Race Report: 42. Berlin Marathon

October 20, 2015 by Elskamor

We were lucky enough to win the lottery for one of the starting numbers to the 42. Berlin Marathon at the end of September (over 120.000 people had registered for one of 40.000 places). If you don’t win the lottery but still want to tun, there is also the chance to register as a fast runner (sub 2:30 for men and sub 3:00 for women) or to get a place through a charity. This makes the Berlin Marathon one of the largest marathons in the world, along with Boston, Chicago, New York and London. The route is quite flat making it one of the fastest marathons in the world and the last six world records were won at the Berlin Marathon- the most recent in 2014 by the Kenyan runner Dennis Kimetto in 2:02:57.

If you are lucky enough to get a starting place at the 2016 Berlin Marathon, this is what you can expect from the race:

Picking up the bib

Picking up the start number is already one of the highlights of the Berlin marathon. You get to walk through the old check-in hall of the closed-down airport Tempelhof, which was the site of the Berlin Airlift during World War II. Due to the large crowd the organisers recommend picking up your bib as early as possible, and doors to the Berlin Vital Expo open on Thursday at noon. Admission to the Expo is not open to the public, but each runner receives three extra tickets for friends and family.

The day of before the start

Make sure you leave plenty of time to place your bag and get to the starting line. The start/finish area quite large and finding the right tent to drop off your bag will probably take asking several helpers. Once you get to the actual corral you can start enjoying the atmosphere – so many happy faces and nervous smiles!

Kilometers 1-2

The first couple of kilometers are spectacular! You are running along the grand boulevard Straße des 17. Juni through the Tiergarten Park (which used to be a hunting ground and then an agricultural area which supported Berliner during WWII), and past the Siegessäule. Thanks to the large avenue the field is not too tight and you can find our pace easily, but make sure not to get carried away by the cheering crowds along the side-lines.

Kilometers 3-7

During these kilometers the Berlin marathon takes you through the areas of Charlottenburg and Moabit. The course goes across a few bridges which allows for impressive glimpses of the massive crowd. You will also pass through the German government quarters and the Chancellors residence (also keep an eye out for the Swiss Embassy here, the employees will be clanging away on giant cowbells).

Kilometers 8-12

If you’ve ever had a night out drinking and partying in Berlin you probably ended up around Torstrasse, which is exactly where you will be running now. It’s a great time to reminisce and give yourself a pat on the shoulder for being so active on a Sunday morning. Once you pass the TV-Tower Alexanderplatz (at 386 meters in height the tallest building in Germany), you’ll take a huge roundabout at Strausberger Platz to head towards Kreuzberg (massive crowds here as well).

Kilometers 13-19

You’re getting into the heart of Kreuzberg along Heinrich-Heine-Strasse and then past Kottbusser Tor along Kottbusser Damm. Once you turn right to go west you will run along the Hasenheide Park. Between kilometers 17 to 90 there are lots of green areas which are  frequently used as emergency toilets. Of course there area porta-potties as well, just remember to bring your own toilet paper or tissues!

Kilometers 20-24

At kilometre 20 keep your eyes out for Yorkschlösschen on the right. The quintessential Berlin Jazz Club always has a huge band playing outside to rouse tired spirits. Then you’ll take a lap through Schöneberg, where you reach the half-way point. Once you turn south again you will go under the S-Bahn bridge and huge drum band will catapult you for the next few minutes.

Kilometers 25-29

You are now heading for the toughest part of the Berlin marathon because you are furthest away from the starting and finishing line. It is also quite a nice stretch though, because the course goes through neighbourhood streets with single-family homes that have set up their own aid stations for the runners. At kilometer 29 you will reach the Roseneckplatz, after which point you will be making your way back to the finishing line and a special huge crowd always gathers to cheer the tiring runner.

Kilometers 30-33

In 2015, right after kilometre 30 Powerbar had set up a massive gel zone. If you train with Powerbar gels anyway, you can use this as a free stock-up, but otherwise I recommend you stick to your own snacks and the bananas and apples provided. The streets get really wide at this point again and the crowd thins out a bit. There are also no special landmarks so this is the time to hunker down and get into the grind.

Kilometers 34-37

On this stretch of the Berlin marathon you are reaching the old city center and current ritzy shopping area around Kurfürstendamm (Ku’dam). Along this street you will pass the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis Kirche as well as the iconic department store KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens), which attracts as many visitors daily as runners participate in the Berlin marathon every year.

Kilometers 38-39

At this point the crowd cheering the runners on will be non-stop. You’ll pass the Neue Nationalgallerie built by Mies van der Rohe, and the Berlin Philharmonic built by Hans Sharoun and head up towards Potsdamer Platz, which was the place to be in the 1920s and is now of the biggest commercial areas in Europe.

Kilometers 40-finish

The last part of the Berlin marathon is also one of the most beautiful. You run though the Gendarmenmarkt, which is flanked on either side by a beautiful white church and then swing a left to the tree-lined Unter den Linden avenue. You will run through the Brandenburger and then break into a sprint as the finishing line is a mere 250 meters away and the crowd on the bleachers are cheering like crazy.

In General

To warp it up, we need to emphasis the amazing crowd that basically keeps cheering along the entire way. There are over 90 bands along the route of the Berlin marathon making amazing music. At three points along the course there are also quick massage benches set up if you need someone to rub out a cramp of your legs, and the fire department sets up several water hydrants to turn into massive showers. We hope we will win a starting number again for next year and see you along the course!


Image Credit: Sebaso on Flickr



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