15 Miles at my “Berlin Marathon Training Camp”

One of the things I've learned about by reading way too many blogs is the existence of the endurance event training camp. My understanding is that such things are aimed at Ironmen-to-be who spend several days doing crazy workouts at their race sites in order to get prepared for key elements of race day.

Luckily, my Berlin Marathon training plan afforded me the opportunity to do something along these lines, albeit on a smaller scale. For my next-to-last pre-taper long run, I:

  • Took a red-eye flight across time zones
  • Fueled with questionable food
  • Ran a long distance on an unfamiliar route
  • Followed up the run with Oktoberfest beer and sausage

So, basically just like race day.

A college friend got married in Madison on Sunday, and our flight left San Francisco just after midnight Saturday. I'm an excellent sleeper, a real champ, and so sleeping on a red-eye has never been an issue, but the flight from SFO to Chicago is just three and a half hours, only three of which ever end up being truly sleepable. I got my three hours, plus maybe a 20-minute catnap on the connection to Madison, but it wasn't exactly a proper night's sleep.

I also didn't eat enough dinner and so was starving by the time we reached O'Hare, and knowing I'd be running in a few hours, I fueled up right…with a McDonald's breakfast meal. Not the smartest decision I've ever made before a run, though I'm sure I've made dumber.

We got to our hotel too early to check in, so we changed and sunscreened in the lobby bathrooms, stored our bags, and were on our way to the Lake Monona path by 10 a.m. After not running all week, I wanted to get all 15 miles in if I could, but not at the expense of ruining any calf/achilles healing that might have happened. The route we mapped went all the way around the lake, so I figured I'd make a call after a couple of miles about how much I thought I could do, so as to not get stuck on the opposite side of the lake from our hotel with no choice but to walk it in.

We got lucky with the weather: overcast and not humid, and no warmer than 80 degrees. The wind was crazy in a few places, but the Midwest could have dealt us much, much worse. I had envisioned the route taking us right alongside the lake, but I suppose there’s a little thing called “valuable lakefront property,” so we were typically a block or so back, running through a smattering of parks and boat launches. We spent the first couple of miles consistently picking the wrong sidewalk but eventually noticed that the road was marked at each turn, and things went more smoothly from there.

I felt good from the start, and — except for a brief section of trail with uneven footing — my leg never complained. I’d never run 15 miles before, but as Ellen said, the neat divisibility of it is quite lovely. The first 5 was all about settling in and getting a handle on the path, the second 5 a series of rolling hills and a few great views of the skyline.


As we turned toward downtown, things got ugly — major headwind that blew my hat off three times before I finally decided to just hold it like a tiny hand-held sail; no-sleep legs that refused to push that wind aside any faster than 11:15 pace; stairs to street level (the indignity!). The path got us to the hotel just under 13 miles, and wow, was I ready to be done, but I thought: how many times in a marathon will I want to be done? I knew I could run the other 2 miles, so I did, albeit slowly while weaving through Taste of Madison and UW tailgating crowds.

In all honesty, I'm glad to have done these things before Berlin — one of my worries has been how I’ll react to jetlag, and granted, I’ll be crossing nine time zones then and not two, but I’ll also have another day to adjust, and now I know I can run a significant distance even while ridiculously tired. And eating non-ideal food before the run? Other than an ugly bathroom stop around mile 10 when a Shot Blok suddenly needed to be disposed of, it could have been worse.

And, then we drove to “America’s Little Switzerland” and ate sausage and drank beer. JUST like Berlin.



  • This is the point in training where I get excited about running “only” 15 miles and then wonder what aliens have eaten my brain. This is still my fourth-longest run ever!
  • My average pace worked out to 10:30/mile almost exactly, even with a slower final three miles. Averages are my friend.
  • As a hill snob, I way underestimated the hilliness of Madison.
  • Probably had 30-40oz of water with one Nuun tab over the course of the run, plus a Gu at 1:00 and the ill-fated Shot Bloks at 1:45.
  • Post-run craving: a slurpee. I actually spotted an Italian ice Taste of Madison booth, but it didn’t open till about 20 minutes after my run ended. It tasted just as good a few hours later, though.
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One thought on “15 Miles at my “Berlin Marathon Training Camp”

  1. Jen says:

    Nice job! I also fell victim to headwinds this week during my run along the Bay Trail. Headwinds are the invisible hill, except worse because, unlike downhills, you don’t really get a good push from tailwinds.

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