Nothing left: Huge PR

I made it!!! What a wonderful day for PR for all runners, from Eliud to me. 😀 The weather condition couldn’t have been better, 12C, no wind, overcast for 2/3 of the race, and sunny when it was over.

I had a 7 min PR!!! I am sooooo proud of myself for pushing hard all throughout despite many doubts and pains. Substracting 0.2 miles, I would have finished in 4 hrs 2 min and few seconds!!!

But most important than PR for such large margin is that today I left it all at the course, no reserve left, because I know I will be fine. In my 2019 marathon I PRed too but I felt like not giving it all. So this time, I gave ALL. Every part of my body hurts in the last 10km. Yet, every part of my soul was happy to endure the pain and kept going. Even when I finally got to shower, my skin hurts by touching, but I am so happy and satisfied for what I did.

Now into race recap. I slept wonderfully again, 9.5 hrs. Stayed in bed until it was time to get up. I went down for breakfast, 80% of people were runners. I went with the usual things I’d have

On the way to the room, an old couple asked a runner “what’s the forecast for today?” He said: finish! 😀 Seeing his bib it says that he’s sub-4 hours finisher. Love it!!!

I left my luggage at the reception and left hotel 8:45am as my starting corral is 10:05. It took me 15 min to get to the entrance, and another 30 min walk to the start line. That’s a pretty decent warm up! After last pit stop, I got to the line.

I texted my coach and he said: you’ve put in the work, the race is a celebration of that! Wise man. I texted the girls telling them I am about to start.

45,527 runners! Incredible scene, all excited for what was about to start.

My strategy was to start conservatively. The first mile I run 9:18 min/mile, very decent pace for an easy jog, quite a confidence booster. Then the second mile I got even faster 9:10 min/mile without even feeling I was speeding up.

Miles 2-9 went by quickly, averaging 9 min/mile despite having to slow down as there were so many runners in some narrow path. I embraced those crowded parts to recover. By then I knew I would PR today, the question is by how much. I started doing mental calculation. I finish 54 min and change for my first 6 miles, so I started to dream finishing under 4 hrs. I knew that would be a moon shot as the first 6 miles was just warm up. But that dream kept me going for a long while.

Miles 9-13 were challenging but I knew my body was doing okay and I can still push it hard. I saw the pacer for 4:15:00 and followed them for a while, I knew they started 5 min earlier than me so I was still doing well. After 2 miles I realized they were running 9:30 min/mile pace, I passed them and went to chase my dream.

I crossed half way with 1:59:43. Dream was possible but highly unlikely as I started to feel the effect of running that pace to my body.

Miles 13-18 body started to hurt but I focused on passing people and let my legs go autopilot. Taking longer steps, moving arms a bit harder, and taking shorter turns when possible. Then around mile 16/17, my right upper foot started bothering badly, to the extend I stopped to loose the shoelaces, hoping that was the cause of the pain. Yet, the pain was still there, only improved a bit better after 2 miles. That was a critical moment as I still had a long way to go, so if the pain got worse and forced me to slowdown or stop, then no PR would be possible. I tried to step in different ways to see if it helps, and found that running faster actually helped as contact time would be less. So, I pushed even harder to escape the pain, which turned out elusive at that point.

Mile 18-21 I felt a bit stronger and got back to 9:08 min/mile pace. I started the countdown.

Mile 22-26 every part of my body hurt at that point. Places that I never experienced pain during training or past marathons, I felt my foot were pounding on the concrete as if I didn’t have shoes on. My foot hurt. My lower back hurt. My abs hurt. My upper back hurt. Yet, I kept pushing as fast as I could. At that point, I knew 4 hrs was behind me but I wanted to get as close to it as possible. At mile 22, I slowed down to 9:38 min/mile and made a frustration face, someone who was cheering on the street called out my name and cheered me up. Yes, I should keep going instead of being mad at myself. For the last few miles, I didn’t check my watch anymore as I simply pushed as much as I could while ignoring all the urge to slowdown just to lessen the pain.

I reminded myself that I worked so hard to feel this “pain”. Of course it is painful as it is what we endurance runners chase after. It is precisely because of the pain, precisely because we want to overcome that pain, that we can get the feeling, through this process, to feel alive and grateful.

The course was 0.2 miles longer, many runners complained hahahah…

I could barely walk after I crossed the finish line, just to see many runners bending down to catch their breath or sit on the street. We all gave our best. I managed to walk to the poncho area, had water, a banana, and had my medal engraved.

official result, among 34,879 finishers.

My fueling strategy:

7: 20am breakfast

9am: ucan bar

Then maurten gel and water at mile 4, 8, 12, 16 (with caffeine), 20, 23. Despite how much I like maurten, I had to force myself to have it after mile 16. I stopped 3 times to refill my water botte and had two cups of water on the course. Nothing taste better than water in the last 10km. I didn’t experience any GI issues and my energy level was even. No wonder everybody loves Maurten which is the official fuel of the race and Eliud’s fuel as well.

Post race: I walked back to the hotel, very very slowly with my poncho on and medal on my neck, feeling so proud and grateful. I was limping but smiling.

I got my luggage and on my way to the next hotel. Due to road closure, the taxi driver had to circle a lot to find a way to pass through. After many attempts, I said it’s fine that I will walk 0.75 mile to the hotel. That was not fun at all to have to carry the luggage, 3 bags with my post-marathon body. But I made it

shower was priority, i hopped in as soon as I entered the room. I realized how painful were my muscles as I showered. This feeling is new to me, I’ve never been in such pain in my life, yet I was sooo happy and satisfied (how many times did I write this?).

What did I do next? Watch replay of Eliud’s master performance. This guy is a legend. I can’t believe he broke his own record. I know we all hoped that he breaks 2 in a official course, and his first half made us all dream about it for an hour (I knew of his first half record before I started to run), but we need to focus on celebrating what an amazing accomplishment he did. His first half showed us that he was aiming that too and gave it a shot, his second half shows he’s a human and just like us, pushing to the last minute and leave nothing left. We can keep dreaming for him in his next race, just like I will keep dreaming to BQ one day.

I love this video of Eliud’s fueling guy, so good! and this one on the last 10 min of his run, and the female winner. I cried while watching these inspiring people who don’t know how much they have impacted me, to let me keep dreaming what is possible.

Dinner. I felt empty but didn’t have an appetite, so weird.

What went well

  • Tapper worked well. I felt fresh despite missing few workouts while traveling.
  • The good sleep since I arrived Germany, only one night I didn’t sleep well. That really helped to prep my body.
  • Limited activity pre-race, which was how I planned.
  • Ignore my cold symptoms. I swear that for the last 3 days I felt like getting sick. My nose was stuffed, I was tired, I felt warm sometimes. But I decided not to check my temperature nor do a covid test, because I know if confirmed that would dampen my confidence for the race. So I just tried to rest more and ate what I felt like eating.
  • Not check my HR. During my training cycle, I used HR as measurement of effort. Ideally I wanted to run around 145-150/min as that would be an effort I could sustain for long. But I didn’t check at all during the race, and I averaged 161!!! Only the first 2 miles I was below 150, and then 160s, finishing above 170. That’s another way to show that I really gave it all. My coach was right, during race, I could sustain at higher HR. I am glad that I didn’t check at all as it would have freaked me out seeing 160s.

What I would have done differently

  • I would stay in the same hotel post race. Moving to another hotel after was not smart. It was not intentional though as I booked the pre-race hotel room early on before even I was sure I’d go to Berlin. So when everything was planned, the same hotel was fully booked.
  • I would have brought a family member with me. To feel the vibe, share the joy, and someone to just do everything for me after the race. hahahh.

The race organization

  • Pre-race organization was very good. I received multiple emails regarding logistics, free public transportation, tracking, and expo. The app is super useful and the website has all the information on needs to know.
  • The volunteers are wonderful. There were music stations every few miles so there was always something to look forward.
  • The crowd on street was massive, cheering their friends and family, and random runners like me.
  • Post-race area is very organized as well. Easy to find a way out and find stations that one needs.
  • The only part that I didn’t like was how long one had to walk to the starting line. But I guess that’s inevitable given how big is the event.

Funny things:

  • there was a guy running with an pineapple in his head
  • when I had to take the time chip off on my shoes, as soon as I bended, I made a painful sound. The guy besides me said: I feel you. 😀
  • an old lady with the t-shirt that say: MOM.

This is the first race that I didn’t see many people walking past midway point. Maybe because I was in the 4 hrs pack. It was great to see runners around me pushing as hard as they can, inspiring me to do the same.


This is definitely not my last marathon. I will sign up for the London, NYC, and Chicago for next year, hopefully I get to one. One marathon per year is ideal for me, and hopefully I keep improving (despite getting old) to BQ one day.

5 thoughts on “Nothing left: Huge PR

  1. This is amazing!! I’m so proud of you and it’s such a wonderful feeling to know you’ve “given your all” and “left it all out on the course.” Congrats on the great finish ❤


  2. CONGRATULATIONS!! You ran such a strong race. It brings back memories of my 2015 marathon where I PR’d with a 4:02. I also left it all out on the course. I was really hoping to break 4 hours but it wasn’t in the cards. I didn’t know if it was my last marathon when I ran it but now I know it was. I had hip surgery in 2016 and the surgeon said I’m prone to this hip problem and would need to have surgery on the other side if I am not careful. So my marathon days are over but I love to follow others and hear about their journey.

    45k runners is HUGE! That is about the size of the Chicago marathon. When a marathon is that huge, the organizers tend to be amazing because you have to be in order to support that many athletes! What an amazing experience! I can’t wait to hear what you do next!!


  3. Yeahhhhhhhhh!!!!! Absolutely loved reading this. Congrats on the PR and your strategy sounded so calm and steadfast!!!! Chicago would be a really fun next one …
    Inspiring and thank you for sharing the journey with us all!!


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