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22 September 2019

He has been the first South African home three years in a row at the London Marathon. Having run a PB of 2:30.01 at this year’s race, Nicholas Bester just missed his longtime dream of dipping under the elusive 2:30 marathon time. But in less than a week from now Nick hopes to make that dream come true at the 2019 Berlin Marathon.
And looking at his recent training and racing logs it seems a very realistic goal. With a PB of 15.20 over the 5km distance, 32.23 over the 10km distance and a 70.46 over the half marathon distance it seems Nick is on track to cross the finish line on 29 September in Berlin in a sub 2:30.
“My main goal at Berlin is definitely finding those two seconds that London managed to just steal from me! Knowing I had an outside chance at London Marathon and missing it by two seconds has made me even more motivated and determined. I feel like I have the ability to do it and I am in good shape but having said that, a marathon is a long way and a lot can happen on the day. I’ll be sure to give it my absolute best effort, leave nothing out there, and see what time I finish up with. Whatever happens on the day, I feel privileged to be able to take part in a first-class event like Berlin. There is no better feeling in the world than the endorphin release after giving it your all at a marathon,” says Nick, who works as a Private Banker at Investec in the UK.
It will be his first time doing Berlin. “Since watching Eliud Kipchoge set those streets on fire and smashing the world record, I couldn’t wait to enter this race. I was so keen I probably got the first entry that became available and haven’t looked back since then. I feel privileged to be able to run on the same course where Eliud took running to the next level. It’s a pity he’s not running this year but completely understandable considering his sub 2-hour marathon attempt just a few weeks later, which for me is probably the most exciting thing since Brexit!”
Training post London
After the London Marathon Nick took a few weeks off to recover both physically and mentally. “Racing a marathon and running as hard as you can takes toll on the body and mind. After a few weeks off, I was itching to start training again and it has been all systems go on the road towards Berlin. My training has gone really well. I initially focused on shorter distances and increasing my speed over 3km, 5km and 10km. From there I have built up the mileage whist trying to maintain the speed. It is always tricky to get the combination right. Too much mileage makes the legs tired and takes away speed, but too much speed and not enough mileage is a recipe for hitting that wall in the last 10km of a marathon. So I’m hoping I’ve got it just right.”
Finding 2 seconds 
Nick is hoping he has done enough and of course the right training to “find those 2 seconds” to dip under 2:30. “I’ve made small changes which I’m hoping will find me those extra two seconds. I’ve run my easy/recovery runs slower than normal allowing me to push harder and faster in my speedy/quicker sessions. Apart from just running I’ve also increased the time I spend on my daily exercises. Whenever I get a spare minute, I use it to foam roll, stretch and do core exercises. People often laugh at me when they see me touching my toes on the train platform! Every inch counts. It’s amazing how much of a difference stretching can make. I’m of the opinion that if you’re more flexible and can increase your stride by even just 1cm, then over the marathon distance that’ll go a long way.”
Training week
Looking at Nick’s weekly training log it is clear he has put in the hard work. This is what a typical training week looks like for Nick:
Monday:Spin class (am) / Easy 13km run (pm)  
Tuesday:Easy 13km run to work / 13km Track Session which includes warm up and cool down (pm)
Wednesday:Easy 10km run (pm)
Thursday:26km Tempo Run (pm)
Friday:Easy 10km run (am)
Saturday:parkrun (am) total of 23km’s including warm up and cool down
Sunday:Longer run of about 30km (am)
Total Weekly Mileage: 138km
On top of this Nick does 10-15 minutes of core, stretching and foam rolling exercises every morning. He includes a rest day once every 2 weeks according to feel.
Rearing to go
Apart from his PB’s over the shorter distances since London, Nick tested his fitness recently at the very hilly Kimbolton Half Marathon. He placed 3rd in a time of 71.46 “I always try racing a half marathon six weeks before a marathon to get a feel for my ability. I was happy with this result considering it was a tough route.”

Race day and support
Nick is not planning on running with anyone, however if there’s a bus or small group of runners, running a similar pace to him he will be sure to tuck in with them. “It sometimes helps to work together in a group, but my aim is to run my own race, as comfortably as possible, for as long as possible. One thing I am looking forward to is running in a brand-new pair of Nike Next%. I never thought I would spend £240 on a pair of running shoes but given the time I spend running and because it’s my passion, I’ve decided to treat myself and my wife loves to remind me of this whenever she does her shoe shopping. 
Nick will have no shortage of support on and off the route. “There’s quite a big group going across from London and the partners that aren’t running will be along the route supporting which is sometimes more tiring than doing the marathon. Our friends Tanya, Jen and her two small daughters will no doubt be cheering for us. They are under strict instructions to shout as loud as they can whenever they see another SAFFA running past. I’m lucky because I have a great support structure with my friends in the UK and family and friends in SA.  Some of them even have bets on what my finishing time will be. I have quite a big bet for Berlin Marathon with one of my friends. The bet is that if I go sub 2.30, he’ll buy beers for the rest of the year whenever we’re together. If I don’t, I buy him beers. He drinks like a fish so that’s a fair bit of motivation right there!”
Nick’s wife Taryn who herself ran a PB at the London Marathon will also be tackling Berlin, though she had no clue until her birthday! “I gave her a surprise entry to the Berlin Marathon on her birthday. Some husbands buy jewelry and handbags, I buy running shoes and entries to races. She had a great London Marathon and finished her first Half Ironman two weeks ago in France which she smashed. She did a sub 6 hour and come top 10 for her age category in her debut race. She says she wants to run easy ion Berlin and just enjoy it, but I know her, she’s competitive like me so watch this space.”
More than just running
Apart from race day Nick is looking forward to the annual Oktoberfest. “Straight after the marathon we’re heading to Munich to spend a few days sinking some ice-cold Steins. I love having something rewarding to look forward to after a marathon and for me there’s no better way to celebrate than going to Oktoberfest. I definitely won’t be the most drinking fit person there, but I am looking forward to putting in some solid beer-drinking training.”
Training can be enjoyable at times and brutal at others but the thought of achieving his goal is enough motivation to go for those runs that on the days he really hasn’t felt like it, says Nick. “It’s this consistent training and building up each week that gradually improves fitness. I know I haven’t peaked just yet, so I’ll keep on doing what I’m doing and see where it takes me.”
Finding the balance between training hard, improving, getting faster whilst maintaining a social life and full-time work is always difficult, says Nick. “You can’t always give your full attention to all three and sacrifices have to be made. I find going for a quick lunch run at work (which is common in London) helps save a lot of time and also makes me feel refreshed and energized to tackle the rest of the work day.”
Getting physically fitter also means that his beer drinking tolerance drops, jokes Nick. “Lately when I’ve gone out with my friends who are drinking fit with regular practice usually results in me being in bed by 11pm! At least I get my seven hours of sleep before getting up for my run.”
Post Berlin
Nick has loved training for Berlin, especially as most of his training was done through a London summer. “But having said that, I feel like I need a bit of a physical and mental break for the rest of the year (maybe work on speed over the shorter distances before the end of the year).”
In March next year he will be racing the Half Marathon World Champs in Poland where he is hoping to break 70 minutes (current PB is 70.46) In April he will be racing the London Marathon again, aiming to be the first Saffa for the fourth year in a row. “My 4 main remaining running goals are:
·    Sub 2.30 Marathon (need to find 2 seconds)
·    Sub 70 Minute Half Marathon (need to find 47 seconds)
·    Sub 32 Minute 10km (need to find 24 seconds)
·    Sub 15 Minute 5km (need to find 21 seconds)
And maybe… just maybe… a return to the Comrades Marathon one day for a sub 6-hour attempt!
Advice to others running Berlin
“Never forget how privileged and lucky you are to have the ability to run a marathon. Some people would give anything to be able to take part in the Berlin Marathon. No matter what the reason is for running, whether it’s for a time, raising money for a charity, to overcome a personal challenge, the key is to have fun whilst doing it. Fair enough, the last 10km is never going to be easy but enjoy the race as much as possible. Pain is temporary but glory lasts forever. Let’s light the streets of Berlin on fire and then enjoy some ice-cold beer afterwards. Good luck to all running!”

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