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Training for this race gave me my life back and kept me sane. This is not an exaggeration.

Up until about a month ago I was frustrated and deeply unhappy, as I’d been made redundant late last year and found it difficult to get a job. I was training early in the mornings with @SITCbootcamp, then trudging off to the Jobcentre to sign on. Interview after interview resulted in nothing. There were times I had to magic cash from *somewhere* to pay for my Run Dem Crew Thursday night track sessions. A relationship I’d had real hopes for took a turn for the tits-up. Responsibilities had to be met with ends that refused to look at each other, never mind meet. I could feel the weight of it all threatening to consume me, but training got me out of bed. I’d be in it right now if it wasn’t for that.

I didn’t even know if I’d be able to make it to Berlin. I’d got my place, but as things worked out, sorted accommodation – a real touch, and my roomies were awesome – and then booked my flights with days to spare. Eating away the pain was an additional expense I could loath afford, so I laced up and ran my anger off on the track and the roads. I ate and laughed with people afterwards, and felt good.

It paid off.

Germans are known – stereotyped – for their efficiency. That I can’t find a complaint about the organisation of the race is a testament to that efficiency; sheer numbers of people aside, the course felt easy and good. I mean, it was hard to do, but easy to navigate.

When I rocked up at Café Moka on the Karl Marx Allee near the start line (and right by the finish) for the pre and post-race reception, seeing a bar full of smiling, familiar faces made me realise why I was there. I’d worked hard to be a part of this – staying afloat mentally, getting a job, putting in the training when I didn’t know I’d even be able to get there. The pre-race vibe was incredible! Great friends, and friends-I-hadn’t-made-yet from the international crews of Paris, New York, Copenhagen and our host city were laughing, dancing, and shaking off the pre-race nerves. For some, it was their first half-marathon; others were veterans. Everyone was fuelled by adrenaline.

The man who started it all, Charlie Dark, led everyone in the bar through the now-standard ‘AWAY, AWAY, AWAY!’ pre-run chant. The power of everyone shouting this in unison threatened to blow the bloody doors off the place, and it was fucking GREAT. So was the afterparty… but what goes on tour stays on tour.

So, let’s check the stats.

Sixteen years ago I had to run 1800m for my class on a school sports day. I passed out and don’t remember hitting the ground , but do remember the abject humiliation.

At the beginning of this year I faced down the track, for the first time since then. The first few speedy laps hurt so badly I wanted to cry, but I felt so good afterwards I wanted to cry with joy.

I kept going back and was rewarded with a slashing of nearly 11 minutes off my original Paris Half Marathon time – from almost 2:30 to 2:19. I flagged a bit in the last mile and-a-half , so I cranked up the drum’n’bass and switched to Full Carnival Mode. I literally danced the last stretch to Makoto, Marcus Intalex, Utah Jazz and Potential Badboy, dancing past some of the Cheer Dem Crew (you guys are EVERYTHING), and sprinted across the finish line. Sprinted. If you’ve ever run for over 2 hours straight and then sprinted, you’ll know what I mean. I dug deep for that and nearly met my soul coming back.

Sixteen years ago I passed out on the track in front of hundreds of people, after running 1800 metres. Three days ago I sprinted across the finish line after running just over 13 miles in 2 hours 19 minutes, thanks to the track.

There’s a life lesson in there somewhere, certainly a sweet irony, but I’m too elated and smacked up to the tits on ibuprofen to properly articulate what that is.

What I will say, though, is that I’m so glad and privileged to be a part of Run Dem Crew (and a Team Bangs on The Run alumni). I wouldn’t have got there without you, and I don’t know that I’d be here without you either – so thank you. Thank you all.

As I’d said to Bangs and a Bun on my return:

A

MOTHERFUCKING

PERSONAL

BEST!

My limp will fade, but hard-earned swagger is forever.

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