After speaking to everyone a time of 2 hours seemed to be an achievable task. My other aim I set myself was to beat my GoPro battery. Apparently the battery has 2.5 hour battery life so this should be the easier of the two tasks to do, even if the overall battery life has depleted a little.
In Goodwood I signed up on my own, I recognised a few people I’d met on a few occasions from the street skates. This time however I was going with the ESS group, a bunch of really awesome friends. If this marathon experience had been awful again it wouldn’t have mattered as the whole vibe of twenty of us really made this trip memorable.
Our wonderful group organiser Alex did this. It was beneficial doing this way as we got a group discount. For the inline marathon at Berlin the process is more straight forward than the running event as this is never oversubscribed.
You need to confirm your attendance and collect your race number and electronic timer chip. This can be done two days in advance or even on the day at the Expo. (Best to avoid event day though). We went the day before. Nothing too exciting at the exhibition, then again I wasn’t after anything. Registration was done at the former Tempelhof Airport. The airfield is now an open park so we were free to stretch out our skate legs on the old runway. Some what windy being all open but the kite surfers really took to it.
So many people! Wow. Never seen such a crowd of skaters. Close to seven thousand on wheels. The staff were great in assisting us non-German speaking folk. Lots of porterloos about. Personal belongings could be stored at secure tents. They had male and female tents just to help speed things along if you’re obviously heading to the wrong area. Unless you’ve taken over a female friend’s registration entry ticket which my friend Simon did, or Lucy as he was that day. (I believe since 2013 the transfer of entry is not possible because of security issues).
As we psyched ourselves up for the event a few of us were feeling a little nervous. With thoughts of being the last one across the line, or worse being picked up by the minibus scooping up anyone who is taking over two and a half hours. “That’s fithteen minutes faster than my previous marathon time!” I was reassured by the others that this track is much smoother than Goodwood and the fact it was through the city so it was a lot less windy.
There were a lot of lycra cladded people in giant 110mm wheels, they look the part. Some of them however dressed like a speed skater but could barely walk across a slightly uneven bit of paving. How on earth they were going to do twenty six miles is a mystery. This however gave me another boost of confidence. I won’t be last.
The time soon came for us to edge our way to the start point. Depending on your previous marathon time you were in a particular starting block. So block A was the elite. We were in the last, group E is also known as the ‘Party,’ block.
It is possible to change your block at registration if you’ve got some proof of better times. Alternatively you can talk you way through the marshals with whatever cheeky story. We were happy to be in the party group.
The amount of people that were there was incredible. Skaters stretching further than you can see both towards the front and back of the massive road. The atmosphere was fantastically energising, helped with the pounding music hyping the crowd.
Each starting block had a separate countdown to avoid any crushes. After every group had started the adrenaline fired up more. High fives all round and we were ready to go. We had an idea of sticking together but I knew in reality it would be difficult to pace altogether with our varying abilities for the whole twenty six miles.
Fünf, vier, drei, zwei, eins. (5, 4, 3, 2, 1). BANG! Go, go, go,. wait for a bit. I keep mentioning there were a lot of people, but there were. This meant the start off wasn’t so exciting for block E. It was a slow start as we were in the middle of the group. This was fine as I was happily soaking in the vibes from the crowd. We didn’t start to pick up pace until five minutes in when the pack started to disperse. A paceline of about nine ‘ESSers,’ formed and we began to pick up speed.
The ESS train started weaving its way through. I was getting such a rush from this but was wondering how I’d keep this velocity for the whole way around.
An unfortunate mishap meant two of the members of this run dropped out together. We slowed down to see what happened. One of them managed to compose and regroup with us. The pace picked up again..
Being a London street skater we’re used to big potholes and other hazards on the road. The Germans have built a super smooth road which was amazing to ride. Occasionally skaters arms went up to signal caution ahead, but as we road pass we were left puzzled as to what the problem was. When we reached tramlines you could see people panicking as to how to navigate across. Advantage London.
You can race in whatever kit you want, I was once again using the Salamon Chill LX, 84mm wheels. Classed as recreational skates. In the paceline the others were using 90mm, 100mm and 110mm wheels. Kit makes a difference. Thirty minutes in and I was starting to struggle with their pace. For every stride the others were taking I had to take two and a half. As well as making it difficult for myself to keep up, I was causing whoever was behind me to become off sync with the paceline leader.
While I managed to pull myself from the brink several times, it just took a moment to lapse and that metre gap became two. The benefit of having them as a windbreak was suddenly lost and the fight to catch up was just too much. I dropped from them the ESS paceline shortly before the half way timer mats. If I didn’t drop out then it would have been soon after. I decided to slow right back down to allow myself to recover before engaging again.
Ten minutes passed before I felt ready to go at it, at my pace. As I found my rhythm I looked behind and had the quiet satisfaction that a paceline had built up behind me. These people were using the guy who couldn’t keep up to pace!
Crowds of people continued to cheer us on. I assume they were chanting words of encouragement! For next time I need to learn some German. Especially on occasions when other skaters were in the way. Shouting in English doesn’t get much of a response as when Alex shouted with his German earlier during the race.
I loved being with my group for the first half of the marathon, equally I started to discover and enjoy the tactics involved with a skate race. Jumping between pacelines, sprinting up, or holding back. Massively taking advantage of the downhills where some of the others were breaking.. I could ‘cross over,’ around corners really fast but sometimes it wasn’t worth getting ahead as the wind was too strong. Stay back, wait your moment. Let the guys with the bigger wheels do the harder work, use your noodle.
Around the 35km mark I heard a family voice shout out to me. It was my friend Ade. This was really nice and somewhat surreal being in foreign country, having not a clue where exactly where we were. He obviously had a lot of energy at that point and as good as it would have been to tag along I decided to keep at my comfortable pace.
At 40 km it started to rain. I was glad at that point I had the waterproof housing for the GoPro, however a minute later I heard it beep twice which can only mean the battery had given up. Slightly annoyed to have failed one of my challenges but perhaps the GoPro failed me. I have no idea what time it really was.
The ground started to get a little slippy. I was not too far away from the finish so best to battle on through as much as I can before it was completely wet. Sticking behind this paceline seemed like the best option.
As we turned the final corner we could see Brandenburg Gate. What a sight. One last push. I love a sprint but it was about timing to maximise this last burst of energy. The crowd got bigger and the music got loader, the time was now. I pushed out from the paceline which instigated the rest of them to disperse too. While the other thrashed about to keep up I left them behind. I thrive on these moments which helps me push harder still.
With the rain in full force now I didn’t get the complete sprint with wide strides. It was too slippy. Under Brandenburg Gate you had a choice of several underpasses. I changed my choice at the last second as a girl fell due to the extra slippery surface the bricks had become under this landmark.
As I battled the last hundred metres I was drenched and aching all over but was smiling crazily. I looked up and saw the time read 2 hours plus. At this point I felt a little disappointed having now missed both goals. I passed the final timing mats absolutely exhausted but still proud to have finished my second skate marathon. Like being on a conveyor belt a finishers’ medal was put around my neck, a plastic sheet around my body to help reduce body heat loss, then over to the water point where I chucked back several cups of water. Lastly was the fruit stand where I just kept eating. The fruit seemed to dissolve as soon as it went in my stomach. Just a tad hungry..
The ESS group slowly reassembled and began exchanging stories of our achievements. Having our matching jerseys made it quite easy to spot each other. We were all tired yet beaming with excitement. My friend Ejaz asked if I’d achieved my goals set out. No to beating the GoPro battery and no to under two hours. However he reminded me that the time on the finishing line was from when the first group set off, fifteen minutes later than when we set off! That was a nice surprise. I went down to receive my official time with my friend Ania and yes I had beaten one of my goals. My time was 1 hour, 47 minutes and 47 seconds.
We had a currywurst for dinner. The highlight of the meal was the most amazing chocolate cherry gateau ever. I was eating it like a kid on his birthday because it was bigger than everybody else’s not so good dessert..
This was pretty cool. Nice venue. Awards were given out to all the top people. I believe they did the whole course in just over an hour! There were tons of lasers and the smoke machine blinded everybody every five minutes. It was great fun. They played lots German pop and we danced ridiculously. Up above us was a projector which had a slide show of the day’s event. It was pretty awesome that one of them was a photo of Peter, Ania and Simon from ESS which we went mental for every time it showed. We partied into the early hours despite our earlier sporting achievements. I enjoyed another currywurst on the way back to the apartment.
All my goals were achieved. Kinda of…
- A time of under two hours.
- I was only five minutes away from beating the GoPro battery, but the battery life had depleted by forty minutes from its marketed specifications. Also I had the camera on five minutes before the actual start. (I’ll give myself that achievement!).
Besides the silly challenge Berlin experience was a fantastic trip as a skater, tourist as well as socially. The atmosphere of the event can’t be beaten and for that I’ll definitely be back to knock off some more minutes of my new personal best marathon time..
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