We arrived in Berlin a couple of days before the race but we had been in Germany for 10 days. If you are coming from North America I would strongly suggest that you arrive a week early in order to deal with the jet lag. The six hour time difference is enough to make you pretty sluggish for the first few days.
The expo opens at 2:00pm on Thursday. It’s held in the old Tempelhof Airport which is a really cool venue. . The ticket counters and a baggage carousel are still there along with signs for the gates. Hot Tip, there are also nice clean bathrooms inside the building just as you enter.
The best way to get to the expo is by public transit. We took the U6. Public transit is great in Berlin and as part of the 2022 race entry we got free transit from the 22nd to the 25th. If you need to buy a pass, there are machines in all the stations and you can get a 24 hour pass for zones AB for 8.80 Euros. There are other options available but if you are only doing tourist stuff around town AB is all you need. They rarely check to see if you have a ticket, but if you do not have one there is a 60 Euro fine.
We went to the expo on Thursday thinking it would be the most quiet. It was busy but not crazy. The expo is a good size and is well spread out as it’s in old airplane hangers. Most of the usual players were there including a big section of Asics Berlin Marathon Race gear. Even when we were there on Thursday they were running out of some sizes.
The expo is open to all, but the area where you get your bibs is restricted to runners. When you enter the expo you show your “Start Pass” which was emailed earlier and a passport, They put a band around your wrist and that gets you into everything for the weekend.
The bib number pick-up was unusual because you could go to any counter. They checked your ID and smart pass, and then printed your bib on the spot. The bibs are huge! I also got my rental chip. They actually use the old chips you put on your shoes for this race. Hot Tip: if you have an ankle band from an Ironman race you can put the chip on that and wear it as the chips only need to be below the knee. I wish I had thought of that before I left Ottawa!
When you register for the race you have to pre-order the finisher shirt and decide if you want a poncho or bag check. You can not change your mind so make sure you choose wisely! I picked the poncho but if I was doing it again I would do the bag check. I did not order the shirt, but as I was at the expo early so I was able to buy some race gear.
The famous plane used by the Candy Bomber is parked by the airport, it was used to drop tons of candy for children into West Berlin during the blockade in 1948.
The 5.5k Breakfast run
This free run was held at the airport on Saturday at 8:30 am. Runners were encouraged to dress up and bring the flags of their countries. The Norwegians were definitely the best dressed! We ran along the old airport runways. The run was followed by some great snacks. Pretzels, Berliners (jelly doughnuts), bananas and apples.
There is a finish line party area including the hall of fame by the Brandenburg Gate. As expected we found food and beer. The wall of names can also be found there.
The day before the marathon we saw two other events. A school run where teams of 10 ran 4.19 km. The team with the fastest combined marathon time wins. It was a big race with parents along the course encouraging their kids.
After the school run there was a rollerblade race around the marathon course starting at 3:30pm. The guys at the front had 3 wheel blades which had large wheels. They rode in packs like a bike race. It looked terrifying! The record for the course is a little over an hour!
The start and finish area is large, and only had one entrance that we found. We went on Saturday just to get a feel for where everything was. I would highly recommend doing that. The race guide suggests you should be there at least an hour before your start time. I would suggest the same. They checked for bib numbers and wrist bands at the entrance. The wrist bands were pretty tight and would have been hard to switch. Good way to prevent last minute bib switching. We saw a guy outside the expo trying to sell a bib.
Once you enter the runners only area there is a bag drop off if you booked a bag drop not a poncho. The bathrooms are spread out so you pass a few blocks on a regular basis on the way to the start corals. It is quite a long walk to the corals and there were bathrooms there which had slightly shorter lines. There are 4 waves 20 minutes apart in Berlin. I was at the back of the first wave.
I was impressed with the start. There were big video screens and although we could not see the actual start in person, we were able to watch the wheelchair and handcycle starts via video. They also introduced the key runners in the elite field including Eliud Kipchoge who got a huge cheer from the crowd. He was the favourite. He set the world record on this course in 2018. There was music and clapping. It was probably one of the most moving starts I have seen and I have run all of the world majors except Tokyo. I am not sure if it was as good for the other waves.
It took me almost 5 minutes to get to the start line but once I got there I was able to run. The course was thick all the way and I occasionally had to dodge other runners but I never got completely stuck. The course is quite scenic, it passes many of the tourist attractions in Berlin. The crowds were quite thick around the subway stations. There were more turns than I was expecting and it was quite difficult to run the tangent with so many other runners. Once you get past the first km the course has less spectators, and although there were 60 entertainment stations they were mostly in the second half. After the excitement of the start, it’s just you and the runners around you for a while.
My biggest concern about this course was the water stations. The first water station was at 5k and only had water. The second was at 9k and had water, tea , some fruit and Maurten sports drink which is sweet but basically flavourless. It’s also colourless. I took the tea thinking it was sports drink. It was actually warm! I need water and nutrition early so 9k without nutrition is a stretch for me. I had three gels for emergencies. The next stop was water only at 12k so I took a gel and discovered my three gels were now two as I had lost one. The gel helped. The rest of the water stops were all about 3km apart and they alternated between water only and water with sports drink, tea, and snacks. So the stations with electrolytes were 6km apart. Ironically the pre-race advice was to start hydrating early. . There was one gel station past the halfway mark. I took one for emergencies but I was hopeful I would not have to take the risk as I don’t use that brand. The water stations also switched from both sides of the road to one side after about 12k so you had to dodge other runners to get water. Not ideal but I was able to get something at every station even though I lost a little time doing it.
The on course entertainment was great, lots of drums and bands. My favourite was a group of Alpine horns. I did not actually look at my watch. I checked the mat times at each 5k so I had a general idea of how fast I was running. I knew at the halfway point I was sub 3:30 and running a steady pace. I felt pretty solid, other than looking for water stations things were going well. . Harold chased me around the course by subway and never saw me. I did see the kids at one point and a friend supporting her husband got a picture of me. This is definitely the kind of course where you need to know when and where to look for anyone who is looking for you. The bibs had our names on them so random strangers yelled “Go Judy”. There were not very many funny signs. If you come to watch, make one and you will be a star.
I finished my other gel about 28k in and hoped for the best. I felt like I was starting to fade between 35 and 37km but I was not willing to risk the unknown gel as things were going quite well. So I just tried to focus and get to the finish one km at a time. Once I had 5 km to go, I thought of Susan and her theory that you can always run 5km! I also personally have a theory that the last 1-2km are easier because the crowd will get you across the finish line.
The finish line is about 200-300m past the Brandenburg gate. Running through that was pretty cool, but actually finishing was even better because I got to stop running! There was a cardboard sign just past the finish line saying a new world record had been set 2.01.09! Which is 2.52 / km. Kipchoge was almost 5 minutes ahead of the next runner and he ran the last 7 miles alone! Someone ,somewhere was pretty sure that was going to happen because Kipchoge’s picture was on the medals. I ran 3:23:44 which I was still pretty happy with. Good enough for 4th in W60-64.
After the finish line we did the usual shuffle around. There were almost no tinfoil capes and they would only give you one if you asked and you did not have poncho on your bib. I had poncho on my bib and I got food, water and a medal before there was any sign of ponchos. Everyone was asking where the ponchos were in various languages. There were sign posts but it felt like a long walk. We eventually found the ponchos and the chip return where you had to take your own chip off your shoe. The guy in front of me asked if it would cost more or less than $100 if he did not return his chip because he was not sure it was worth it.
There was bag pick-up for runners who checked bags, showers and change tents. If I had it to do again I would check a bag. There was also warm de-alc beer which I took, but did not drink. I did the zombie walk to the family meeting area where I found Harold, Chris and Sam. Harold had dry clothes and sandals so I was able to walk back to the apartment.
Overall. Great race. Also a very green race. All the cups at the water stations were recyclable plastic. Harder to drink from but less garbage. Very few tinfoil capes, print on demand bibs. A flat course, although as I said above it had more turns than I expected. The only downside, for me anyway, was the long spread between nutrition stations and the one sided water stations. They did allow hydration packs and they had refill stations, but I just can not see running a sub 3:30 marathon carrying water. I would bring more gels next time or at least not lose the ones I had. Berlin is a great city too so put this one on your list!
Congratulations to my sister Susan who also ran. We were in different waves and staying in different places so I only saw her briefly at the expo and on Friday! But I knew she was out there.