Race Report: 35. Berlin Half Marathon
Last Sunday, we were one of the more than 30.000 runners that took part in the 35. Vattenfall Berlin Half Marathon (that’s as many people as inhabitants in my hometown in the Black Forrest!).
I was nervous as the weather was supposed to be very windy and stormy. Luckily, an unexpected benefit of running with thousands of people is a beautiful automatic wind shield. The temperature was in fact perfect for a run (even though I was a bit chilly waiting at the start in only a t-shirt), and the rain waited until after everyone had crossed the finish line to appear.
For those of you travelling to Berlin to be part of this event, as well as for all Berlin Half Marathon newbies, if you are planning on joining the crowd next year, here is what you can expect on the 21,0975km run through the heart of Berlin.
If you can arrive in Berlin a day or two before, I recommend picking up your number as early as possible to avoid long queues. The trade fair at Tempelhof where you get your number also has special deals on all kinds of running gear on Thursday and Friday before the reace. The only slightly annoying thing is that your wristband it put on when you get your number and you have to keep it on until race day.
Since this is quite a big event be sure you arrive with plenty of time to deposit your bag, make a last stop to the bathroom and get to your designated starter block. Insider tip: if it’s your first time at the Berlin Halfmarathon, you will probably end up in start block F, which leaves about 30 minutes after the elite runner begins their sprint. If you’re running with a group of friends this gives you some time to chat and enjoy the atmosphere. If not, strike up a conversation! Everyone is friendly and excited and you might even end up with a running buddy for the race.
There is a sharp left turn after the first couple of hundred meters. Be careful not to run into anyone or get run over by anyone here.
This is the most scenic part of the race. Along the historic Unter den Linden the route takes you past the Berlin Dome, some of the museums, the Brandenburg Gate and the Siegessäule. As if that were not enough excitement, there are tons of people lining the route cheering you on with all kinds of home-made noise makers. Enjoy this bit but be careful not to left euphoria get to you and make you run too fast too quickly (I have done this in other races and have ended up struggling the last miles with bad results to boot).
Also be aware that it is still quite crowded and you might not be able to run the pace you wish. Be considerate and hand-signal left or right if you want to pass someone.
At the roundabout of the Siegessäule a huge drum band will boost your spirit and catapult you to the first water station at the 6km mark. I would recommend drinking something here even if you don’t feel like it – the next station is not until the 10km mark.
After the roundabout of Ernst-Reuter-Platz the crowd thins out a bit and the going might get a little tougher due to a slight incline (anyone used to running hills will find this laughable, but Berlin runners are used to the flat geography). I recommend finding someone who is keeping your preferred pace and just latch onto the during this bit. At Schloss Charlottenburg a sharp left will take you towards Ku’damm.
This part can be quite challenging as the ground is mainly cobblestone. Right before you turn left onto Ku’damm there is another water station which also offers bananas and tea and some (not nearly enough) port-a potties.
(Yes tea – apparently, Germans like super sweet black tea as running fuel. I am personally not really on board with that but hey, whatever floats your boat!)
Yay – you are halfway there!
Kilometres 12- 14:
This is another part of the route that has lots of spectators cheering. I found it particularly charming that many people read the names of runners off of their numbers and then personally encouraged them. I wore my “No Meat Athlete – Runs On Plants” shirt and got some extra love from vegan supporters. When you pass Wittenbergplatz with the famous KaDeWe department store on your right be sure to take all the encouragement you can get because the next few kilometres are slightly uphill again.
You will then leave the crowd behind and head left towards the Lützow-Ufer. This part runs along Berlin’s main channel. There are several short climbs followed by short downhills. Keep it up! As soon as you pass the New National Gallery on the left you will be rewarded with bigger crowds and the fourth and final refuelling station.
You can expect nonstop cheering along these next to last kilometres. You might start getting tried at this point so it’s a great opportunity to let the crowd carry you on. Pay attention as you pass Checkpoint Charlie – the street narrows and all the regular tourists will be standing super close to the runners. If you feel up to it you can high-five some of the kids that are sticking out their hands – just be sure to be gentle (a friend who was standing next to a group of kids told me they sometimes complained that those slaps hurt their little hands)!
Almost there – but not quite yet. These last kilometres feature another slight incline. The closer you come to the finish, the more people are cheering on the sidelines. Get ready for the final push!
The last little bit:
After you summit the bridge across the Spree you will run past the Rote Rathaus (Berlin’s city hall) on the left, and then past the shopping centre Alexa on the right. You will hear the announcer encouraging runners to put their hands in he air. When you round the corner it’s time to reach for those last energy reserves and break out into the final sprint.
You made it! Congratulations! You can now get your hair in order and wipe off some of that sweat for a nice finisher photo!