I remember is no matter what the distance of the race, when it comes to 2/3 of the distance, your body tells you “it hurts!”. How I got through the pain after the 100km+ is not just by my willpower or determination, it’s because of my friends and family supporting me and making me not afraid to fail and enabling me to achieve my goal!
Sunday was the prize-giving ceremony. It was of course a special feeling as I enjoyed the glory of going onto the stage to collect my medals and certificate with my photo taken. My crew were so happy and proud of me! Again this race made me realize if someone genuinely loves you, they will accept whatever the way you are! Just like my crew accepted the way I was during my downtime! No matter how many words I keep writing in this report, there are not enough to offer my thanks to them. Without them I would never have achieved 10 Ultra Marathons!
With my heartfelt thanks to; John, Nadia, Claudia, Callum, Nick & Lesley for sharing this special journey with me. Also heartfelt thanks to all the Dubai running buddies who accompanied me during the training, and the US, UK and HK friends with their encouragement through text messages during the race.
Of course I also truly appreciate and thank my amazing coach, Howard who since 2012 has coached me through 7 Ultramarathons and numerous other races!
Running means a lot to me, because in running I gain very precious friendships and family support. So I guess I just need to keep running! ■
Words + Photos by: Gigi Tsang, Aug 2017