Berlin Half Marathon

Stephanie Baird writes - I like running. I like travelling. Why not do both? After completing Amsterdam's 8k a couple of years ago I wanted to experience a longer distance abroad. After researching a few races online I chose the Berlin Half Marathon.

It was a flat course, it was before any of the many Scottish May races and, to be frank, it was based in one of my favourite cities. So with the race booked, the flights paid for and the AirBnB secured, we headed off to Berlin for a third time.

Number pick up occurred during a three day expo in Station Berlin right by U-Bahn Gleisdreieck. Our flight was scheduled to land at 5pm on Saturday and the expo was due to wrap up at 7pm. I was mildly concerned that we wouldn't make the expo as it takes about 45 mins to cross the city. However, as per German efficiency, we made the expo with half an hour to spare. The expo involved the usual setup with many different stalls and overly friendly faces offering the next big running “essential”. Runners were given a wristband that could not be taken off until after the finish line along with their number and race t shirt. We were hungry and tired from the flight so once I picked up my kit we headed off for dinner and a bit of relaxation before race day the next morning.

My alarm sounded at the usual 7am, giving me just over 3 hours to go through my pre-race prep of cereal and a cup of tea. Our AirBnB was located 5 mins from the start line so I had the luxury of a bed and toilet for a lot longer than usual. Once the race nerves kicked in we headed to the start line at Karl-Marx-Allee.

The start line and holding pens were extremely well organised considering the race also involved 5000 inline skaters who set off half an hour before the elite runners. The volunteers were cheerful but made sure runners stayed in their assigned wave. There was the usual baggage drop, race MC playing some interesting tunes and a glorious line of toilets as far as I could see. A runner's dream! I situated myself in my block with plenty of time and tried to take in the atmosphere. There were points I had to wave my arms side to side and clap along to an unknown song but it seemed to get the native runners going so I went along with it. By the time the cheering was done it was time to set off.

The race set off along Alexanderstraße and took a quick left turn to start the long run down Unter Den Linden which takes you from East to West through Brandenburg gate. Passing under the Brandenburg Gate was definitely a highlight and it broke up the long stretch of road that is Unter Den Linden. For the first 2 miles before the Berlin Victory Column the streets were lined with spectators brandishing whistles, flags and best wishes. Through the Tiergarten Park section the crowds thinned out but the streets were by no means quiet. It was at this point that the dreaded heat took hold.

Once we turned towards Charlottenburg Palace we passed our first water station before taking a sharp left turn at the palace. This was an area of Berlin I hadn't seen before and I tried to focus on the striking architure rather than my regret at whizzing past the first water station. By mile 7 the crowds had started to swell again and once we hit Potsdamerplatz the crowds were back to full capacity. I was finally back in neighbourhoods I knew and I was happy to be on what I thought was the home straight.

After Potsdamerplatz the course takes quite a few turns to pass The Topography of Terror, Checkpoint Charlie and House of One, monuments which speak to the city's past. These served as an ideal distraction to the heat and also were key areas for spectators to gather. Since we were heading back to the finish line, which was beside the start line, all manner of hell broke loose from the spectators. Nike Run Berlin had a truck full of confetti, Rundamental had megaphones and there was even a zumba class taking place outside the Alexa mall.

Thanks to this last minute encouragement I attempted a kick and crossed the line in 1:49:35, not too shabby considering the heat. An alcohol free, isotonic beer was awaiting all runners at the finish line along with their medal and the ever faithful banana.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Berlin Half Marathon: it was as flat as told, it had some amazing scenery and the atmosphere from the crowds surpassed any support I had experienced before. Combine this with excellent organisation and a wonderful city and you have a race that I would not hestitate to recommend to runners. My only disappointment was the warm weather but hey, you can't have everything.

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