Originally the marathon was run in Gruenwald Forest outside of Berlin from 1974 to 1981. In 1981, the marathon course was changed and runners kicked asphalt through West Berlin for the first time. In 1990, three days prior to reunification, the course included both east and west Berlin for the first time. Today, 40,000 runners and 8,000 skaters start the marathon running or skating past the Victory monument and finish the course through Brandenburg Tor.
This year I was one of them.
One long and winding marathon recap ahead!
Why run this race? On a pretty October day in 2013 I received email notification that my ballot application was unsuccessful for the 2014 London Marathon. I can still feel the sting from that email today. After a few deep calming breaths, I accepted the realization that London rejected me again. My next thought, what about Berlin? I clicked on the website and discovered a ballot entry for the 2014 Berlin Marathon was open. Without any hesitation I submitted a ballot. What did I have to lose? I was out of the running for London in 2014. After reading the rules it seemed I would not have to wait months to find out what the marathon gods have fated me. In fact, the drawing was held in October, those selected were informed on November 1st.
It seems the marathon gods were benevolent. On November 2nd, I discovered an email in my Spam folder that contained my acceptance into the 2014 Berlin Marathon along with a link to register for the event.
Tears of joy were running down my cheeks as I read this acceptance email! I was so caught up in to moment I inadvertently selected the ‘Delete Forever’ button instead of the ‘Not Spam’ button. Whose idea was it to place those two buttons next to one another? Bad, Gmail, Bad!
After a frantic phone call to my good friend Jimmie Bise, emails to Gmail support and the Berlin Marathon organizers the lottery email was quickly recovered and I officially registered for 41st Berlin Marathon.
Registration completed and hotel booked. I had a year to plan out my training for this marathon. From the moment I entered a ballot, I believed this marathon was to be the one where I stand on my own as runner. The marathon would take place in a city where I had no friends or family to cheer me on. The course was unfamiliar and English was not the principle language. The only things getting me through 26.2 miles or 42.2 Kilometers around Berlin would be my training and mental attitude. That is precisely what happened. I planned out a series of spring runs then chose Training Peaks Sub 4:30 Marathon training as my official training plan for Berlin.
Essentially, I ran for all year long and cross trained with Goals Fit and The Grind running Meetup group. I did all this because I was strongly committed to a successful marathon run. Mentally that commitment made all the difference when faced with all sorts of reasons to not train. It comes down to you wanting to run a marathon for you, if not, every obstacle will become more and more difficult to overcome until you finally give up.
Run, Tania, Run!
Marathon weekend started on Thursday, September 25.
I arrived in Berlin on Thursday to give myself a few days to orient to the time change and do a little sightseeing before the marathon. I’ve travelled to Germany prior to this visit but not to Berlin. I was looking forward to exploring this historic city as well as running around it. Of course, sleep never happened on the flights to Berlin and I found myself awake for at least 24 hours by end of my first day in Berlin.
After waiting endlessly for my room to be ready, I dropped off my bags and set off to the former Templehof Airfield which was hosting the marathon expo. I strongly suggest purchasing a weekly train pass which covers both S-Bann and U-Bann lines, both are easy to navigate and a great way to get around Berlin. The hotel for this trip, Hotel Albrechtshof, located a block away from Friedrichstrabe surface station and subway (U-bann).
Flughafen Templehof was hands down the largest expo I’ve ever attended for a distance run. Two ginormous airplane hangers are filled with running and skating vendors of every kind. Outside on the former runways, people were trying out in-line skating. Alongside the skaters, a plane recalls the candy flights conducted in response to a post WW2 Russian blockade of East Berlin. Various food sellers and carnival like rides were available to kids of all ages outside the hangers. The best part, outside of getting my marathon Bib, was the massage scheduled with my registration. There is nothing like getting your kit off for a massage in the middle of a marathon expo. Okay, it was a bit awkward. However, the massage session was wonderful stress reliever and my neck and shoulder pain felt much improved.
Friday was a sightseeing day where I discovered a new view of Berlin that included angelic butts. Also, I was informed the coffee in Berlin is better than sex.
On Saturday, September 27th, marathon organizers hosted a 4 mile Breakfast Fun Run from Schloss Charlottenburg to the Olympic Stadium. I would guess close to 10,000 runners participated in this event.
Some runners arrived in traditional dress from their home countries. It does remind you how internationally famous this marathon has become over the years. Also, it proves running is a great medium for common ground among diverse ethnicities and religions.
The picturesque courtyard where runners gathered together prior to the breakfast run.
Happy clowns abound in this fun run!
On the brief walk from the train station to Schloss Charlottenburg, I met a bear! Of course, being the good tourist, I had my picture snapped with him.
I met up with another Philly runner, Shanae, at the Breakfast Run.
Yes, this is the ‘evil’ stadium that hosted the 1936 Olympic Games in Nazi Germany. What a remarkable experience it was to run into the stadium that once was the beacon of racial balkanization that today hosts a beautiful celebration of running. On Saturday, the stadium was filled with people from every culture or creed running together in peace to celebrate a mutual love of the marathon. This run is proof to me that evil will never last and the inherent goodwill of humanity will always shine through in the end.
Running in the footsteps of Jesse Owens gives me the chills.
As we were about to run into the stadium, Shanae and I decided to grab a quick selfie and were photobombed most epically by..uhmm…Heidi?
The Olympic Rings are always an uplifting sight to see.
Shanae and I represent Philly and the United States at the Olympic Stadium
Heading back for a day of rest and relaxation before the Marathon.
Sunday, September 28th – MARATHON DAY!
After a restless night, I never managed to adjust well to the time change, the alarm went off and it was time to get ready to run a marathon. The 8:45 am runner start was positively late in the day based on my experience. American distance runs typically start at dawn and require runners to assemble in their corrals way earlier. When I went to breakfast, I quickly discovered another difference between American and European distance runners – Pro Tip: Showing up to breakfast in your running kit and bib screams ‘American’. Euro runners dressed in street clothes to breakfast, changing into their running kit after a hearty breakfast.
The marathon course is a circular route that runs through former East and West Berlin finishing with a spectacular run through the Brandenburg Gate.
The hotel is a 10 minute walking distance from the start area, so there was no need to check my gear so I can’t speak to the efficiency of the bag check area. And I like not having to check a bag on race day.
Security checked for the presence of your bib and bracelet before allowing access to the start area. In the start area, guys were utilizing nearby bushes and port-a-potty lines were lengthy. Getting into my corral, I noticed no port-a-potty lines. My advice would be to hold it till you get to your corral for a practically private port-a-potty experience.
As the start time moved closer, announcements of precisely when each wave was going to start were broadcast in German and English. That was quite helpful while waiting nervously in the corral. Right on time, the corral was released onto the course and my marathon journey began.
I’m not one to have a mile by mile recap. The first twenty miles went by right on my training schedule. I recall reaching twenty miles and thinking how I was going get through the next six miles (the miserable miles). The next six miles quickly became difficult. Most issues I recognized and handled, such as painful side stitches. I started to experience hunger, my stomach began to growl. Gu didn’t help and I started to feel slightly nauseous. When that occurred, I immediately adopted a walk/ run plan as I wanted to make sure I finished strong and run through Brandenburg Gate.
The course is flat with no noticeable inclines. Water stops included banana’s, apple slices and hot sweet tea – amazing! Spectators lined most of the course, ringing cow bells or holding flags of various nations. Not many were holding signs, as is done in American distance events. Every so often, I would hear my name being called and was a thrilled to be cheered on by the spectators.
I will never forget rounding the last turn and sparkling in the distance was the Brandenburg Gate. Somehow I dug down, finding the will and energy to begin sprinting, not stopping till I crossed the finish line. Yes, there were tears of joy at this point. I successfully completed the 2014 Berlin Marathon.
Happy to finish!
Red faced and messed hair – love my post marathon run look.
Medal acquired and goody bag in hand, I headed to the finisher area for a tall cool cup of alcohol free beer.
Alcohol free beer tastes just like you imagine it would taste.
Jesus Christ on the Cross ran a marathon. Amazing.
Front lawn of the Reichtstag becomes a great area to relax and meet up with friends and family post marathon run.
I highly recommend training and running this marathon. It is a World Marathon for good reason.
Now for the important stuff:
What I wore: Pink Lululemon tech t-shirt, second skin running capris, Brooks Ghost 7 running shoes.
What tech I wore: Garmin 910XT sports watch, Fitletic running belt
Runability rating: 5 – Sign up for this marathon ASAP
1: Hell no, never, ever, again!
2: Unless crucial changes are made, then NO.
3: Meh – If you have nothing better to do that day, then go for it.
4: Will put this on my list for potential runs for next year.
5: Sign up for this Marathon/Half Marathon ASAP!
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