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It’s a marathon, not a sprint The running (Fore)man

Jesus. I felt rotten as all arseholes on Sunday morning. Another dreadful night’s sleep, featuring being awake with a razorblade throat between 3am and 6am. I set an alarm for 9.30am, thinking I was likely to pass out but absolutely had to get up in time to watch Foreman the Elder run across the bridge just up the way.

Good job I woke up myself earlier, really, since the alarm was basically silent. I hate the alarms on iOS, just can’t get to grips with how to configure their volume because it’s separate from the volume of podcasts or whatever. Anyway. Didn’t have enough time for breakfast after blogging, I packed my bag full of stuff and headed out.

Bollocks. It’s raining. Oh well. I think I’m timed well enough to spot him - the Berlin Marathon app told me he’d crossed the start line sharpish and was keeping the pace he’d intended. At the bridge next to the hotel I can spot the next one with all the runners, but, oh, you can’t walk along the bank of the river here. And the rain is getting harder. I have to walk round the back of an office block then along a bleak road until I reach a junction where the runners take a right hand turn. This is somewhere between 12km and 13km, and there’s a lot of runners going past which makes me think perhaps I’m a bit late - but after a few minutes the 3hr pacers come through, so I figure Kevin must be nearby.

I stand. I get wet. I get even wetter. The 3h15 pacers come and go, I figure I’ve probably missed Kevin. Never mind. I’m smiling a bit - illness, rain, and the horribly bleak part of town I’m in contributing to a huge sense of schadenforeman. Walking along a bit, the crowds are a bit more crowded and there’s a band playing music, plus some rogue megaphoners. People are attempting to be positive even though it’s now pissing down. Sal pops up on facebook messenger and I update her on Kevin’s status.

No-one in the flats is on their balconies watching down. In fact, quite a few residents seem annoyed or surprised that the marathon is on. Considering it’s one of the world’s most famous marathons, a course where the world record is often set, that seems a little bizarre.

Eventually I’ve had enough of watching people who definitely aren’t Kevin, and what’s more my delight at the complete lack of fancy dress is ruined by someone running past dressed as Chewbacca or something. I’ve figured out that I should go to Potsdamer Platz at around 39km to see if I can spot him there. So, time to get a tube from the sketchiest U-Bahn station it’s ever been my misfortune to use.

Fuck me, what a station. Someone tried to beg off me while I bought my ticket. Half the platform was populated with groups of seemingly homeless drunks, or groups of lads clearly up to no good. One lad cycles in intimidating circles around people, including me. Several people drop lighters, as if it’s A Thing. An angry woman with all her worldly possessions on a bike seems to make a very disapproving gesture at some folk on the train just as it leaves, which I judge to be racially motivated. I mean it’s seriously just a horrible place to wait for a train.

At Alexanderplatz I realise I probably can’t get the tube I want, because it’s on that U2 line which yesterday we discovered isn’t currently running on Sunday-Thursday. I head up top, buy a diet coke and a bounty, admire the fog shrouding the tower, and wonder what to do. Citymapper tells me to get the U2. Wait, what? Sure enough, it is running after all, so I go get it. On the platform there are a couple of marathon drop outs, one of which is in one of those shiny metallic things marathon runners get wrapped in when they’re done. We’re so far from the finish I wonder where the hell he got it from.

On the train I’m stood near some other English marathon spectators, and they’re going further than Potsdamer Platz, to Bullow. Looking at the map, this seems sensible, so I choose to do the same thing. It’s out in yet another dismally bleak suburb, where the underground becomes way overground and starts looking like an NYC or Chicago metro instead.

There’s another wide 90º turn here, making it a great vantage point. I’m way ahead of Kevin who, the app is telling me, won’t be coming past for about half hour or so. He seems to be slowing down a bit. The runners are in fact much more spaced out here. This is the 37km point, and given how many people were with the 3hr pacers back at 13km there is lots of evidence that people went out way too hard.

There’s a crossing point, which is usable because of how spread out the runners are at the moment. Even so the stewards are shouting schnell, schnell whenever anyone crosses. I laugh out loud at the old couple with walking sticks who resolutely do not give a fuck if they get in the way of anyone.

The runners are streaming past, a mix of fresh as a daisy and fatigued. The big bus playing loud music across from me is providing a really good atmosphere, with loads of megaphonery as well as tunes. Every so often a huge cheer goes up and someone, apparently associated with whoever they are, runs past and celebrates in some way. One guy grabs his girlfriend (I assume) and plants a huge kiss; one guy downs a bottle of beer; two guys drop and do 5 press-ups; confetti shotguns are fired at others. It’s infectious fun.

“Bridge the Gap” are the guys with all the atmosphere. They’re excellent.

Near the 3hr pacer, someone runs past in a Nike “Not running sucks” shirt, which makes me smile. I am wearing my Nike “Running sucks” shirt at the time.

And then, pretty much on cue, it’s Kevin! I have barely spoken all day, and manage to croak out a loud-ish and deep “Go on bro!”, which he acknowledges. Hurrah! Go on bro! I also manage to capture it on video, and post it immediately to his Facebook profile. How’s that for live coverage?

Right, time to skedaddle. There’s about 5km left for him, but it goes up a straight road then heads off around a few corners - whereas I can just go straight on to reach the end, apparently. So I walk up to Potsdamer Platz, past the jazz bands and hella-bleak strip joints.

Cashpoint at the door. Wonder how many blokes are frogmarched to it by security each night?

Once I deviate from the marathon route the roads are quiet, and I reach the fenced off Tiergarten. Scouting my way around the edge I reach Brandenburger Tor again, and unless I’m mistaken I’m pretty much on time to see him run past. Lo and behold, I do. Fuck me he looks like he’s struggling. The crossing point seems impossible to use so I scythe my way through a crowded tunnel at the U-Bahn station, then head to the family reunion bit. En route, the app on my phone gives me the only alert it gives me all day.

Thanks for that, Berlin marathon app. I arrive at the big F and wait, admiring all the runners because (a) they’ve all just run a fucking marathon (b) every single one of them seems to be drinking a beer. After 20 minutes or so, Kevin appears, beer in hand.

The beer is, sadly, alcohol free. He offers me some but I’ve had that Erdinger Alkoholfrei and it’s bloody horrible, so no thanks. I shield him with that blue wrap while he changes out of his fairly stinky running kit, and we walk - slowly - to try and find somewhere to eat and drink. He wants to keep his legs moving, even though they hurt a bit, and that’s a good job because we take ages to find somewhere.

We start off by walking along the river. I’ve got a bone to pick with the river in Berlin. It’s fucking shit. There are loads of boat tours, all huge boats, but I swear there is virtually nothing picturesque to see from them. Maybe the weather isn’t helping, but most of the architecture is terrible anyway and, no, I’m not having it, it’s a shit river and there shouldn’t be so many tours along it. Fuck off, Spree.

Right. After walking for a while we reach a giant train station and stop to look up how to get to Brewdog Berlin. At this point my phone decides it doesn’t really like being connected to the network, so we can’t actually look up anything at all. So we wander in what we think is the direction of Alexanderplatz, and soon there’s a sign telling us there’s a brewery 47.11 metres away.

The level of specificity makes me laugh out loud. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better sign. We go in, get a table for two, and order a couple of kolsch and some food. I manage to get through it mostly in German, which is good. Finally, for the first time in 3 months, Kevin’s on the sauce!

Food arrives. I’ve got currywurst and chips, he’s got a couple of fried eggs with potatoes, bacon cubes, and a load of spinach. It’s all very nice, and quite cheap. We want to order more beer and a couple of desserts but it takes us well over 20 minutes to attract any member of staff’s attention - the place is heaving, full of marathon runners and their hangers on, but seemingly only 3 people working the floor. Eventually we decide bollocks to this, and just about get someone’s attention to pay.

We leave, and walk in what we think is the right direction but, suspiciously, there are fucking loads of people walking towards us. So we turn backwards, and the big tower looms. Wait, what? Both of us are massively freaked out by this, our senses of direction entirely bamboozled. There is no way the platz should be that way, but, well, whatever.

His legs are working pretty well still, and it’s not raining, so we walk. It’s pretty similar to the reverse of Saturday morning, through the art market and past the Ampelmann store and etc. Then I remember: I’ve got my real camera, with optical zoom! I can get a photo of a bloke chinning a horse!

TAKE THAT YOU EQUINE TWAT

Excellent. Seriously, excellent. I’m very happy with that. We should celebrate, with more beer and a strudel. Basically we think we’re gonna have disappointing external crap at the Oktoberfest thing until I spot a large BRAUHAUS sign. BRAU means BREW and HAUS means -ERY. It’s a brewery!

Hello, Lemke. I’ll have a weizen bier please. What’s that? You want to upsell me from 500ml of weizen to a litre of fest? Oh, go on then. Twist my arm.

We consult the menu and they do have strudel, but I’m quite tempted by the lard starter.

But no, we have strudel, and more beer. I quite fancy the imperial stout but it’s 11% and that’s not a good idea. Outside, the clouds have all cleared and it’s suddenly sunny. Thanks for that, Berlin.

Once we’re paid up we bugger off to the tube, back to Spittlemarkt and up to Kevin’s annoyingly better room than mine. The Ampelmann beer comes out: it’s excellently warm and below average. He ties his shoes up on the balcony outside, making it look like a gangster died here recently.

We discuss logistics of the coming days. He’s here all day on Monday, whereas I’ve got a 2.30pm flight and am not really sure how long it’ll take me to get to the airport. If his body is working, we might meet up in the morning, otherwise we’ll meet on Tuesday ... somewhere, at some point. He gets to London mid-afternoon on a train, and I’ll be at work unless I’m off sick - which feels like a possiblity.

Actually, at the time it didn’t. The ice cream and beer had kinda dulled most symptoms, but after I walked/S-Bahned back to my hotel I felt much worse. Decided to go prop up the bar one final time anyway, the same bar staff being just as friendly as the previous nights - which was somewhat at odds with what came up on my phone when I was searching for checkout time.

No idea why Gareth felt unsafe. Also, if only most (rather than all) staff were unhelpful, and some (rather than all) were rude, is that really the worst stay ever? I mean, it clearly implies that there were helpful and polite staff. How many staff do you need to interact with in one stay anyway?

Back at my room, I wanted to watch Dragons’ Den, but whenever I clicked on it in iPlayer it would start Live At The Apollo, so I gave up, put on a podcast and went to bed, hoping that being drunk would knock me out enough to get a decent night’s kip.

Created By
Darren Foreman
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