Sunday, 1 November 2015

Lyon Day 2: Markets and Vieux Lyon

Granola bowl at Le Kitchen Café
Our first, and only, full day in Lyon started with drift round the market in Place Jean Macé only a few minutes walk from our apartment. It was a classic French market with lots of cheese, meat and vegetable stalls. The complete opposite of the trendy markets we have here in London, it was centred on produce and people actually do their weekly shops. As well as all the food there was the obligatory stall selling pants.

After the market I was in need of some breakfast so we head to Le Kitchen Café only a five minute walk away. Both Mike and I had read a review of the place in the Guardian and were keen to check it out. I've no idea what the modern food trends are in France, but the café felt like a departure from a traditional French breakfast spot and not dissimilar to a breakfast spot in Sydney or London.

Their menu was pretty small and we all ended up with the granola, which actually turned out to be a bowl of yogurt, covered with a sprinkling of granola and some sliced nectarine on top. I had a herbal tea infusion as well. It was a lot lighter than what I'd usually have for breakfast, but that was probably a good thing considering the weekend we were having!
Outside Les Halles
After breakfast we walked up to Les Halles de Lyon - Paul Bocuse the famous covered market. The market is house in a modern glass and steel box and filled with high end food stalls. It's the type of place that in London would be a mecca for tourists, but everyone seemed to be French and I didn't hear many foreign accents as we wondered round.

About a third of the stalls in the market were small eateries, busy with the lunch trade. We meandered up an down every aisle gawking at the food without actually buying anything. (Flying back with only hand luggage ruled most things out.)

After the market we popped into the mini shopping mall next door to buy a birthday present for Becks.
Opera cakes inside the market
After buying Beck's birthday present we decided that we were in need of some lunch. We headed towards the island thinking we'd see somewhere to stop along the way. We didn't see anywhere which took our fancy before reaching the island so ended up at the touristy Café La Manille in the pedestrian heart of the island.

Lunch was solid, if unspectacular, but it we were getting pretty hungry by the time we found it so it met our needs nicely. It also provided me with the opportunity to have my only oringina of the holiday. It was also the only meal time (breakfasts excluded) where we didn't have a bottle of Côte du Rhone!
Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière
Suitably fortified we head off the western side of the island to the historic Vieux Lyon area of the city. We followed the crowds and climbed the steps up to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. We decided against going inside the cathedral and just admired it from the outside and then stood on the terrace soaking in the panoramic views over the city.
Ed and I with Lyon in the background
Having enjoyed the views we drifted back down the hill stopping briefly in the square outside the Cathédral Saint Jean Baptiste to take a photo along with lots of other tourists.

We then crossed back across the island, passing through Place Bellecour, and headed back to our apartment for a short rest before heading out for a night in Lyon!

All of the places I visited in Lyon have been added to my European adventures map.

Le Kitchen Café
34 Rue Chevreul

Café La Manille
33 Rue Tupin


Thursday, 29 October 2015

The best bouchon in Lyon: Comptoir Chabert

Inside Comptoir Chabert
Or is it only the second best bouchon in Lyon?

Ed's family friend, Catherine, had tried to get us a reservation at her favourite bouchon in the city but they didn't have any tables left, so she booked us in at Comptoir Chabert instead.

It was, quite simply, a fantastic evening.
A selection of the starters
The 27 EUR menu has a single starter and not long after we sat down a plate containing two types of pâté and a salami hit the table. The bouchon was immediately living up to its reputation of being about all things pork.

Shortly long after the pâté arrived at our table a selection of big salad bowls were bought across. The most 'exciting' salad was the veal feet (top right), surprisingly mild and tender cubes of veal. The tastiest salads were the vegetarian potato and beetroot options, covered in sharp and tasty dressing. We also had mackerel and two types of pork. One that looked like thinly shaved bacon and the other a baloney. If I'm honest I wasn't that keen on either.

So generous were the salads that we had to be careful not to fill up on them as they were only the first course!
The main courses were the only choice of the evening. There was a lot of offal of the menu. Head, trotters, sweatbreads and andouillette were all on offer. I whimped out and went for the safest option on the menu, the bavette steak topped with crispy shallots.

Accompany the bavette was a creamy and garlicky gratin dauphinoise. It was heaven.
Gratin Dauphinoise
Once we'd scraped the gratin dish clean, the cheese course was bought out. We had three cheeses to share, a boursin style soft cheese with garlic and herbs, a fresh cheese and half of a Saint-Marcellin (I think).

The fresh and Saint-Marcellin cheeses were my favourites and both appeared to be Lyon specialities as we saw the same cheeses in all of the markets we visited.
Cheese selection
The meal hit its peak with dessert as the big communal bowls arrived back at our table. We had a creme caramel, poached pears, rice pudding, stewed plums and a bucket of îles flottantes.

I enjoyed the poached pears and stewed plums. The rice pudding was sweet and creamy, but my favourite by a long was was the îles flottantes. I love crème anglais and the îles flottantes didn't disappoint and I helped myself to lashings from the huge share bowl.
A selection of the dessert
Everything about the evening was excellent, from the lively atmosphere in the small restaurant to the food which was on point. There wasn't a foot put wrong in anything we ate.

Comptoir Chabert is easily my favourite meal of 2015 so far. If this was the second best bouchon in Lyon I'd love to visit the best!

Comptoir Chabert
13 Quai Romain Rolland

There is a Comptoir Chabert at No 13 and No 14 Quai Romain Rolland. We visited No 13 which is on the left.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Lyon Day 1: London to Lyon and lunch at Brasserie des Brotteaux

My favourite drop of the holiday 
On Friday Ed, Mike and I took the Eurostar to Lyon for a long weekend in France's food capital.

It was an early start and there was a bit of a scrum at check-in, but the train really is a pleasant way to travel. We had a half hour hold up when we emerged from the chunnel as they checked the tracks for a suspected sighting of people on the line. As we were stationary we could see refugees on a bridge above the tracks looking down and, at one spot, blanks flung over barbed wire at the top of the fences. It was all a bit sobering.

Back underway the French countryside glided past at speed, although we couldn't make up the time lost and we arrived in Lyon forty minutes late.
Mike and Ed inside Brasserie des Brotteaux
Our first stop was Brasserie des Brotteaux a 100yr old brasserie located ten minutes walk north of the station. Due to the train delays we were late for our reservation, arriving just after their  kitchen closed at 2pm. However, they still welcomed us in an offering us a limited menu, presumably of dishes that they could knock out quickly.

We all opted for the lamb and shared our first and best bottle of Cote du Rhone of the holiday. The brasserie had a classic interior with tiled walls. I'm not sure if they were original tiles added 100yrs ago, but they were certainly classic.
Lunch was definitely enjoyable, but the high standard of food we ate during the weekend and the fact it was on the first day, meant it slightly faded in the memory.

The mille feuille I ordered for dessert was a modern interpretation served on its side. I definitely enjoyed the créme patissiere that was gluing it all together. Mike's tarte au citron looked a picture.

If I remember correctly it was 30 EUR per person including wine and service which we all thought was great value.
Mille Feuille
After lunch we headed to the AirBnB apartment we had rented for the weekend. From the restaurant to the apartment was around a 40 minute walk through some of the more modern, and less interesting, parts of Lyon. However, we did get to see some brutalist concrete architecture. Some of which had held up better to the test of time than other parts...

Our apartment was better in real life than the photos and proved to be an excellent base for the weekend. All of the rooms had shutters, which I always love, as it means you get to sleep in the complete darkness.
Tarte au citron
After an hour or so relaxing in the apartment we headed down to the river to meet up with Catherine, a family friend of Ed's who lives in the city. She very kindly bought us all a drink at one of the river side bars and we sat and chatted about Lyon and her recent visit to see Ed's mum in London for an hour. Catherine speaks excellent English and has a witty sense of humour, very dryly destroying Ed's pronunciation. I'm just pleased she chose not to pass comment on my French!

Catherine had very kindly made a reservation for us at what she thought was the second best bouchon in Paris (the best being already fully booked). Thanking her for our drink we headed off to find the restaurant for what would be my favourite meal of 2015 so far.

La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière
Brasserie Brotteaux
1 Place Jules Ferry


Friday, 16 October 2015

Honeymoon Day 6: Syracuse, Sicily

The small beach near our hotel on the island of Ortigia
Only five months late and I am getting close to finishing the blog post from our honeymoon!

On our final full day in Sicily we decided to stay on the island of Ortigia after our big museum adventure the day before. We started with a walk along the sea wall on the Eastern side of the island. Ortigia only has a few small beaches and rocky outcrops, but they were busy with swimmers which I thought was quite surprising for an early weekday in May.

As we reached the northern end of the island, it started to get less picturesque and a little grittier so we cut inland through backstreets where it still seemed possible to pick up a run down house ready for gentrification. (Although I doubt at a knockdown price.)

Once we'd arrived back in the historic centre we hit the shops! I managed to comprehensively out purchase Becks (poor form from her) and leave with a new wardrobe. I justified it by telling myself it was cheaper than shopping in the UK and we were doubly benefiting from a strong exchange rate.....
Piazzo Duomo Ortigia
We returned back to our hotel via the Piazzo Duomo, the main square in Ortigia which is home to the cathedral, town hall, the majority of tourists on the island and a couple who were having some wedding photos taken on the steps of the church.

Needing some lunch we headed to a cute little cafe on the same road as our hotel called Cala Piada. It turns out they haven't been open very long and the friendly lady running the shop explained to us that that all of the bread is homemade and how long each of the hams had been aged for.
Inside Cala Piada
We took the freshly made, and still warm piadino, back to the terrace of our hotel. The flat bread was possibly still a little doughy, but the eighteen month old ham, soft fresh cheese and rocket filling went down a treat. It was a bargain at around 5 EUR.
Ham, soft cheese and rocket piadino
After lunch and some time reading, we decided to go for another spin round town to see if we could find a honeymoon present to buy and to soak in the delights of Syracuse for one last time. We'd been joking all week about sampling the brioche ice cream sandwich which is apparently a speciality of Sicily. As we passed a gelateria near the Duomo I could resist no longer and we dived in to buy one.

Brioche and ice cream sounds like it should be a perfect combination, however, I didn't think the brioche added that much. I think I prefer my gelati in a cup.
Ice cream in brioche
With the honeymoon memento purchased, I headed to the small beach near our hotel for my final paddle in the sea. Having only had one swim on the holiday it seemed right that I dipped my feet in the water for a second time even if it wasn't a fully fledged swim.

We were indecisive over where to go for dinner having eaten at the places on the top of our list already. I also had the nagging feeling I should have a pizza while in Italy (even though it isn't a Sicilian speciality). Takeaway pizza and beers on the roof terrace of our hotel for dinner it was. Such a romantic end to our honeymoon!
Final dip in the sea of our honeymoon

Monday, 12 October 2015

Mamma Dough, Honor Oak Park

Lorena pizza at Mamma Dough 
Free from the shackles of the Berlin Marathon, it is time to start eating out again! Last weekend it was a return visit to Masala Wala and this Sunday we headed down to Honor Oak Park to check out Mamma Dough for dinner.

They were busy and we were put on a share table - which wasn't really a share table, just a table for six - with a family group of four. Luckily it all worked out, and to be fair to the waiter, he did warn us that was the only table they had available.
Sardinian meat plate 
They have a compact menu with just four starters and six pizzas, plus a couple of daily specials.

To begin we decided to share the Sardinian meat plate (£6). There were three types of cured meats, an excellent pickle and some of the homemade sourdough. The salami at the top of the board was a fiery number with a real chilli kick. The homemade sourdough didn't have any smoke from the oven and the crumb was pretty dense. If it was one of my loaves, honestly, I'd be a little disappointed. However, I thought it was excellent value at £6. The pickle might have been worth the money alone.
Jon Bon Chovy
I found the prospect of anchovies on my pizza appealing, so went for the Jon Bon Chovy (£10) with anchovies, chillies, capers and olives.

The pizza was a generous size and and I liked it, but didn't love it. Most of the toppings (anchovies, chilli and capers) were concentrated in the middle of the pizza and not that well distributed. Despite what you might expect from the photo, the base wasn't that crispy either.

Becks wasn't keen on the idea of anchovies so I didn't get the opportunity to exchange a slice of my pizza for some of the lorena (£8).
Tiramisu and chocolate brownie
What I did love, without doubt, was the tiramisu (£4). It was luscious, rich and beautifully balanced. I definitely want to eat another one sometime soon. The chocolate brownie (£3.50) was good too and I particularly liked the vanilla ice cream. However, no dessert was going to eclipse the tiramisu.

The service was quick and friendly. There were a couple of minor blips when our table and menu were dirty and we had to ask for them to be wiped down. They also forgot our carafe of wine. However, once it arrived I really liked the red we chose and it was welcome to be able to buy wines by the carafe on a school night.

At £23 each, including service, we thought it was good value too.

Mamma Dough
76-78 Honor Oak Park,
SE23 1DY

Mamma Dough Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Berlin Wrap Up

Part of the Kent AC team who ran in Berlin
After the Berlin marathon I headed back to the apartment for a shower and stretch before heading back into town to the Georgbraeu brew house which had been nominated as the post race venue. It was a pub that I'd visited three years ago when I was in Berlin with my uni friends.

We spent a pleasant couple of hours chatting about our races in the late afternoon sunshine over a couple of beers. Even though we were genuinely all on our best behaviour and no one was drunk told us it was last orders and stopped serving us even as they continued to serve nearby tables. We'd obviously done something to offend and running up a 300 EUR tab obviously wasn't good enough business for them!

Swiss Miss from Zsa Zsa Burger
I surprisingly wasn't that hungry after the marathon but decided that I'd better go out for dinner so headed to Zsa Zsa Burger which was close to the apartment and recommended by the person we'd rented it from.

I decided to wear my medal to the restaurant, hoping it would be a conversation start so I could tell someone about my epic 2:49 or perhaps even a free drink. I noticed a few other runners in the restaurant from the blue wrist bands and none of them were wearing their medals. Deciding it perhaps wasn't the coolest thing after all I tucked my medal inside my jumper.

The burger was pretty good. In London the trend is very much for decadent US style burgers and I'd assumed it would probably be the same here, but it was more a Berlin take on a burger. The coleslaw had a sauerkraut edge and the cheese was a punchy raclette rather than the mild American style cheese.

Half way through the burger I thought my stomach had finally come back to life and I was going to have to order a second, but I was forcing it down by the end and decided not to have dessert.

Inside the Pergamon Museum
My flight back to the UK wasn't until 6pm on the Monday and I'd bought a museum pass so that I could check out a few of the exhibitions on Museum Island before I left the city.

My first stop was the Pergamon Museum. It's currently undergoing a huge renovation project and two of the three wings are currently closed, including the Pergamon Alter that I was hoping to see.

However, the wing which was open was still pretty impressive. Most of the exhibits were on an epic scale like the theatre entrance you can see above. The website describes some of the exhibits as architectural superstructures from Greek and Roman antiquity and I think that is a pretty fair description.

I couldn't help thinking whether they get in any bother for having these superstructures in Berlin like we do for having the Elgin Marbles in London?

After an hour looking round the Pergamon my legs weren't thanking me for so much time standing up.
Neues Museum
My next stop was the next door Neues (New) Museum. I'd read a review that morning saying to go for the architecture of the building if nothing else and it certainly was a beautiful building.

I haven't looked into the history of the building so I don't know how much of it was there pre-war, how extensive the repairs were post war and what type of state it was in at re-unification. However, the latest renovation is a thing of beauty. The different eras of the building have been moulded together brilliantly with a simple palate of materials. It no doubt cost a fortune.

I spent another hour wandering around the Neues museum and my legs certainly weren't thanking me by this stage so I decided to make my way back to the apartment.
East Berlin's TV tower / observation deck
On my way back I walked past the Altes (Old) Museum . The pass I'd bought entitled me to free entry to this museum as well, but I secretly thankfully it was close on Monday's as it gave my legs a break.

Back near the apartment I had some lunch and an ice cream, before buying a couple of gifts for Becks, putting my feet up for an hour and then heading out to the airport.

The plane on the way home was definitely the 'marathon express' with quite a few people wearing their medals and lots of others sporting the distinctive blue wrist bands. After looking distinctly un-cool the night before, my medal was firmly in my bag and I'd cut my wrist band off. Was I the quickest runner on the flight? I'd like to think so.
Altes Museum

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Berlin Marathon Race Notes

I'd set my alarm for 6am as I wanted to eat breakfast three hours before the race, but woke up around 15 minutes before my alarm.

I'd laid all my race gear out and packed my bag the night before, so I was pretty efficient at getting dressed, having breakfast and applying sunscreen etc.. and had finished everything I wanted to do by around 6:30. At 6:45 I left the flat and headed for the start.

I was concerned that the underground trains could be pretty infrequent at that time on a Sunday morning or they'd be packed with runners and I'd struggle to get on, but I hardly had a wait. While nearly everyone else on the train was a runner, I was still able to get a seat on both trains.

I had a 10min walk up to the start and knew roughly where I was going from my last visit to Berlin, but I also knew I'd be able to follow all the other runners heading in the same direction. Because the journey had been much quicker than I expected I stopped, along with quite a few other people, to take a photo of myself in front of the Brandenburg gate.

It was colder than I expected and I considered putting on another layer, but didn't. That was probably a mistake as I spent the next hour feeling cold.

Once inside the starting area I decided to use the loo before the queues got to long. I also grabbed one of the disposable plastic tops they were handing out to put on as an extra layer. I then stood around near my baggage tent for a good 20mins trying to catch some sunshine that was rising up over the Reichstag to stay warm. Unfortunately the sun was a bit to weak to be much help that early in the morning.

Around 8:15 I decided that I'd done enough hanging around, so I handed in my bag before heading to the start area. It was much further than I expected to the start and the paths were more crowded, so I was pleased that I had left enough time. When we were close to the starting pens I did a short warm up jog around the paths in the Tiergarten. I realised I need the loo again, so the warm up was useful for one thing at least.

Thankfully I found a toilet which didn't have too long queues on the far side of the starting pen and didn't have any stress about not being able to make the start on time.

As I was heading back into the starting pens I saw Lawrence from Kent also going in so had a quick word with him. I was looking out for other Kent runners, but was quite surprised not to see anyone else. With ten minutes before the started I decided that I needed another (!) wee so nipped out of the starting pen to use the nearest bush and then I was back in for good.

The start had two lanes. I was on the left hand side, furthest from bag drop, and I did notice that it seemed a lot emptier than the other lane. I didn't have too many problems with the start, but speaking to other people later on who were in the right hand lane found that start quite congested.

With the minimum of fuss were were off at exactly 9am.

Kilometres 0 - 5
I was telling myself not to go out too quickly and was consciously trying to start off in as relaxed a way as I could. Too relaxed it turned out as my watch was showing 4:11 as I went past the first km marker, 11 seconds behind my target pace. I told myself not to panic and I'd bring the time back gradually over the next 10km. I didn't need to try and make the time all back in one kilometre.

Around the 1.5km Amy came past me and we exchanged a few good lucks. She must have started way too far back I thought.

As I went past the second km marker I realised I was obviously doing far too good a job of holding myself back as I'd run the second km behind target pace as well. It was time to consciously turn up the pace (just not too much).

Around the 2.5km point I was running on the blue line and I could see everyone in front of me peeling round to the right. It looked like the blue line (the official route) crossed the central reservation a bit further up, but spectators were now standing on it, so I had to make a slight veer to the right to make sure I got on the right side of the crowds before the turn.

At 3.5km I could feel something underneath my right heel. I'd tried to be really careful putting on my shoes and socks to make sure I didn't get any grit in them. Do I stop? I should stop. I don't want a huge blister under my heel crippling me later. I thought I'd give it a little longer before stopping and thankfully the annoyance went away after around 500m.

Then I started worrying about my left foot. Am I getting pins and needles? When I attached the timing chip to my shoe yesterday did I do my laces back up too tight? I've had a similar sensation on really cold mornings out training and my feet have come good again once they've warmed up. I hoped it would be the same again today.

The 5km marker came up and my watch was showing 20:20. I'd lost 20 seconds in the first two km and had then stabilised.

Kilometres 6 - 10
Just after the 5km we hit the first drinks station. There were going to being drinks stations every 2.5km along the route. I didn't want to take on too many fluids during the race and risk cramp and had only made a very last minute decision that I would pick up a cup at every water station on the way round. A small sip and then the rest over my head to keep cool.

Just before the 7km marker Peter, one of the coaches from Kent, gave me a cheer as I run under a road bridge. It was good to get some support.

I missed seeing the 8km marker and feared that they might have stopped being every km. I still didn't trust my ability to pace and was using them as a support to know I was on track.

My second 5km split was 19:57. That was exactly what I wanted. I'd pulled back three seconds of my 'deficit' in a very controlled way.

I took my first energy gel

Kilometres 11 - 15
The race had definitely begun to stabilise at this point. The runners had thinned slightly and all the people who had gone out too fast were beginning to pull back. I started to slowly over take and work my way through people as I bashed out the metronomic kilometres. Something that would continue for more of less the next 20km.

I was sticking to the blue line painted on the road. Something I'd keep doing until more or less the end of the race.

Just before the 15km marker I started to catch a gentlemen in red vest with 'Wales' written on the back. I don't know why, but I felt like I needed to speak with someone, so guessing he must be an English speaker, I asked him how it was going as I pulled level and we had a short conversation before I pressed on. He seemed to be running the marathon to a target heart rate rather than a specific pace.

19:47 A bit quick, but feels good.

Kilometres 16 - 20
Things were beginning to go well, very well. I was cruising, it felt comfortable and I wasn't too far off half way. Mentally breaking things down in to 5km blocks was working well. Take this feeling through to 30km I told myself and then see what I can do from there.

It was somewhere around this stage that I started to notice the bands along the side of the course. They were pretty regular. Maybe around every kilometre. Good musicians and good for the spirit.

The Kent AC vests can be a bit grating, so I'd put plasters on my nipples that morning. Unfortunately one of the plasters had started to fall off and with all the sweat it was never going to stick back on. With so much of the race left I know I could be in trouble by the end. I'd seen on the course map that there were supposed to be first aid tents and they usually have Vaseline. Slightly worrying I'd not seen one yet, but if I did I was going to grab some Vaseline.

While I'd be running a few people had come past on mountain bikes. They had signs attached to the front which I couldn't see, but I was pretty certain they were officials.

Somewhere around the 19km marker another cyclist came past and he was playing with his mobile phone and had a selfie stick. I didn't see it happen, but I heard a noise and looked up to see that he'd fallen off his bike around 30 / 40m in front of me. He hadn't taken out any runners thankfully and I didn't have to break my stride to get round him. I'm pretty sure he fell because he was playing on his phone. Totally unacceptable in my book and it could have caused a nasty accident.

19:54 - a more sensible split.

I took my second energy gel. As I hadn't seen a medical tent I decided to apply some of the gel to my chest working on the basis it was thick and gloopy like Vaseline. I'm pleased to report it worked.

Kilometres 21 - 25
I don't remember a lot about this segment. I was just knocking out my consistent rhythm.

I went past the half way point in 1:24:20, ten seconds inside my target time. I'd manage to pull back all of the time I'd lost in the first two kms and got a little bit of the time in the pocket. I started wondering if I was actually going tiny bit quick. Should I settle down and save it for a push at the end?

Approaching the 25km marker I could hear some rock music. I thought that the live bands along the side of the road had taken a turn for the worse and I wasn't particularly impressed. When I got a bit closer I could see a women had set up a sound system under a gazebo by the side of the course and was enthusiastically playing air guitar in front of it. It brought a huge smile to my face and gave me a little lift.

19:54 - exactly the same as the previous split.

Kilometres 26 - 30
I noticed that it started to feel like harder work at this point. Not in a bad way, in fact it was really positive that I'd got to this stage and only just started feeling like I had to 'work' to keep up the pace and I'd been able to cruise for so long.

However, it did make me feel that it would probably be unwise to ramp up the pace at the 30km marker.

I'd done what I wanted to do by getting to the 30km marker in a nice an controlled fashion and feeling relatively comfortable. My aim became to keep it going and consider a ramp up at 37km depending on how I felt.

19:51 - another excellent split.

Kilometres 31 - 35
It was a this point that it started to get hard.

At the end of the 31st km I realised I hadn't taken my energy gel so got that down me. It was time to focus and I managed to get back onto pace for the remainder of the split.

I was still steadily over taking people and very few were coming past me which was a positive sign, but the rate at which I was reeling people in had definitely slowed.

It was around this stage that two German runners came alongside me. It appeared that one of them was fitter than the other and pacing their friend. I know next to zero German but I think they were aiming for 4min per km the same as me. I had thoughts of joining them to form a little group, but the more fatigued runner couldn't hold a straight line and I feared he might take me out. I pushed on.

Somewhere around this phase of the race I caught up with three runners who I thought looked like they were working together. As I knew I was beginning to get into trouble I decided to get on the back of them and see if they could help pull me along. I seemed to still have the pace to run through them and pulled away when I got to the front of the group.

The watch of the strongest looking runner in the group was regularly beeping. You can set alarms on your watch to alert you if you drop below a certain pace and I suspect that is what he had done. If we were going to be occupying the same space of road for the rest of the race as beeping man it could get very irritating. I never saw the other two members of that group again, but I did see the beeping guy quite a bit towards the end of the race. Frustratingly he beat me.

19:59 - very respectable. Could I hold this pace? It would be a dream if I could.

Kilometres 36 - 40
The 36th km was a gentle incline and into a head wind. Two challenges I didn't need at that stage. It was a bit of a slog and I did a 4:11 split for the km. I hadn't run this slowly since the first km! This was bad news.

I resolved to lift the pace. I wanted to beat 2hrs 50mins and none of the gremlins from Wokingham were entering my head. I could still hit my target. I wouldn't say I wanted it above everything else, but I was managing to stay positive.

We ran past the end of the road where I'd rented an apartment, not long to go now. There was going to be no lifting the pace for the final 5km, but I needed to maintain and stay on it.

I touched my wedding ring.

Things were beginning to annoy me now like banners over the road that weren't actually km markers. Why are they there being distracting?

Beeping man came up onto my shoulder and then fell back again.

20:50 for the split. That was just about acceptable, but I couldn't afford to lose any more time.

Kilometres 40 - Finish
Having been over taking people for most of the race I was now definitely starting to go backwards. There were a couple of people struggling more than me and I managed to overtake them, but I was canon fodder for most!

I didn't feel resigned to my pace dropping like I have done in previous races and started to put in mini surges in an effort to lift my pace. The change actually felt quite good in my legs, although looking back at my splits I was still getting slower at this stage. However, I think psychologically it was important to do.

Beeping man overtook me and this time I knew it was final.

As we turned onto Unter Den Linden I could see the Brandenburg gate in front of me. I'd seen them put timing mats out underneath the gate earlier that morning. Was it the finish? Oh I hope it's the finish. There isn't enough paraphernalia on the gate for it to be the finish. Oh, no I'm going to have to run on.

I could hear a couple of shouts of my name. That was a help. I made a pathetic kick for home.

As I passed through the Brandenburg Gate I could see the official finish. It seemed a terribly long way away. I wasn't fully conscious of my time, but I had a feeling sub 2:50 was still on.

I was happy to stop my watch at 2:49:53. I'd done it!

I immediately realised how light headed I was feeling so sat down on the kerb about 5 meters from the finish line. There was a doctor standing next to me and he didn't look remotely concerned so I can't have been too bad, but I did take it as a sign that I'd probably given it my maximum if I felt like this.

I decided it wasn't good to be blocking the finish so stood up and moved on. I only made it around 10 meters before feeling the need to sit back down. After a couple of minutes I saw people handing out cups of water a little further along the finishing shoot and decided that is what I needed so stood up again and went to get some water.

I grabbed a goody bag containing some food and then walked further up the finish to see if I could find anyone else from Kent. Due to a security alert in the baggage area we were all being held at the finish. I found Phil and Amy and saw some more Kent runners in the distance. I was feeling pretty nauseous as we stood talking, a state I'd be in for quite a while.

After 20 - 30 mins we were allowed back to start making our way back towards the baggage area. On the way they were handing out alcohol free beer so we all grabbed on and I started to sip it.

I collected my bag. Initially they couldn't find it and I was standing there like an idiot gazing into space. Finally I told myself to stop being dozy and to look for it and point it out to them. I spotted it and with some pointing and a few mutterings managed to retrieve it.

I changed on the grass and began to feel a bit more human again. Once I'd composed myself (and posed for a photo), I went in search of the pre-agreed meeting point to catch up with everyone else. Non-alcoholic beer in hand slowly sipping it as I went.

The data from my watch is here.

The official results are here. I was the 729th finisher and 183rd in my M35 age category.