Organisers describe this European race as ‘Flat, Fast and Unforgettable’ and it lives up to it’s reputation. The world record for the fastest marathon is regularly challenged on this course and in 2013 it was broken once again.
Where: Berlin, Germany
Size: 40,000 runners
Completed September, 2010Official race website here.
- Learn your history. The route has some incredible buildings along the route as you pass between East and West Germany. If you know what you are looking at, it makes it all the more rewarding. It also stops you staring at concrete for four hours!
- Don’t overlook the Expo. It’s held in a huge ex-airport, which In terms of cubic capacity is rumoured to be the second biggest building in the world. (And the first? Apparently it’s the Pentagon!)
- Remember that the signs are in KM. The maths gets pretty tricky from the 20 mile mark so do your conversions before and write them down
- Wear your name on your T-shirt for no other reason than spectators will laugh at it, and save some energy for a grandstand finish. As you pass under the Brandenburg gate, then it’s a 100 metre dash for the finish line which is lined by a packed grandstand
- Eat Currywurst! It’s a curry flavoured sausage, and a pretty big deal in the German capital.
- Enjoy it!
Race video here – Kipsang’s world record of 2013…
What’s the organisation and set up like?
Like a Volkswagon production line, the organisation is faultless! From the monthly emails in the build up to the race to detailed markings throughout, you know exactly where you need to be and when. If you don’t speak German it’s not a problem, every sign caters for a multitude of languages.
The huge expo the day before the race gives you every minute detail you need about the course, timings and what to expect when you’re running. From the moment you arrive at the course you are guided where to set off from depending on how quick you are. The organisation of this marathon is remarkable…but then, it is Germany!
What’s the course like?
One word: Flat.
If the marathon record is broken, it’s broken in Berlin (in fact it was in 2013 by Wilson Kipsang 2:03:23!) and from the first corner you know why. There simply aren’t any hills, which makes it an ideal place for a record time or your first 26 miler. The start and finish are simply awesome – when I ran it there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and setting out surrounded by the main central park of the ‘Tiergarten’ was a beautiful opening.
There are a few dull parts around the suburbs of Berlin, but as you finish amongst the brilliant architecture of the city centre it more than makes up for it. The finish is beneath the Brandenburg Gate, so you couldn’t wish for a more iconic ending. It’s great to see how the city (still) looks different as you pass between east and west as well – which gives you something to think about other than how much your legs are hurting.
Odd one – it’s either incredible, or weirdly silent. Around the start and finish the crowds are noisy and brilliantly supportive, but then in the quieter areas in the middle, tend to watch in quiet amusement.
It’s fair enough, because it can’t be much to watch, but when you are cramping up at the 18 mile mark, you could really do with a ‘schnell’ or two. They are consistent though, with people lining the whole course with almost equal measure throughout.
How difficult is the Berlin Marathon?
As much as running 26.2 miles can be, you aren’t going to find a more pleasurable race. My only difficulty was working out how many miles I was up to (the signs are all in km). Sometimes the long streets that you face can seem a bit endless, but then I think that’s the case with most races. Water stops are regular and plentiful, with the odd mist shower scattered along the streets which I found made all the difference.
What is there to do Apres Race?
WUNDERBAR! As you cross the line it’s a real festival atmosphere. The first thing you can get your hands on is a pint of lager, and you can sip it as you chat to locals down the tree lined streets that surround the finish line.
If there’s ever been a cuisine to reward to content yet shattered marathon survivor its Germany’s. The local beers are inexpensive, ice cold and available everywhere all night long. If you have the energy, the city has the best nightlife in Europe (don’t say Barcelona, because it’s not), and Berliners are some of the friendliest people I have ever met. Menus full of fried meats and chips are just what you need. Heck, they are just what you deserve!