I ran a marathon in Berlin, Germany this autumn and I just won’t shut up about it. It happens, you do something that feels momentous, but to everyone else you were just gone for a bit. As such, neither my partner nor I had ever been to Europe and it was trip I’d dreamt about for years. The Berlin Marathon is my Boston, my novelty race. If you dare, bring it up and I can and will talk your ear off about every small aspect of our journey: raving about the train and public transit system, wondering at the ease of finding and quality of vegan dining, marveling at the living history that drips from every part of a city founded in the mid-1200s, and the graffiti….oh, the majestic, innovative, astoundingly-placed, and executed graffiti. It was a big deal.
The catalyst for the trip, as mentioned, was my acceptance from the general lottery into the 44th Berlin Marathon. I am not going to romanticize running 26.2 miles/42.16 km. It is a dreadful event, a terrible distance run by a singular champion and between one and 40,000 losers and masochists, and after five disappointing attempts, I hope to never run it again. That said, if there is any positive to take away, any silver lining from the dread slog that is the marathon, it was the atmosphere around this particular race. This is not to be confused with any sort of event-ness, as the event itself was rather refreshingly utilitarian for being one of the major races in the entire world. No, this is the sort of organic furor and encouragement from an international gallery of spectators and neighborhood cheerleaders that cannot be bought.
People lined nearly every step of the race, some, like my partner, traveling from spot to spot to try and catch their racer along the course. In the early stages of the race, the packed field crossed under a bridge, the banks on either side of the road completely packed with spectators who in unison, with sharp, precise bursts would: *clap*…”HO!”…*clap*…”HO!” It was a closed circuit and the energy flowed.
One of the more majestic things that can happen to you in any race is when you run past a drumline which, as you may know is a divine creation, put on this earth to rat-a-tat-tat their way into your heart and stride. Most drumlines that dot a race course are few and far between, and as often as not are made up of high schoolers dragged out into the early hours by an overzealous band instructor. Not in Berlin. I didn’t think to keep count, but I have never been as drumline-blessed as I was this run. The demographics of these beat-keepers was also something of note. Not only were they mostly women, but almost exclusively middle-aged and elderly women who, and I cannot emphasize this enough, absolutely cooked.
Then there were the more generic well-wishers, the sprinkles on this race/German-election Sunday, waving the flags of their home nation (Brazil and Mexico with gusto), or their neighborhood running club (Chicago’s Logan Square, looking at you). There were spectators shouting and clapping, personalizing their cheer by reading your name off your bib, which is actually The Picture of Dorian Gray of cheers: meant to make you feel good and special but revealing that due to your actions you, in fact, look to be in a terrible state and everyone knows. I finished in a dreadful mood, falling apart again in a race where I’d put too much pressure on myself, but still, what a race.
We have been home for months, and I could absolutely keep describing scenes from the run and then keep going about the rest of our time in Germany where we toured museums and the Olympiastadion, stumbled upon a Käthe Kollwitz sculpture in the middle of a park, and wandered around genuinely lost a time or two. The magic is trying to find those sorts of sensations in my every day, and it can be there if you keep an eye out.
This morning I was out for a run, a four mile loop I do near my house frequently, when I paused to walk for a few steps. I heard some honking and looked to see a couple of cars trying to negotiate around a Coors Lite delivery truck that was stopped in front of a bar and liquor store, blocking the lane of traffic where morning guests to the KFC, Dunkin’ Donuts, and McDonald would be exiting. All in a second, I glanced toward the cab of the truck and noticed the driver clapping and fist-pumping the air, cheering me on. Now, he didn’t know that it my walking had more to do with pot brewing in my nether-bits than any sense of fatigue or lack of willpower, but that didn’t matter. It was a simple moment of silliness and goodwill toward a total stranger on a chilly morning. It was magic and I hope to not forget it.
- - Kent is one of the many creatures hidden behind the walls within Bushwhacker. He scampers about with his trusty 4oz Elmers Glue bottle trying to piece together this stick toothpick operation we call home. When he ventures out from his cave of boxes, computers, and scattered remnants of many vegan friendly lunch pails, you'll be greeted with flowing locks, long legs, and a soul-searching stare that will make you wish you had ran this year's Furrow-Euro along side such a man among men.
On this particular adventure Kent and his partner took the Osprey Porter 46 to organize their gear in a carry-on sized carry-all.