It is not just the elite athletes who are drawn to Berlin in search of fast times
I was fortunate to run the BMW Berlin Marathon in 2022 and 2023. On both occasions there have been world records. Eluid Kipchoge ran a 2:01:09 last year and this year Tigst Assefa surprised the running world with a spectacular 2:11:53 in the women’s race.
As is usually the case with races that have seen fast times, runners from far and wide are drawn to them. Kipchoge’s twin world records in Berlin now make it the marathon major to be lining up at, hence wanting to return there myself for a second time.
But there’s more to these big city marathons than records and in Berlin this weekend I felt a buzz that somehow seemed a little different to that of a local 5km or even a larger event at home in the UK. This great gathering of nations, of like-minded individuals from around the world, the atmosphere and comradery with fellow runners was growing before even my flight took off.
Manchester Airport was busy as usual on a Friday evening and no sooner had I found a seat in the departure lounge than I was chatting to runners ready for their first overseas event. The flight was a direct one to Berlin, so not surprisingly packed with many more people taking part. The couple next to me were hoping for PBs on the fast and flat course. From touching down to taking the train into Berlin and then into the hotel, the city was awash with athletes and the level of excitement was evident at every turn.
Bib collection was a much more organised and efficient affair this time compared to last year and the event expo was packed with the usual Berlin-embossed gear. Bear in mind that here you purchase a finishers t-shirt before the event!
And so to race day. One thing that impressed me about the 2022 event and made me want to return this year was the ease with which I made it to the start line. Kit drop couldn’t be easier, but getting to my pre-assigned start pen became a nightmare. I was in the front pen, just behind the elites, but it felt like 10,000 others were as well. With no clear way on to the course and no race officials offering directions, runners were climbing the fences and pushing their way on to the small section of road.
As we stood eagerly anticipating the gun, the elite athletes were introduced. To be honest, for all except one, the crowd of 45,000 seemed uninterested. Although when Kipchoge’s name was called and his face beamed to the giant…