I dashed back out onto the streets of Berlin and once more frantically scanned the Potsdamer Platz panorama like a crazed, ravenous coyote.
Just when all seemed lost, and I was on the verge of risking
a trip to the firing squad after an arrest for indecent exposure, I spotted The Ritz in the distance. A hotel.
Perfect! There’d definitely be toilets
there. In fact, at least nine of them. But, wait. It was The Ritz. Maybe I’d need a special guest pass to get in?
At this point I was prepared to pay the bellhop 200 EURO or
cartwheel naked around Potsdamer Platz to gain entry.
I near sprinted across the famous square, weaving between
antsy marathoners with the focus of an elite slalom skier on an Olympic gold
medal run – and nearly pulled a hamstring in the process. If I could have
maintained this pace during the race, I’d have given world-record holder Geb
(Haile Gebrselassie) a run for his money.
“Speaken Ze Englishe?” I cried, screeching to a halt roughly
an inch from the bellhop’s nose.
“A little,” he said, looking a little shocked and straightening
“Do you have a toilet I could borrow,” I enquired, trying
not to sound too desperate while bouncing from foot-to-foot. Or as if I was
going to extract the toilet from the hotel bathroom and return it a later date.
My heart was now pounding and sweat was dripping from my
“Certainly sir, straight down the foyer and second on the
right.” (Wow, I was impressed with his definition of ‘a little’ English.)
“Thank-you!” I could have kissed him, but thought better of
it. Just in case that made him change his mind. I then seamlessly scorched back
into my 4:55/mile pace as I tore through the lobby, narrowly avoiding taking
out a waitress and her tray of orange.
Reaching the Men’s
room – or Herrentoilette – I thrust open the entrance and was welcomed by
the bare butt-cheeks of a fellow Berlin
marathoner. Race morning had well and truly begun.
Having wrenched down my shorts and released the dam (fearing
there was a chance I may miss the start – now only 70 minutes away – such was
the time it was taking me to empty my cylinder – I was worried my body would be
down to 30% water, instead of the usual 70, by the time I’d finished), I raced
back out into the lobby and headed for the exit, feeling like I should have
really been tip-toeing along the hotel’s immaculately decorated corridor.
“Danke Shurn,” I chirped, after screeching to a halt in the
nick of time and deftly negotiating the rotating doors. I wondered if, in a
crazy coincidence, the bellhop’s first name might actually be Shaun. Or Sean.
“Deed yoo fyyynde ze toylit?” he jovially replied, though
for a split-second I could have sworn what he actually said was: “You are a guest at the hotel, right?”
“Yes… thank-you!” I said, a little hesitantly. Hoping that would cover me either way.
Now feeling like a million dollars and like the heaviest
weight in the world had been lifted from my shoulders, I stopped outside at a
wooden bench on the square to suck down an apple Powerbar gel, as a
never-ending throng of Berlin
marathoners-to-be anxiously swarmed by.
I eventually rejoined the swarm and was swept along by the
wave of nervous anticipation into the official athletes starting area.
We had to flash our race bibs to access the athletes’
village – and, once inside, I really felt like race-day, for my first Berlin
Marathon, had well-and-truly arrived. By this stage, time had ticked along to
8:10am or so and only 50 minutes left to start-time.
My most pressing concern now was to drop off my kit bag – by
8:30am – and locating the correct tent (to correlate with my race number) was
I wandered around for a while, looking a bit dazed, before
getting a couple of marshals to point me in the right direction. I finally stumbled
upon the correct tent and quickly stripped off, ready for action, tossing my
bag (containing shedded skin) into
the hands of a volunteer.
By this point I was also dying for another liquid pit-stop
(surprise, surprise). This time I relieved myself by reliving a memorable
moment from my Boston Marathon debut 17 months earlier, joining a procession of
peers lining one side of a landscaped rectangle of picturesque shrubbery.
Pre-race peeing restrictions were certainly a tad more
relaxed in Potsdamer Park, compared to Hopkinton in Massachusetts; though I couldn’t help but
spare a thought for the poor shrubbery, which must have been clinging on for
dear life by the time every anxious racer had ‘decompressed’.
I’m sure a certain amount of urea would have offered fertilizing properties. But likely not the amount that rained down on this portion of PP that morning.
As I'm sure the plants would have agreed, you can have too much of a 'good' thing.
TO BE CONTINUED...