Berlin Marathon is a Bunny

Not my best time, but I had the best time.

look, it’s a bunny!

Don’t call it a comeback… because it wasn’t. I knew when I broke my sacrum in July that I wouldn’t be fully ready to race in less than 3 months. But I was determined that I would get myself to the start line. So for the very first time since I started running marathons, I didn’t have a time goal. Truthfully, I simply couldn’t come up with a time goal considering I was mostly doing aqua jogging and only got in 3.5 weeks of running with 30ish weekly mileages. I didn’t know what I was capable of. I created a “Berlin Jogging” Spotify playlist with songs that bring me joy, and told myself that, “I am gonna have FUN, and try not to further damage my butt so I can dance on the tables at Oktoberfest.”

my Berlin Marathon race mantra written on my wrist

I still wrote down a conservative pace plan on my arm because who am I kidding, I am a planner. I found out at 11pm the night before the race that there were no mile markers, only kilometers were marked on the course. Well shit. My brain was too mushy to do any calculation. With Josh’s help, I wrote down new, and not so accurate, splits for every 10k with a goal of a ~ 3hr 45min finish. 

It’s a wonderful thing when races start at a later time, when I can wake up at a normal time and not rush out of the door. My hotel was 1.5 miles from the start. I got up at 7:10am. Had some instant coffee, my normal pre-race breakfast of frosted flakes (cough cough sponsorship?) with lactose-free milk, and a quarter of a Maurten 360 drink mix with caffeine. At 8am, I poured the rest of the drink mix into an empty plastic water bottle, put on my throw away/donation clothes, laced up my hot pink racers for the last time (RIP NB RC Elite v2) and started jogging to the start line. 

in the hotel elevator

“I feel like we have been in this line forever.” I said to my friend J as we waited in a never ending line for a porta potty. With 5 minutes to spare, we finally got to the bathroom. I threw away my empty plastic bottle, put my joggers into a donation bin, and jogged to corral C with J. I don’t normally do this much jogging right before running 26.2 miles. But surprisingly I was not stressed about it at all. I was very present, soaking in all the race day excitement, and smiling at runners who were about to embark on this long celebratory run with me. 

The race had already started when we got to our corral. We were one of the last people who got to corral C, and I was glad that neither of us were stressed about it. J decided to stay back to stretch a little bit before starting. “Good luck! See you at the finish line,” she yelled as I moved forward with thousands of runners. I dropped my throw away top, turned on my Shokz, hit the start button on my Garmin, and started to run. 

mile 1. still have my throw away gloves on.

Spectators were 3 people deep for the first mile. I could feel the race day excitement and energy running through my body. That’s when it hit me. I made it! 12 weeks after fracturing my sacrum, with the support and encouragement from my coach, friends, training partners, and family, I am here, running the freaking Berlin Marathon. The watch buzzed, 1 mile, 7:54. Huh, that’s a lot faster than I expected, and man there were really no mile markers in this race. What does this pace mean for the finish time? Ugh can’t do math while running. It’s fine. It’s going to be #BrokenButtPR as long as I cross the finish line. My legs felt light, the pace felt smooth, and no pain on my butt. Let’s just see what I can do! 

The 6k marker came up quickly. I thought Josh said he would be on the right, but I couldn’t find him. I had never missed him in a race before. Maybe he didn’t realize that I am running faster than I planned? Or maybe my time chip is not working? I have never run with a timechip that needs to be put on your shoes before. Oh I hope I did it right. Maybe I should stop and check to see if my dot is moving in the app. I am feeling great! If I run back to the start now, I can probably still start with the last wave. No no no, that’s insane. I can always get my medal at the finish, and if my time is not clocked, I can come back again to run this race in the future to get the star (Abbott Six Star Journey). As my thoughts rumbled, I took my first Maurten gel when my watch buzzed at mile 4. 

I was with friends in the area between 7k-10k the day before. The memory of trying to find friends in a foreign country without cell phone service, ordering street food without knowing what it was, and looking for non-bubbly water (a real struggle in Germany) at this exact place made me smile and kept me company. When I passed the 10k marker, I tried to understand how far ahead I was from the pace I had planned. I quickly realized that I didn’t know how far off from the gun time my start time was, and my watch’s screen didn’t have the total time on it. I knew I had the total time on the second screen of my watch, but I didn’t want to mess with it during the run. Whatever. I am just going to run this whole thing by feel. 

I took a Gatorade gel at mile 8. Only 4 gels left. Nothing hurts, I was not breathing heavily, I still had energy to thank the volunteers who handed me the water, and I can still weave around to high five the kids. Am I really running a marathon? This feels too easy. Well, there is still a long way to go. 

There they are! I ran out of the crowd, put on the biggest smile, and threw my arms in the air to wave to my friends at 14k. They came to Berlin from Amsterdam for the race. I can’t believe my luck that I have such supportive friends. They were looking at their phone right before spotting me, so maybe my tracker was working?! But Josh was supposed to be at 14k as well. He was nowhere in sight. 

The next couple of miles were a blur. Not the normal pain cave kind of blur in a race, but an overall adrenaline rush from engaging with the crowd. Turns out “Amanda” was a very easy name to pronounce in Germany. I was happily surprised to hear so many people yelling my name. I smiled and swung my arms in the air every time to acknowledge the cheer. And since I made a conscious effort to run on the side to give high fives to kids, all the parents would shout out my name as I passed. I waved at bands that were playing folk music. I thanked the grandmas who had pots and rolling pins in hand to make noise for the runners. I pointed at people with Chicago flags. Oh this is fun!  

My secret skill is finding all the cameras on the course

J passed me around mile 18.5. She looked so smooth and joyful. She was gonna crush her goal! She waved at me, and I shouted “Good luck!!” 

I knew that I was running around 8 min/mile pace this whole time. But I didn’t know my exact pace since I had no idea how many extra miles I ran from weaving through the crowd. And I had given up on doing math hours ago. What I did know was that around here is usually when things start to hurt. I did a quick body check. Proper form, no pain, light feet. I was feeling a little fatigue, but my oh my I have never felt so good this late into a race. This thought gave me an extra energy boost as I ran past the 30, 31, 32k marker. 

Right after the 32k marker I saw me and my cat Zola’s heads on a stick. Oh thank god there is Josh! He looked ecstatic when I saw him. Huh, maybe I was too busy high-fiving the kids and missed him before. 

Don’t stop me now

I am having such a good time

I am having a ball 

Queen’s song was playing in my ears when I felt my butt for the first time in the race. My watch just buzzed for mile 20. No no, not now. Shut up butt, don’t do this to me. I am having such a good time! It was not a sharp pain, but rather a cloudy feeling alerting me that something was not right. I lightened up my pace, hoping that it would go away. 

I slowly and carefully approached the 34k marker. Just over 8k to go! What does that even mean? I started distance running in the States, and km markers don’t click the same way as mile markers in my mind. Well I know that’s only a Shamrock Shuffle distance to go! Sounds manageable. Oh wait, my butt feels fine now. I didn’t know how that had happened, but hey I would take it! 

A lot of people started to drop back between 38-40k. We happened to be staying around that area, and we had walked this exact part of the course the day before. The unintentional visualization walk helped a lot. “Good job runners! We are so close!” a runner shouted enthusiastically. I smiled, and picked up the pace a bit. 

smiling through the final 2k of the race

The final part of the race felt like a party. I knew I was running a bit faster than before, but I didn’t look down to check my pace. I was simply excited. This was the first marathon that I was not in pain at any point. I tried to hype up the crowd a couple of times with the biggest smile on my face. The crowd in Germany was not as loud as Boston or Chicago. But people still responded. They were cheering for me left and right. “Go Amanda! My name is also Amanda!” “WOOHOO!” I laughed, thinking that must be one of the weirdest cheers that I have ever gotten. 

For the first time, I didn’t immediately stop my watch as I crossed the finish line. I wanted to soak in all the joy and excitement. And for the first time, I teared up. I have run a decent amount of PRs in the past couple of years, but I have never felt this way. It was pure joy. It was not my best time, but I had the best time.

And cherry on top? I negative split by over 2 mins, and ran a 3:22:35. Holy shit. 

The proper way to celebrate in Germany – a cold beer and a salty pretzel

Maybe this is the secret of a good international race – have a conservative time goal, forget about said time goal on the course, and don’t obsess about pasta the night before (we simply couldn’t find an Italian restaurant that was not fully booked, so we wandered into a French restaurant. I had scallops with rice, and a lot of bread).

Thank you all for reading, and for the love and support during my injury! Butt feels good but not great. Looking forward to a lot of rest, and running for fun for a while.  

Coming Back from Setbacks

Since I got serious about running, I have been very lucky when it comes avoiding injuries or any setbacks that would take me away from running for weeks at a time. However, life is full of surprises. On an evening about 9 weeks ago, only 4 weeks into my Berlin Marathon training cycle, I was rushing downstairs while wearing socks and slipped and fell on our wooden stairs. After a chaotic midnight ER visit, I was informed that I have an acute, comminuted fracture of the inferior sacrum, which I had to google. “You are lucky it’s a clean break! You need to refrain from any exercise for a couple of weeks, but you can probably still run the Berlin Marathon,” doctor said to me while putting me on a heavy dose of painkillers to help me rest.

I knew then that if I didn’t want this injury to consume me, I needed to make some changes in my life and how I approach running. And I was also aware that being injured sucks. I knew that I would be sad and frustrated during the recovery process no matter how hard I tried to be positive, and it’s totally ok to feel those feelings. Sit with them. Process them. For me, it was a lot of sitting in a dark room playing back the scene when I fell in my head until I got to the point where I acknowledged that there was nothing I can do to change what has already happened. I accepted the situation, and tried my best to stop blaming myself. I still fall back into that negative mental space from time to time, thinking what if. I have to constantly remind myself that I am here now. I need to look ahead and move forward. 

Separating Myself from the Sport

I happened to be reading the book “How She Did It” when I was injured. There was a quote from the sports psychologist Ro McGettigan, “It’s a secure place to know and believe that you are whole without this sport.”

I tried my best to be intentional about the things I do to cultivate a positive environment for myself. I deleted Strava, and stopped listening to running related podcasts (which was about 60% of my podcast consumption). I made a list of things that bring me joy outside of running. It included things like reading, cooking, baking, socializing, and bubble baths with scented candles. But in the beginning of the recovery, things were rough. I couldn’t stand for an extended period of time, and I couldn’t sit up straight without a donut pillow. And even with the pillow, I could only sit still without pain for about 20 minutes at a time. This ruled out most of the things that were on my list. Luckily, listening to audiobooks was still on the table. So in the first couple of weeks, I was mostly in the crocodile pose, listening to audiobooks recommended by friends and family. 

Slowly but surely, I was able to take longer walks, start cooking on my feet, and hanging out with friends. Every little bit of progress felt like a big milestone. 

The World Athletics Championship was happening two weeks after my injury. By then, I was able to get into a good mental state knowing that I can still be a fan of the sport without being a part of the sport. I cannot tell you how much energy and joy the track and field events gave me. Being able to separate these two things changed my perspective of this injury, and allowed me to maintain a healthy relationship with running. 

Adjusting Goals

I had big goals for Berlin. I have been seeing significant progress in my marathon times over the past couple of years, and I wanted to see how fast I could go before taking a much needed break from back to back marathon training blocks. After the injury, I had to let go of my racing goals. I tried my best to look at the positive side that I still get to go to Berlin and run the course. I knew that I wouldn’t do well in Berlin, but I wanted to be there. The new main goal was to finish the race healthy.

I reeled in my focus to small and attainable goals, like staying present (instead of thinking about what if), staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, walking 15-20 minutes every day after week 2, learning about aqua jogging and starting to incorporating that into my training, scheduling a PT session before attempting to run, trying to run/walk for 30 minutes after week 3, and starting to work with my running team’s running coach individually. I didn’t come up with all the goals at once. Many of them were built on each other based on how my body felt. I learned to be flexible with the physical goals so that I could be kind to my body. As much as I want to run the Berlin Marathon, I will take a life-long relationship with running over 3 hours in Berlin in a heartbeat. 

I played around with the idea of setting long-term goals like starting weight training by x day and signing up for races down the line to fire up my competitive side. But I didn’t want to rush my body to get ready for a race if I didn’t have to, and I didn’t want to put extra pressure on my mind, which was working overtime to stay positive. I know I will race against the clock again in the future. I just don’t know when that will be at the moment. 

Adjusting Body Image and Self-talk

I have always loved sweets and baked goods. And I often struggle to keep my weight up during marathon training. During my recent back-to-back marathon training blocks, I was able to eat all the sweets and pastries and ice cream that my heart desired and count them towards the fuel that my body needed to recover from hard workouts. 

When I went from running 40-50 miles a week to barely able to walk, my body naturally started to change. A week after the injury, I noticed that a pair of jeans was feeling tight and I freaked out. I cut down my meal portion, refused to snack during the day, and announced to my husband that I wouldn’t have any sweets until I started running again. Was I hungry? Of course I was. I was drinking flavored water like tea and Nuun to distract myself from hunger. 

About 4 weeks after the injury, I stepped on a scale (which I don’t really do). I did a double take at the number in disbelief. The last time I was that light was before high school. I asked my husband to weigh himself to see if the scale was broken. It was not. I was broken. 

I started reflecting on my relationship with food, and how I let my mental image of myself and my unhealthy relationship with my body get in the way of fueling my body to recovery. Although my physical activities have gone down, I still need energy and nutrients to help in the healing process. I realized that I needed to have a healthy relationship with my body, outside of the sport. 

I added more vegetables back, then carbs, then a controlled amount of sweets. With the increased calories, I noticed a significant change in productivity at work and energy during the day.  There are still days when I caught myself trying to skip meals because I didn’t “move enough” or simply because I “felt heavy”. I had to remind myself that my body needs the energy to heal and recover. It’s still a work in progress. But at least it’s going in the right direction. 

In Summary

I’m not back yet, and that’s okay. I’m going to be here, and in running, for a long time. And that’s the point. More updates to come in the future, many more updates.

Setting Smart Running Goals

Tips for setting long-term and short-term running goals.

It’s ironic that I procrastinated the most on the post about goal setting. I can blame it on the holiday travel, the dark and gloomy weather, and the holiday stress. But isn’t the whole point of setting a goal to help you stick to it even when things get hard? It is intimidating to tackle a topic when I am personally struggling with it. You see, we are on this journey of learning together. And at the very least, I am still here. And I am glad that you are here. 

The holiday season is officially here. I can smell the gingerbread cookies, pumpkin spice, and pinewood in the grocery stores. It’s the time of the year when people start to wrap up this year, and set goals for the new year ahead. I was one of those people who would write down shiny new year’s resolutions, but never stick to them for more than 2 months. After a couple of years, I decided to take a moment to pause and ask myself about the “why” – why I never follow through, and more importantly, why I set those specific goals. I actually did the exact same exercise today hoping to get back on my running and writing schedule. Understanding the “why” helped me to reevaluate some of the fancy grand goals, and adjust them to smart goals that are tangible, actionable, and motivational. And when I say motivational, I am not talking about things like those “inspirational” posts that you see on social media. I meant things that get YOU going. Everyone finds motivation in different things. I will go into this more later. 

When it comes to setting goals for running, it is twofold. The long-term goals, and the short-term goals. Coming up with these two sets of goals will require you to take some time to think and even write down your thoughts, so you can properly process and understand your goals, and set your mind to filter out any distractions or obstacles that may come in the way of you chasing after your goals. 


Long-term goals can be anywhere between a year to a decade. These goals do not need to tie to a race distance or a goal time. This is where you get to dream a little bigger and figure out what kind of role you would like running to play in your life. Here are a couple of questions to get you started:

  • What’s your “why”? 

Everyone gets into running at different times in their lives, and everyone runs for different reasons. It could be for mental health, physical health, social interaction with running friends, getting to places, the ability to eat another donut guilt-free, the love for type 2 fun…etc. Your “why” could change during different periods of your life, therefore reassessing your goals every once in a while is necessary. Understanding why you chose this sport, what you get out of this sport, and what this sport means to you would allow you to see what kind of role you would like running to play in your life.

For me, mental health is the main reason I run, especially in the winters. Everyone knows that winters in the midwest are brutal. They are dark, gloomy, windy, and snowy. Every year I can feel my mood change along with the seasonal change. And I have come to realize that if I stop running during this time of the year, I would soon find myself curled up in a ball on my couch for days. Running helps. It helps lift the cloud in my head and makes me feel alive. As much as I dislike the idea of running in the cold, I know I will feel better if I just get myself out of the door and start moving. Therefore, although I am competitive and I love racing, the top priority of my long-term running goals is to avoid burnout so that I can enjoy running as a sport and keep my mental health in check. 

  • What keeps you motivated?

Everyone is motivated by different things. It could be a time goal for a specific distance, a distance goal (like running a marathon), a race goal for the number of races you run (one of my friend’s mom had a goal of running one marathon in each state in the U.S! So inspirational.), a social goal to stay connected with running friends or make new friends…etc. Whatever it is, use it to put together your long-term goals. 

  • How to have a long and enjoyable running career/hobby?

If you are here thinking about long-term goals, you probably want to be able to enjoy the sports for as long as you can! Although long-term goals are where you can dream big, it’s important to be realistic about it so you can (hopefully!) avoid injury. For example, if you are about 30 mins away from BQ/NYQ, and you want to get that qualifying time, maybe give yourself 1-3 years to get there. We are here for the long haul. To avoid injury, increase your pace by a small percentage at a time, and slowly increase the distance of the peak week of your marathon training (like moving from 38miles/week to 42miles/week, that’s a little over 10% increase).


This is for the next few months, next season, or your next training cycle. If you have specific time goals or distance goals, make sure that they are not overly aggressive for this short amount of time. And although the timeframe is much shorter, you can still go back to evaluate and adjust the goals in the process. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Again, what’s your “why”?

This is the key that would keep you motivated. Your “why” could change from race to race, and from season to season. So always start with the “why” when you are getting into a new training cycle or stepping into the off-season. Yes, it is helpful to have a goal for your off-season as well. I learned that the hard way by going into a high-mileage marathon training with only 10 mile/week running, and my joints were in pain for weeks (I am still shocked that I didn’t get injured!). 

To give some examples, my “why” for the winter half marathon training in 2019 was to keep hanging out with my running group. Therefore, I didn’t have a time goal. During the whole training, my goal was to have fun! Did I still try hard on race day? You bet I did! It’s actually my standing half marathon PR. And I also PR’d running friends, who are now some of my closest friends. 

Had so much fun that we became the poster kids for our training group! If you are in the Chicagoland area, highly recommend checking out Chicago Endurance Sports (CES) Winter Warriors and Summer training programs
  • What keeps you accountable?

Knowing what keeps you accountable could help you figure out how to structure your goals. This is where you need to be very honest with yourself. Make sure that the goals are framed in a way that works for YOU. For example, I need to have very specific goals to keep myself accountable. Keeping myself in shape in the off-season is a goal that may work for some, but it’s not specific enough for me. I need to tie it to a specific weekly mileage and a specific number of active days/week. 

  • How does this fit with your long-term goals?

Short-term goals are generally the stepping stones for long-term goals. However, it’s not necessary. You can totally set goals that are for fun (like doing a beer mile! I did it once. And I am very proud that I didn’t puke until I crossed the finish line!). But understanding the relationship between them would help you prioritize your short-term goals. Are they tied to a long-term performance goal? If yes, those goals may need to be moved to the top of the list.

If anyone needs some examples to brainstorm ideas, I am going to share my goals here. I want to preface this by saying, as I mentioned in the beginning, I am not great at setting goals. This is also a learning process for me. I don’t necessarily have an order of setting long-term and short-term goals. Since the marathon is my distance, and I am motivated by my competitiveness with myself, I tend to always have a moving target for my short-term race goal time. And to be very honest, this is the first time I am putting my long-term goals in words. I always have a general idea of what I want out of this sport, but I never actually attempted to write them down. 

Short-term goals:

  • Strength training twice a week 
  • Running 4-5 times per week with at least 25 weekly miles before Boston training starts
  • Run one 8-10 mile long run per week before Boston training starts
  • Aiming for the higher mileage in the marathon training plan
  • Run easy days easy (1:30-2 mins off my marathon pace)
  • Qualify for the NYC marathon (I am currently 2 minutes 38 seconds away from the marathon qualifying time)
  • Break my own half marathon PR (I am planning on doing a half during my next marathon training cycle)

Long-term goals:

  • Break 3:00 marathon (in the next 3-5 years)
  • Run a 5k under 20 minutes
  • Run all six major marathons
  • Have fun! (If it ever gets to the point that’s adding stress in my life, I will re-evaluate my short-term goals.)

Let me know if you try these tips and how do you like them! Yeah Running.