Berlin brings out the best in Pettersen

Even on a Sunday morning, that rush-hour traffic in Berlin, Germany can be a nightmare.

Just ask Jacqui Pettersen. It took her more than three hours to get to her destination.

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But considering she was one of a record 47,000 runners who crowded the narrow streets and raced through driving rain and wind in the Berlin Marathon, Pettersen still managed her best-ever marathon time.

The 48-year-old Prince George neurologist shaved eight minutes off her previous personal best time, finishing the 42.2-kilometre race on Sept. 29 in three hours one minute 18 seconds.

"It wasn't quite as fast as I was hoping for, I was hoping to be sub-three (hours), but once again the course was really crowded, even though I started further ahead than I did last year," said Pettersen.

"It was quite surprising how packed it was with runners and I felt like for the first 10 K or so I couldn't actually run my own pace. It rained quite heavily, especially the last third of the race, and the race numbers they provided weren't entirely waterproof. I thought of it ahead of time and reinforced the pinholes with tape but it wasn't enough and the one corner of my bib kept falling off and I had to stop and keep re-pinning it. That slowed me down a little bit but some runners were completely losing them. Other than that, it was great."

Pettersen was the 153th-fastest woman out of more than 16,000 and placed 11th overall in her 45-49-year-old female class.

"I was really pleased," said Pettersen. "My previous PB was in London (last year) and it was 3:08:55, so that's about eight minutes (quicker).

"I felt like I was having to make up time in the second half because of being slowed down by the congestion of runners. When it really started to rain and the wind started blowing the last bit I just thought, 'I'm going to run my own race and not worry about time,' and maybe if I'd known how close I was to sub-three maybe I would have been able to push it quicker. Knowing it was a minute over (three hours), it's easier to accept than if it was just a few seconds over."

Ashete Bekere of Ethiopia clocked 2:20:14 as the fastest woman in Berlin. Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia won the men's elite race in 2:01:41, just two seconds off the world-record pace set last year in Berlin by Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge.

Pettersen's husband Kevin and her sons Kai, 11, and Max, eight, lined the route and were cheering her on. She saw them four times along the course.

Pettersen has now completed five of the Big Six marathons - Boston, New York, Chicago, London and Berlin (twice) - and she's qualified for the sixth, the Tokyo Marathon, March 1, 2020, which will complete the list.

As a reward for finishing 11th in her age group in Berlin, Pettersen upped her world ranking to 33rd and she's qualified for the inaugural Abbott World Marathon Majors Wanda Age Group World Championships on April 26 in London, England.

"London was my favourite marathon and I'm excited to be going back there," said Pettersen. "The overall organization is exceptional, the way they have things laid out at the starting area you never have to wait in line. It's very efficient and where I started last year it wasn't congested.

"Of course, the eye candy of London and all the sites along the way, seeing Big Ben, the London Eye and finishing right in front of Buckingham Palace is pretty epic."

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