Berlin Marathon: Top 5 Reasons to Travel to This Epic Destination Race
Known for being a flat, fast course, the Berlin marathon is on the wish list of many in the running community.
When Eliud Kipchoge clocked a wicked fast 2:01:39 marathon on the beautiful streets of Berlin in 2018, the world watching in amazement, this already popular race jumped to the top of many runners’ shortlist of places they simply must visit.
How to Get Entry
Not just anyone can get into the Berlin marathon. There are a few ways to gain entry.
- Registering with a charity partner. While this is a great option, you should know it does come with a fundraising minimum.
- Lottery. Yup. This is the luck of the draw. Over 100,000 people try their luck at the lottery, and around 16% get entry this way.
- Tour operator entry. This means that you travel with a world-touring company that offers guaranteed entry.
- Be an AIMS Certified fast runner. Just know that to hit this mark, you have to be fast.
How Fast is Fast?
Male Runners: Age 18 to 44: under 2:45 hours. Age 45 to 59: under 2:55 hours. Age 60 and up: under 3:25 hours.
Female Runners: Age 18 to 44: under 3:00 hours. Age 45 to 59: under 3:20 hours. Age 60 and up: under 4:10 hours.
Why Is It So Fast?
First of all, the course is very flat. Typically, September in Berlin offers athletes nice weather for distance running. Of course, the marathon is difficult no matter how flat, fast, or temperate a climate the race may offer. As my friend Sarah Wiliarty is fond of saying, “The marathon can be a cruel mistress.”
Runner Steve Campbell says it is a “great course, very flat with soft turns.”
Americans: Don’t Let the KM Throw You Off
Many Americans travel to Germany for this race, and one of the biggest complaints is that the markers are in kilometers, not miles. Don’t let that throw you off.
If you usually measure your runs in miles, you have two choices when racing in Europe. Some people find switching their smartwatch over to KM for a month or so pre-race helps.
Or you can just ignore the markers and use your watch to keep track of distance traveled.
If you are traveling internationally to a race like Berlin, you can get there a few days ahead of the race. This gives you some time to recover from jet lag, get a lay of the land, and get settled.
Runners and political scientists Christina Xydias and Sarah Wiliarty were fortunate enough to have the chance to mix business with pleasure. Both college professors, work took them to Berlin, but their running made it the opportunity of a lifetime.
Sarah and Christina took some opportunities to run together in the days leading up to the marathon.
Melanie Conley ran Berlin in 2018, the year Kipchoge set the record. Living in Italy at the time, she was injured during training and went to Berlin with a plan to do run/walk intervals and soak in the experience.
It was coming off a harsh hot streak, so Conley was grateful the heat spell had broken somewhat even though it was quite warm with the weather in the 70s. Conley remembers the spectator support as being incredible, and she had no problems while in Berlin because there were many English-speaking locals.
A testament to how wonderful the running community is, when being interviewed, Conley spoke about meeting Renee Seman on the course and how they ran together for most of the race.
When Seman started having gastro issues, Conley finally split from her. They remained friends until Seman’s passed away in 2020 after a long battle with cancer.
Conley said, “Her memory lives on in each one of my runs…especially when I feel like I can’t go on.” And it all started when two strangers met on the streets of Berlin.
Laura Marie Barrett traveled from New York to Berlin and had many sights she wanted to see. According to her, she “did not run well, probably the result of too much sightseeing.” But who can blame her?
She did say that not only was the spectator support amazing, but there were, “Tons of bands and music.” Laura took the below photo while running through the streets of Berlin.
Regarding spectator support, Tonya Hassell, who ran Berlin in 2017, had this to say, “I thought the race was well supported by spectators, and as someone who feeds off crowd support, they kept me going!”
No Free Shirt
Tonya Hassell wants to make sure people thinking about running in Berlin realize that, unlike most races in the United States, in Berlin, you won’t come home with a free shirt.
Pictured below, Hassell shows off the shirt she purchased at the expo. She says, “I still cherish mine!” Hey, who wouldn’t? She had a 36-minute personal record on that course!
Fuel on the Course
Steve Campbell of Wisconsin said he found there to be plenty of opportunity to hydrate and fuel on the course. There was water about every 5K, with fruit and gels periodically.
Sarah Wiliarty of Connecticut pointed out the tea that is given at fuel stops which many Americans would find different.
However, she also stated that with Maurten as a sponsor, that was also on the course.
Berlin Marathon: A Running Tour
Xydias had such great reflections of the race. “This is a course that takes you through many Berlin neighborhoods — it’s a running tour. Berlin is a city with many different personalities: a suburb-type atmosphere, Eastern European cement-block apartment buildings, shop fronts adorned with lots of different languages (because Berlin is also a city of immigrants), and don’t forget the monuments.
Berlin and Germany are full of monuments. Some of them are your standard “victory over so-and-so” monuments, and some of them are monuments to peace or to tragedy. There are, of course, lots of embassies in Berlin, and many staff members were cheering out in front of their buildings, waving flags, which was very cool!”
“The final 5K or so of the course winds through the “government district” in the direction of Pariser Platz, which is the square on which the Brandenburg Gate is situated, at the end of a boulevard called Unter den Linden. Both the US and French embassies are right on the Platz. So you can wave at the US as you sail across the square towards the Gate. (Watch out for the cobblestones, though!)”
Coach Daphne Matalene of New York City Road Runners said this is her favorite photo of her running. Taken at the 2018 running of the Berlin Marathon, Matalene posted a 3:44:01 marathon with the fastest mile split ever during a marathon at mile 25. (8:04)
Matalene said she saw Kipchoge warming up before the race and hollered, “Go, Eliud! Go get it!” She said he flashed his trademark dazzling smile and continued on.
How could she not have a perfect race? Of course, all of us now realize he was warming up for a world record run.
Matalene’s friends caught this photo of the marathoning great.
Top 5 Reasons to Run the Berlin Marathon
The top reasons to run this marathon are from Sarah Wiliarty:
1. For the amazing history tour of the city.
2. Incredible beauty of the landmarks and the course in general – so many bridges and churches that are just gorgeous.
3. It’s a flat, fast course.
4. The city itself offers something for everyone. World-class museums. Awesome ethnic food. Berlin is now a vegan mecca. Who knew? Top-notch shopping of anything from the best designers to Turkish markets. All of this at half the price or less than you’d pay in London or Paris.
5. Great food, including German beer and pretzels.
Is There a Marathon Runner's Body Type? (& 7 Keys to Achieve One)If you started running to see how it could change you, you have probably found so many ways your life has been impacted. ...
The 26.2: How Long and What To Expect When Running A MarathonSteeped in the legends of Greek history, the marathon is quite the event. Although a marathon is technically an event, th...
The 5K: How Long Is a 5K What To Expect About This DistanceOne kilometer is approximately .62 of a mile. That means a 5K race is 3.1 miles. Long before I started running, I would...
Should You Be Drinking Beer After Your Runs? 6 Reasons You Should!I doubt anyone would say to a runner, "Hey! You should down a beer as you are gearing up for your run today!" No... most ...