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The Road to Berlin, My Story.

I’ve recently been working on documenting “My Year in Running” as so much has happened to me this year from a running point of view. But first I’d like to explain a little bit about how and why I started running, to do that I’d like to take you back to October 2013 and the story of my “Road to Berlin”.

Stepping out of your comfort zone is not something easy to do, and I would probably class myself as one of those people but towards the end of 2013. I was at a low point after the end of a long term relationship and also hating my job. I was not my normal happy self, and I was the only one that could do anything about it. Really, this is where my “Road to Berlin” began.

After resigning from my job, I needed something to keep me occupied whilst searching for a new job and also to help clear my mind. When I stayed at home I ended up just thinking about the things that I had no control over, which only made feel worse, so I decided to give running a go, I haven’t looked back since.

When you start running there are many things to take into account, for most it’s getting the right kit and more importantly the right footwear, fortunately for me I have the knowledge about getting the right shoes as I’ve been selling running shoes for years. The advice I actually needed was “what is the best way to get going?” One person came immediately to mind and that is Charlie Dark, founder of London’s Run Dem Crew. I don’t think that I’ve ever met such an inspirational person, and someone who has the natural ability to get the best out of people!

I emailed him for advice and the best piece of advice he gave me was to set myself a goal to aim for. Charlie set that goal for me and invited me to join the Run Dem Crew family in Berlin to compete in the 34th Berlin Half Marathon, a challenge I happily excepted.

As I wasn’t  working during this time I had no excuse about not having time to run, so I had to make sure that I trained enough to be able to run the distance of 13.1 miles and for me not to let Charlie and more importantly myself down. I just wasn’t going to let that happen.

So after 5 and a half months of running I had covered nearly 700 training kilometres and  was ready to take on Berlin.  What I wasn’t ready for was the amount of support and love from the rest of the Crew, none of whom I had ever met before. This gave me even more confidence, no matter how I felt during the race I would cross the finish line. Flights and hotel booked all I wanted to do is go to Berlin and run!

I arrived in Berlin on the 28th March around 4pm to check into the Michelberger hotel. No matter how short a flight is I always seem to be tired so went to bed around 10pm. I woke up at around 7am the next morning and as I wasn’t able to run my usual Saturday parkrun (for obvious reasons) I decided to head out for a quick 5km shakeout. The run felt good and I knew I was ready for Sunday.

The Run Dem Crew and other crews from around Europe had been invited to a Nike event at German shop Firmament for the Genealogy of Free Exhibition, an event to highlight the evolutionary journey of various Nike silo’s.  The best thing about these events (other than the free beer) is that I get to meet people I have only known through Instagram, it’s so nice to meet people who you’ve never met but who have been a source of encouragement to you through a simple “like” or a few words of encouragement on one of my many posts. It’s fair to say that I met some top class people, who were also running their first half marathon. People started drifting off around 11pm, and I knew if I didn’t leave soon too that I would have been tempted to consume more and ore of the free beer, so I went back to the hotel set my alarm for 6am and tried to get some sleep!

I didn’t get much sleep that night however, partly due to the excitement of what was going to go down the next day and also the nagging doubt in my head… “will my phone automatically change time as the clocks go forward tonight”. I was awake at 5.30am, so got up, had a shower and got ready for breakfast. The breakfast looked mighty tasty but I controlled myself and had a smaller than usual portion. I knew I could (and would) make up for it the next day when the run was out of the way.

The rest of the Michelberger Crew gathered in the hotel chill out zone, after a quick crew photo outside we started making our way to the race. At this point I found out that we had our own hospitality area curtesy of Nike (balling). We had coffee, fruit, water…all the correct foods we should be eating to give us energy and keep us hydrated for the race. I also started to get a sense of just how big the “Bridge the Gap” movement is. We were introduced to our hosts the Berlin Braves and a host others crews from around Europe and America; Run Pack Berlin, NBRO, Patta Running Team, Moskva River Runners, Black Roses NYC, Bridge Runners and I can’t forget the Still Waters Run Deep Crew from Manchester. There were others too, and I apologise for those I have may have left out. All the team Captains gave us words of encouragement for the run and we all made our way to the start line. I managed to get split up from everyone else in my start area but that didn’t bother me too much as I was in the zone.

10am came and the the run began but it was another 30 minutes before I would cross the start line and realise what the last 6 months of hard work had all been about, the 13.1 Miles of a Half Marathon.

It was hotter than I had expected for that time of the morning, but for the first 6/7k’s is wasn’t a problem. However, suddenly, I couldn’t wait for each water station. Training throughout the winter months I hadn’t run in this heat before and I was hoping everything would be ok, and luckily it was. After about 10km the packed field of 31000 fellow runners had spread out enough for me to get into a rhythm and I started to enjoy the vibe and the buzz of competing in such a large event. I was really buzzing between 10-16km, and just when I need a little pick me up I ran past the infamous Cheer Dem Crew and their LOUD words of encouragement and #CREWLOVE gave me a pure shot of adrenaline that made the hairs on the back of  my neck stand to attention. Such a great feeling to know that you have people who’ve got your back, who aren’t running. A true family! The adrenaline was pumping now as I ran the 18th kilometre in 4.44, my fastest km split for the run. At that point  I knew the remaining distance was just a mere formality!

The finish line finally came  into site and a grin began to to form on my face, a grin that would remain for many hours to come. I finished my first half marathon in a time of 1.53.51 (which I am still so proud of) and after grabbing as many cups of water as I could, I went back to our hospitality area. All I could see were smiling faces, with so many people completing their first half marathon there was plenty of celebrating to do! Music was pumping and more food was available for us to charge our batteries…in preparation for the after party! I headed back to the hotel to shower and refresh before finding food, I could eat what I wanted for the first time in a week and all I wanted was a juicy, artery clogging,  burger.

After the race it’s THE AFTER PARTY (R.Kelly voice), this is where the crews would regather and celebrate the day we have all just had. I can’t think of a word that describes how good the atmosphere was in the club that night, and I can honestly say I have not danced (if you can call it that) so much in many, many years.

1 A.M. came and my “Road to Berlin” had finally come to an end. A journey that took me out of my comfort zone, and has given me the mentality and confidence to believe that I can achieve anything if I put my mind to it. I am a happier and healthier person than I was 6 months ago. It’s a familiar story, but that’s because it’s true for so many people. Running has the power to transform.

A huge thank you is owed to Charlie Dark, who set me the challenge and giving me the belief that I could do anything If I set my mind to it. Thank you also to everyone on twitter or Instagram who favourited, liked or commented on a  post, there are so many people who have been a constant support and I thank you all.

I can’t wait to see where this running journey takes me next.