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The Berlin Marathon experience (part 1)

Updated: Jan 10, 2023

The background

Holidays usually go hand in hand with running. Races in exotic places are always appealing, and Gran Canaria was pencilled in for a marathon earlier this year. But a special event in the UK this October changed our plans, and our thoughts shifted to which races were on around this time of year. An exciting thought popped into my mind – the Berlin Marathon is in September!

Making it happen

It’s a well known fact that getting an entry into a marathon major can be a tricky task. Berlin turned out to have one of the more straightforward entry procedures. A qualifying time was out (a sub 3 result for women, and sub 2:45 for men, in the last two years), and we couldn’t wait for the ballot results because we had to confirm other parts of the trip. We contacted Run Fun Travel to get costs, which we were quite reasonable, and were able to reserve a spot almost immediately. Just like that, we were going to run the Berlin Marathon!

The marathon

I have a mixed history with the marathon.

My first one went to plan – I finished the 2014 Canberra Marathon in 3.09.32, managing relatively even splits with a slight drop in pace over the last 12.2km. In the runner’s high that followed, I ran PBs over shorter distances, and decided to see if I could break three hours for the marathon. The high was wearing off, and I was under prepared, dropping off in the last 8km to finish the 2014 Sydney Marathon in 3.02.36. I decided to give it another crack in Canberra 2015, but I was unmotivated and struggling with the training. It wasn’t my day, but I dragged myself to the finish in 3.07.32 because my parents had come to watch.

I believed I was capable of running under 3 hours, but wasn’t sure exactly what had gone wrong, and decided to give the marathon a rest for awhile. When we signed up to Berlin, I was still apprehensive about running another marathon. Since it was so far away, I figured there was plenty of time to get some enthusiasm, and decided not to think about it until 2016.

The build up

2016 started with pressing the reset button on my whole approach to running. I finished 2015 feeling disappointed with my last few races, and decided I needed a break. By the end of January, I knew I couldn’t put it off forever, and started thinking about the best way to get my training underway. My plan was simple, go back to basics, what had worked in the past. Consistency was key.

A secondary goal I had for the year was to improve my 10km time. It was a distance I found mentally and physically tough, and something I wanted to improve at. I started my training by focusing on a 10km, Canberra, and built from there. By the time we left for Berlin, I felt prepared for a marathon and knew I had put in some solid training.

Meeting a marathon legend

I don’t think there could have been a better way to start our Berlin experience. The very first thing to happen when we arrived was meeting former marathon world record holder, Wilson Kipsang, in the airport. He was more than happy to take a photo with us, and wished us luck. We decided it was a good omen for Sunday!

Welcome to Berlin

It’s hard not to get excited when you check into your hotel and are given a “Berlin running map”. The excitement of marathon fever was in the air. We did a short run around the city to get our legs moving after the long flight. The next day, we did a “sightseeing run”, along part of the course and through the Brandenburg Gate. The area was buzzing with race set up underway, and groups of runners taking photos at the iconic location. Race day was getting closer!

Image of our sightseeing run in Berlin
Sightseeing run in Berlin

The event

More than just a Sunday morning, there were a few other race related events to attend.

First was the expo, which was hectic. The bib collection process was quick and easy, but the number of people browsing the stalls and, in particular, the official merchandise section was unbelievable. I’m glad we bought ours in advance! We found out our start group, D. There were three start waves, broken down into groups based on your best marathon time in the past 3 years. Group D put us in the 3:00 – 3:15 section.

Image of the Berlin Marathon expo
Visting the Berlin Marathon expo and writing our names on the wall.

Saturday hosted the breakfast run, a free event for anyone who wanted to participate, which finished in the Berlin Olympic Stadium. That afternoon, the unique inline skating marathon whizzed around the course that we would be running the following day. The countdown was almost over, after several months of training, the start line was waiting. I was excited to get out there!

Image of running the Berlin Marathon breakfast run
Running into the Olympic Stadium in the Berlin Marathon breakfast run
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