Let's Try Skating and get Scotland Rolling

2014 Berlin Inline Marathon

Lucy Harland's (Scotia Skaters)

1st time Berlin experience

 

Having told everyone I was going to do it, paid my entry and bought my plane ticket, there was no getting out of it this year. I was finally going to do the Berlin skate marathon.

Berlin is the big one - the end of the season for the pros and the iconic skate marathon. Who can resist the idea of skating 42km round such a great city and then through the Brandenburg Gate to the finish line?

Now in its 18th year, the skate is the smaller and younger sibling of the running marathon which is now the second biggest in the world. In the last weekend of September, both marathons take over the city, with the skate on the Saturday afternoon followed by the run on the Sunday morning.

The action kicks off with a visit to the expo at the citys old Templehof airfield where every skater and runner has to register. Three hangers are filled with stalls and shops, flogging kit and promoting running events in every scenic corner of the world. The skate shops were smaller but impressive and it was already exciting to be among a bigger mass of skaters than us Glaswegian skaters are used to. 

 

We arrived in Berlin 48 hours before the race but we took it easy on the sightseeing and just enjoyed the atmosphere of this laid back, history-laden city. The night before we stocked up on pasta, just like the runners, but eating on the day of the race was harder - unlike their 8.45am start on the Sunday, we had to wait until 3.30pm on Saturday to get going.

By the time we were eating more pasta for lunch on Saturday, I was finding it increasingly hard to sit still with the mix of excitement and nerves. I'd trained for the event over a three month period following the skate marathon's own training programme for beginners. While I'm not a beginner skater, it was more a question of choosing a training programme that I could realistically manage this year. A two-week oversees work trip just before the race knocked me off schedule my target from a time that would make Don happy to the achievement of finishing.If you're thinking of doing Berlin, you need to know one important fact. Unlike the big running marathons where you see competitors arriving at the finish line hours after the elite runners, the skate course isn't left open for slower skaters. You have to be able to complete the course in 2½ hours which means you need a minimum skate speed of about 10+ mph or 17kph and you need to be at that speed right from the start. Because the route goes through the heart of the city, the police are keen to reopen the roads and they're pretty unforgiving. If you get to the 10km marker on the course and you aren't going fast enough to complete in time, they pull you off the road. Some people were pulled before the 10km. So you need both speed and stamina to get round as well as a decent technique to avoid being too knackered.

The start was a buzz - thousands of people on skates, the atmosphere of excitement and nerves. We got kitted up on the grass in front of the Reichstag building among some impressive-looking skaters and then filed through to the start. The weather was great at 18 degrees, sun and wind. The start gun went off at 3.30pm but.as everyone starts in blocks based on their estimated finish time, I didn't cross the start line until 15 minutes after the elite skates (though that was taken into account when my finish time was recorded. 2:16:20)

Then we were finally off. After years of hoping to do it, I was finally skating through the streets of this beautiful flat city on smooth tarmac with no cars to interrupt the flow of the skate. It was fantastic Perhaps because I was in the last starting block, there wasn't too much of a fight at the start though I have heard reports that it can get a bit messy with skates clashing and people falling over. It was certainly quite crowded at the start and it took a few kms for things to spread out a bit.

 

The Start

The start of the race was about finding some space and getting away from people who looked a bit wobbly on their skates. But I was soon in the flow - the streets were pretty wide so I could choose where to skate. In the rare places where the surface was a bit rougher, I moved about to skate on a smoother part of the road. At the speed I was going, the corners werent too bad - there were some quite sharp ones but they were well marked by stewards and the skaters ahead used hand signals to warn when we went across a few tram tracks.

There were lots of spectators along the course - it thinned out at some points but there were no stretches of empty road with no-one to cheer us on. In some places people had organised speakers and were blasting out music or were banging drums or just clapping and cheering. It was a sunny autumn day and everyone was in a great mood.

Id visited Berlin before so I recognised much of the first 20kms. I didnt see the first marker at 5km and was really delighted to see the 10km marker bang on schedule. The next 10 passed without me noticing, and I got a boost from seeing the 20km marker and water station knowing that I was half way round. The next 10 I found harder. Up to now, Id been skating with Ashly from Ayrshire who Id just met a few weeks before the race. She pulled ahead and I didnt think I had the energy to keep up. So I stayed at my own pace and saw her pink pigtails head away in front of me. Was that a mistake on my part? It was certainly harder going for the next 10km. It felt like it was a long slow uphill though I am sure there wasnt much gradient and the tarmac seemed rougher and harder work but I suspect most of that was in my head. But by the time I got to 30km, even though my feet were getting sore (I need better socks), I knew I was going to do it. We were heading back into the city centre and out of the suburbs, the streets were wide, the sun was lowering in the sky casting longer shadows and the crowds were thickening again.

At Potsdammer Platz, tantalisingly near the finish line, we started the final city centre loop. A long straight stretch eastwards (with a man tucked in behind me to conserve his energy - lucky him) then round the corner and back west along Unter den Linden towards the Brandenburg Gate. Crowds lined the route on either side of the gate and there was a great atmosphere but there is also block paving under the arches themselves and I was mildly paranoid about falling over with so many people watching. Then past the 42km mark and through the finish line - happy, really happy, with sore feet and feeling quite emotional about having finally done it. A steward bunged a medal in my hand, someone else gave me a yellow plastic blanket and Ashly appeared with a huge grin on her face having finished 3 minutes before me.

Im already planning next year with a faster speed and hopefully joining a pace line. Im pursuing Glasgow City Council to see if I can get a regular booking on the Bellahouston track for skaters so perhaps well see a Scotia Skaters paceline at Berlin next year?!

 

Finally

Don Morton would like to thank Lucy Harland for providing this report

Lucy at Berlin

Ashly and Lucy with finishers medals