Last year I was planning to run the Berlin Marathon. My goal was to get a PR (personal record). I worked for months with a personal coach with that goal driving me. Then three weeks before the race I fell during a 20-mile training run, breaking my arm in four places. I also broke my dream of that PR. It was a difficult situation that forced me to sit in bed resting for a few weeks. I couldn’t even take a walk through my neighborhood for over a month without pain in my arm. I am an active person and sitting is my least favorite position. (Here is a link to the blog post about my fall.)
Throughout my ordeal, my dear friend, Auntie C., kept telling me there was a reason why I fell, why all that pain happened. The universe, she said, was trying to tell me something. Auntie C. explained sometimes when we don’t listen to what the universe is telling us, it needs to slam a door in our face to force us to listen. So the universe was to blame for me tripping on the trail and breaking my arm. Too bad I can’t sue the universe for pain and suffering.
At the time, I was not particularly receptive to what I perceived as a bunch of crazy mumbo jumbo to get me to accept that I wouldn’t be running for a long time. I was disappointed that I had come so close to my goal of running in Berlin, only to have it snatched from my reach. I resigned myself to getting my mobility back and running the 2015 Berlin Marathon.
To Auntie C.’s credit, this week I finally realized why things happened the way that they did. I am off to Berlin to run the race I missed last year. As I started packing for the trip, it hit me. I knew why 2014 was not my year to run the Berlin Marathon. Last year I had been entirely focused on the race and getting a PR. The goal of a PR was driving me. Nothing else mattered. The journey itself had lost importance. But the journey is why I run these races. Several things have happened over the last few months that made me realize 2015 is the year I was meant to run this race.
First, back in May, I went searching through my house for old class photos to take to a high school reunion. In a box in my basement, I found all the brochures, ticket stubs, postcards, and other souvenirs from various trips that my husband and I had taken. Among them were things we brought back from our 1990 trip to Berlin. We were there for the reunification of Germany on October 3 of that year – Unity Day – when East Germany and West Germany were rejoined to become one country after being divided for 45 years.
In the box I came across the program for the September 30, 1990 Berlin Marathon. The race was particularly historical because it was the first time that the course would wind through East Berlin and pass through the Brandenburg Gate. I sat down and paged through the program. It is mostly written in German but I could figure out some of the information. I recognized the elite runners in some of the photos, including Uta Pippig and Rosa Mota. I didn’t know that I had that program when I was training for the 2014 race. It gave me chills to think that it had been sitting in my basement waiting for me to find it. I am happy I read it before my trip. Reading it made me realize how much more special it will be to run this race.
The next thing that told me the 2015 race was my destiny came from my photo albums. We plan to visit our German friends while we are there so I went through photo albums, looking for old pictures to take along and reminisce with them. I came across the album from our 1990 Berlin trip where I found pictures of my husband and me hammering on the Berlin Wall. For 20 Deutsche Marks we rented a hammer and chisel for 15 minutes. The best we could get were small chips and Berlin Wall dust. That was the job for a jackhammer. Looking at all the pictures from our 1990 visit made me realize that the city we will see this time is vastly different. I would not have appreciated that fact as much a year ago. I was too focused on my PR goal.
There was a huge celebration at the Reichstag building the night of October 2, 1990. It was like Times Square in New York City on New Year’s Eve with everyone waiting for the ball to drop at midnight. It was the eve of Unity Day, October 3. There were hundreds of thousands of people there that night. The atmosphere was electric with flags, fireworks, and people cheering. My husband ended up climbing a tree to get a better view of the ceremony. Unity Day was a national holiday. Throughout Berlin there were street festivals with all sorts of entertainment – bag pipers in kilts, traditional German bands, country western bands, and rock and roll bands – and booths selling food, beer, champagne, and Unity Day souvenirs. We bought t-shirts to commemorate the reunification.
This week I received the schedule of events for the upcoming marathon weekend. The day before the marathon is an International 6K Breakfast Run. Participants include runners from all over the world and they typically dress in the colors of their country. I remembered that we still had our Unity Day t-shirts. I went through my closets and found my t-shirt. Yes, the universe wanted me to find that t-shirt and take it back with me. I plan to wear mine for the Breakfast Run.
I am looking forward to this adventure. My mind is focused not on a time goal in the race but on the experience, the journey. When people ask me if I am ready for the race, I tell them yes, I am ready. I have trained for this race for 2 years. I have never trained that long for anything before.
And next time the universe needs to send me a message, I hope it just slips me a note under the door. I don’t want another broken bone.
I found this video on YouTube of CNN’s coverage of the reunification ceremonies at the Reichstag. It will give you an idea of the kind of celebration that occurred that night. What a historic night it was!