A Razor’s Edge

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Vibes > Tangents for Tim Rossi in Berlin

On Thursday, three days before I wanted to run 2:29 at the Berlin Marathon, I received a positive Covid test. En route to Berlin. And so began the weirdest race of my life.

For the last 12 weeks, I’ve stacked week upon week of training with the goal of running a sub-2:30 race. A steady diet of 60ish-mile weeks (lower mileage due to some injury history) and workouts slowly made me think my goal was possible.

NYC is crazy humid over the summer, and I’d never trained for a marathon so early in the fall season, so it was a mental battle. Paces that should’ve felt easy (note to self: running hard is never easy) were a struggle, and there were plenty of times where my mind would start to waiver.

Breaking 2:30 was always going to put me on a razor’s edge, and I was not mentally ready to ride that line.

Tim Rossi


But then the weather broke and the splits got faster: a 21-miler with eight miles at tempo for a 5:40 average on 5 September, a 10-mile tempo run at 5:36 average on 11 September, eight miles from 5:40 to 5:08 on 14 September, four progressive miles from 5:40 to 5:15 on 18 September.

Belief. It began to seep in, filling the spaces doubt had squatted in – but I was on a razor’s edge.

And then the curveball of all curveballs. On a whim, I decided to get Covid tested before leaving for the airport as I went to pick up my last Chipotle before leaving New York (in NYC we have these Covid-testing vans that turn results in around 24 hours). Not because I thought I had Covid but because, last year, when I’d traveled to Copenhagen, I needed a negative test result to get into the country. With no symptoms, it was an insurance policy just in case we’d misread the travel regulations.

And thus I set off a chain: halfway through our trip to Berlin I received my test results with the word “POSITIVE” in big block letters at the top of the page. I panicked – every negative thought raced through my mind. What do I do? Am I going to race? Is my throat actually a little sore? Do I need to get off this flight? Where am I going to stay? Is this test even accurate?


For two and a half years I’d avoided Covid, and now I was faced with the reality of testing positive before the Berlin Marathon.

This is where I feel it’s important to note that I am a double vaxxed and boosted healthy young adult and that I’m extremely thankful to be in the privileged position where I was minimally concerned about my personal physical health. While definitely not ideal timing, if this was indeed going to be my personal encounter with Covid, I would have been extremely lucky. I know there are much bigger problems and struggles out there than missing a race.

But, for those 15 minutes, my world was crashing down and I was spiralling. Thankfully, I was travelling with my lovely girlfriend Erin, who was insanely level-headed: “We’ll get some tests when we get there, we’ll find somewhere to stay (we’d booked an Airbnb with five other friends, four of whom were also racing), and we’ll figure it all out.


And that’s exactly what we did. With three masks on, we found a hotel; we let everyone know what was happening, and we bought 20 euros’ worth of tests immediately.

By Saturday I’d tested negative six times, and 30 hours before the gun I decided I was going to race. Little did I know that the damage had been done.

Kipchoge is known for saying “It’s not about the legs. It’s about the heart and mind.” And while I’d argue that the legs have something to do with it, the sentiment is one I fully agree with. My legs won’t be able to do anything that my mind is not prepared for, and I toed that line on Sunday with a brain that was 100% mush.


I’d thought I’d be able to use the days leading into the race to hype myself up, but I don’t think my brain was ever truly ready to run a marathon.

I ran scared.

Scared of what my legs were capable of, of feeling bad earlier than anticipated, of shooting for something I was destined to fall short of, scared that I wouldn’t be able to grind when it got really hard.

I ran with zero belief in my ability, and my splits reflected that.

5km splits of 17:59, 18:15, 18:20, 18:39. Half at 1:17:15.

2:29 was gone. It’s disappointing to run five seconds slower per km than your goal and just not having anything else there. To watch what you’ve dreamt of slip away with another 13 miles in front of you.


Breaking 2:30 was always going to put me on a razor’s edge, and I was not mentally ready to ride that line.

I was frustrated, angry, pissed off, sad – all of it. And then, pulling from the lessons I learnt at NYC in 2021, I got over it.

Instead of harping on all the bad and wallowing, I accepted it and moved on.

I’d been able to run the first half of the race with the homie Caitlin Phillips who had been dealing with her own health issues and still gave it a go. I was in Berlin, in the same race as Kipchoge aka Litchoge aka Dripchoge.

And more than anything, I was able to do this.


So I adjusted. “Run the first 30km with your brain and the last 10 with your heart.” (This later became “run the first 35km with your brain” and then “wait until 36km”, but whatever.) And more importantly, have a little fun.

Fun – it should always be fun. So I smiled and tried to push, to pour whatever I had into the back half of the race because I didn’t come this far to just come this far.

18:33, 18:22, 18:06 through 35km.

The Berlin Braves cheer zone, aka “run for the vibes not the tangents” (according to my Strava, which I in no way think is accurate, I did not run tangents – but also, who the fuck cares).

18:05 through to 40km and 3:31 per km average through to the finish.

1:16:49 for the second half, my fastest second half of a marathon ever and my first time ever negative splitting a marathon.

2:34:04. My second fastest marathon ever and a massive step back in the right direction even though I was #soft and didn’t get under 2:34.

Also, my first ever time consuming calories during a race. I had 400–500 calories of Maurten and my stomach didn’t explode – amazing!


Oh, and finishing the race meant I got a front row seat to watch all my homies cross the line. I got to watch my girlfriend Erin absolutely SMASH this race after an equally stressful few days, running 2:36:21 to OTQ. I got to see Lily and Leigh Anne run 2:38:42 and 2:40:35 after all of our shared miles this summer. I got to hear about Brendan’s 2:16:02 OTQ. We were still in the finish when Jeanne and Paul came through in 2:56 after a rough day and got to jump into our text thread after Luke Morton called for energy halfway through his 5:22. I got to exchange quick stories with so many other crew friends from around the world in the finish chute. We got brunch at the same spot as Mike and his family after his 3:05 and even got back out there to see Hec at 40.5km before he crossed the line in 6:37.

So yeah, my day was disappointing but the moments with everyone listed above, and with so many others, are still special, and I’m fully aware that they wouldn’t have happened if I had caved. So, I’ll walk away from Berlin hungry for more but thankful for this running world.

And hell, I got to run the same day that the WR was set! Though if you ask me, I think I brought more vibes than Kipchoge did … on second thought, maybe not.

But hey, Kipchoge won’t be lining up in NYC in seven weeks, and this guy … well, stay tuned.

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