grand prix von bern

On Saturday afternoon Martin and I headed down to Bern for my first Swiss road race. After weeks of sunny and warm summer weather, spring had returned with cool days and lots of thundershowers. It was overcast when we arrived in Bern around 1:30 pm, but by the time we had finished a quick pre-race lunch the rain was coming down. I tried not to think about the rain and cold, and my anticipation about running 10 miles with thousands of others on wet, cobbled streets. I got my number and Martin and I enjoyed an espresso and huddling under umbrella until my section’s start time around 4:18 pm.

A group of runners along Bern’s main street heading towards the finish.

A group of runners along Bern’s main street heading towards the finish.

Normally I enjoy running in rain. At least I don’t mind if it starts raining when I run. I guess I got well trained in Seattle where I looked forward to long Sunday runs along the Burke-Gilman Trail ending with a warm drink from Starbucks. Sometimes, on days when the 7-9 miles felt too long, I’d tell myself that I could only get a drink if I finished the planned mileage. It usually worked. I thought about this nearly all of my run through Bern and it was even more motivating because my Starbucks visits here rare and special.

Finding my smile for Martin.

Finding my smile for Martin.

By my start time I was already soaked and a bit cold. I was looking forward to the run being over. I felt little defeated already, but Martin had convinced me that I could do it despite the weather. I was looking forward to starting the run and warming up. The first few miles were fast and uneventful. The 700 people in my start block ran off so speedily that I finished the first three miles under my goal pace. After running through the city we headed down to the river and I slowed my pace. I didn’t want to bonk before the 5th mile or I knew would never finish. Plus, Martin had promised to find me somewhere along the route and I couldn’t be caught walking.

By mile 7 I was covered in mud and my shoes were filled with puddles. I was ready to stop having barely made it through the last mile and one-half on a muddy forest trail where the air was very thick and heavy. But I pushed on and made it back onto the streets and kept looking for Martin.  He finally found me and managed to catch a few photos as I went by.

Concentrating on not slipping around mile 8.

Concentrating on not slipping around mile 8.

At the last water stop I recovered a little energy and stayed behind an older runner that was near collapse on the last hill. Eventually he did tumble off onto the grassy side of the hill and I pushed on. I managed a good run to the finish for the last kilometer and was very happy to be done.

All in the all the worst part of the race was the trip home on the train.Wet, cold, and sweaty I just got colder and colder on the trip home. I was very thankful for my coffee, Martin warm and dry next to me on the train, and a very hot shower when I got home.

Martin made me dinner and we spent the rest of the evening watching our first Eurovision competition. It was definitely a new cultural TV experience. If you want to get an idea of the level of talent I would recommend googling the Eurovision entries for Moldova, Ireland, Denmark, and Italy. Our favorites were Italy and Azerbaijan (the surprising winner), but there were some really awful national entries.

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