In Berlin for the marathon, testing my cousin Becci’s patience with the logistics of travelling with a handbike – its big, its long, a no-go in most taxis, and I was refused on a train when we got here for not having pre-booked assistance, and that was before they saw the bike! (Mind you, there were 20 bikes in the train carriage when I eventually did get on – hard to imagine that scene on a British train who usually strop over one).
Marathon morning rose warm and sunny, a stark contrast to last years incessant rain. To win I would have to beat the reigning World Champion – Switzerland’s goddess-like Ursula Schwaller – which I’ve never managed yet (though only lost to her by 0.1 seconds in a race last month). I got lucky and was donated a perfect, front-line starting position and as we sat for half an hour awaiting the countdown, I worked on my head. “You can do it!” has become my pre-race mantra, and a bit of me believes that I can win – and I’m slightly bored of the seeming predictability of results that comes with handbike racing once the first race of the season has defined the pecking order. Could this be the race where I can do it at last?
3,2,1 and we shot off the start, fast leaving the famous Reichstag behind us. I get a bit nervous in race starts, over 200 handbikes, testosterone levels disturbed by a woman cranking past, wheels almost shaving. Ursula was just ahead of me, but she’s a fast starter, and I struggled to get on her wheel. Things settled down, and I worked in a bunch. Becci saw people racing taking pictures of famous landmarks along the route, but I saw nothing but the wheel in front, and a blur of crowd, concentrating hard not to crash at 40kph.
So, second it was, in 1 hr 17 and around 50 seconds, with Ursula 30 second faster (though she got dropped from a bunch when her brake cable snapped in the last 10km. I have to be pleased with 2nd in the Berlin Marathon – after all, Paula Radcliffe was 3rd – and I rode 10 minutes faster than last year…and I’ll keep holding out for that day when the result isn’t predictable.