Berlin Marathon: My First European

With the ultimate aim of completing all six World Marathon Majors, after completing Virgin London Marathon 2011, Berlin 2012 was next in my plan.

With Berlin being only a couple of hours away and a city I had visited before, albeit for a less-than-healthy stag do, this was the perfect place to tick WMM number two off the list. Unlike VLM, registration was straight forward – first come first served.

Result Current PB
03:56:11 03:32:42

Expo

After a Friday arrival, on Saturday we hit the Expo held at Tempelhof, a disused pre-WWII airport about 30 mins away by train from central Berlin and fairly easy to get to, with a small walk from the nearby U-Bahn (Berlin-Tempelhof).

With Berlin being a major, crowds were aplenty with a long queue to enter the hangar where registration was held. Outside on the disused runway there were food, drink and clothes stalls to keep you occupied, as well as a couple of planes. TIP: If the Michelberger’s Fountain of Youth coconut water stall is there again, give it a taste, it was delicious.

The expo itself was good, with the usual nutrition and clothing stands. The only downside was once after queuing to get into the main hangar, you had to queue again for the bib and chip, which was very straight forward once in. After, you are free to roam and try the juicy Bratwurst but minus the local beer.

Race Start

View our Berlin Marathon photo blog here

The starting area is in Tiergarten, a park just through Brandenburg Gate from Unter den Linden. While in the racing pens waiting to start hard trance music blared out from many speakers as a personal trainer oversaw a mass workout. I found this quite uplifting, especially the music and it gave me that extra lift. I loved it.  Within ten minutes of starting I was across the line as music and cheering from the mass ranks of supporters pushed us on.

Race day at Brandenburg Gate

The Race

With around 35,000 runners, early navigation in order to get your pace took some manouevring and slip streaming. The course as a whole is pretty flat and renowned for marathoners achieving PBs. On a whole I felt good throughout the whole race.

Support and entertainment was average and sometimes sparse. Previous reports of hundreds of thousands cheering you on and band after band playing where somewhat exaggerated.  Though, with my first marathon being London and with the mass support you get there, Berlin was always going to fall short.

With the start and finish lines centralised around the same area, surrounded by various historic buildings such as the Reichstag and of course the Brandenburg Gate, the rest of the route, in my opinion, was rather non-descript.  Running through areas such as Kreuzberg (19km), Schoneberg at half marathon stage, and Steglitz (25km) and onwards were non-inspiring. Crowds were small and music sporadic – it was a period of self-motivation and drive.

Water and food stations throughout the course were aplenty, with the usual array of power drinks. I consumed four of my own carb gels throughout the race.

Heading towards the home stretch from around the 35 km mark, where I was feeling strong both mentally and physically, support and excitement grew with the thought of finishing under the iconic Brandenburg Gate. The extra lift you get from seeing this in the distance as you approach is amazing and once under the gate runners are greeted by grandstands either side packed full of support and BMW logos everywhere.

Through the finish line, and with a bit of a standstill runners found themselves waiting and queuing to receive their medals, be de-chipped and more importantly, to get our legs moving again.

The flat course didn’t let me down and I finished 40 mins faster than at VLM the year before, with a 3:56 result. World Marathon Major number two was done.

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