Even prior to the race, the 32nd real,- BERLIN-MARATHON was somewhat special for me. For one, it was the interest demonstrated by the press, and on the other, the special starting group of blind and visually impaired runners. I thus gave interviews for both the Tagesspiegel and the BZ (Berliner Zeitung).
Among the 39,000 runners on September 25th at the real,- BERLIN-MARATHON, there were also 10 blind and visually impaired runners. We are tethered to our guides with shoelaces. Our special starting group, made up of five women and five men, was able to start from the second starting block directly behind the elite runners.
We would like to take the opportunity here to thank the organisers, SCC-RUNNING, for this opportunity.
Being able to start so far ahead in the field generated a general feeling of excitement for the blind and visually impaired runners. For me, this was the second time getting to start behind the elite runners, after doing so in Hamburg in April 2005.
Words of attention
Uneven areas, curves, our times, and the distance marks had to be announced to us. We also require more space than other runners, so that someone can run next to us. It is easier to pass us than it is for us to pass others. In addition, attempts to pass not only cost us more energy, they also require a great amount of concentration on the part of our sighted guides.
I had my first small surprise at the start. My trainer, Jürgen Köllner, was at the start giving me the last advice on the race. This was the first marathon where I had my own trainer with me. My goal was to surpass my own world best performance of 3:31:36h.
I had three guides supporting me for the race. For me as a blind runner, it is important that each guide is a better runner than I am, in order to assist me safely along the course. If I were to have decided on only one single guide, he would have to have been able to run the marathon course approx. 20 minutes faster than my targeted time.
If one wishes to have one’s time accepted as a world best performance, international regulations must be adhered to. These regulate that a blind or visually impaired runner may have up to four guides. Of course, only one can accompany you at one time. The changes have to take place at the 10, 20 or 30 km marks.
Claus Rasmus accompanied me along the first 10 kilometres, as he wanted to run the entire race for himself, as well. Before the race it was also agreed upon that another visually impaired runner would run behind me. His remaining vision just sufficed to be able to run the race on his own. He knew, of course, that my target time was 3.25h to 3.28h.
Already after five kilometres, he was no longer behind me, and I thought he must have fallen back. Afterwards upon looking at an internet report, I discovered to my astonishment that he had passed me after 5 kilometres and that he had a lead of two minutes at the 21-kilometre mark. He probably regretted his decision on the second half of the course, however.
I reached the 10 km mark in a time of 48:10, and from there Stephan Möhnle was my guide.
Several other runners cheered me on along the first 20 km, shouting things like: “Fantastic, how you do it!” I reached the 30-km mark as I had planned in a time of 2:23:50h. For the last and most difficult kilometres, I had the well-known runner Franz Feddema on my side. It was naturally always nice to hear the enthusiasm of the spectators, “There goes the blind woman!”
"An attempt to keep up the pace"
On the last 12 kilometres I was also able to experience the cheers from a different perspective. Many running friends cheered Frannz on, and that too was a great feeling for me. And of course I cannot forget all of the friends who lined up along the course on this beautiful day.
At km 33 I met my trainer, Jürgen Koellner. When he asked, "How are you doing?" I only answered quickly that I was not sure if I could keep up the pace. With the tip: “Just try to keep your pace,” he said goodbye.
A good training is worth a lot - Jürgen Köllner
After the race I really realised how important it is to have a good trainer. What I did not know was that at that time the visually impaired runner, Michaela Kummer, still had three minutes on me (at 21 km she even had an 5-minute lead!). So I tried to keep the pace. Then about 250 m before the finish, Franz suddenly told me that there was another visually impaired runner still ahead of me. So I had to mobilise all of my energy. After a final sprint, we crossed the finish just ahead of Michaela. I was completely exhausted and elated with my time of 3:22:08h.
Already five minutes after crossing the finish the first interviews took place, including a live interview on RBB. A little while later I was escorted in a Smart convertible from the organisation team for my doping control. The first visually impaired man to cross the finish was Hans Demmelhuber with a time of 3:45h.
BZ - "BERLIN’S BLIND HEROINE" on the cover — with a photo
The next day I was completely surprised to find my picture on the cover of the BZ Berlin newspaper and to see my newly set world best performance as a headline on the subway television screens. Well, actually I found out about the headlines from friends who congratulated me one or two days later.
I thought to myself, too bad that I could not catch a glimpse of the looks of the passengers myself.
I had never received so many words of congratulation after a marathon.
Does one call that the home advantage? All I can do now is to express my sincere thanks to my sighted guides, my trainers, and especially to my husband Harald for their support. Although it was my performance that counted, without my guides it would not have been possible.
Regina Vollbrecht 3:22:08
Michaela Kummer 3:22:08
Ulrike Wilhelm 3:58:13
Conny Dietz 4:53:02
Hans Demmelhuber 3:45:54
Georg Janßen 4:03:27
Jeffrey Norris 4:19:54
Ottmar Miles-Paul 5:22:40
Most of the participants were so excited about the race that they are certain to run again at the next real,- BERLINMARATHON 2006. For me the motto is valid:
After the race is before the race.
In a few weeks I will start preparing for the marathon in Hamburg on April 23, 2006.