Where’s the Wall?
Jools Maskell reports from the Berlin Marathon 2009
Having always wanted to
visit Berlin and see the historic sites the idea of running the marathon
seemed like the perfect excuse to go.
Having left it a little late
to book accommodation (there was a big conference on at the same time
and accommodation in Berlin is not cheap) We managed to find a small
privately owned apartment in the Schoneberg area, out of the city centre
but the bus and train networks are so safe, quick and reliable it was
not a problem.
This was to be my second
marathon having done Dublin last year and Simon’s (my other half) first
proper marathon. His only previous experience of marathon running has
been after a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike, i.e. at the end of an
The marathon itself starts
in Tiergarten park. A huge green area in central Berlin, not far from
the Brandenburg gate (you run through it at the finish). The day before
the marathon the inline skaters get their turn around the course, there
were thousands of them of mixed abilities, the quickest get round 26.2
miles in an hour!! It was fascinating to watch as the tactics are
similar to cycling with the fastest skaters drafting each other and
taking it in turns to do the work at the front.
On the morning of the
marathon it was obvious it was going to be another warm day, as we
arrived at the U-bahn (underground station) there were many runners
already there and we picked up more and more as we got towards the city
centre. The start area was huge and very well organised (Dublin has
10,000 runners, Berlin has 40,000). The only drawback was the number of
port-a-loos compared to runners (I won’t go into detail but their loos
are a little different to ours too!) this resulted in many finding not
so discreet locations to do their business in front of the Reichstag
(German parliament building).
The start was once again
well organised and it took me barely five minutes to get across the line
which didn’t seem bad considering the number of runners, I spotted a
Poole Runner, a Littledown Harrier and a lady from Southampton who
tapped me on the back on spotting my Wimborne vest as she sped past!
I discovered early on that
there’s a definite difference between running races in the UK and in
other parts of Europe. The etiquette at water stations was more like a
rugby scrum than anything I had experienced before. Having been pushed
out the way by a Frenchman and knocked sideways by others I learnt it
was every man (or woman) for themselves and get in there quick, get your
water, banana, apple, etc. and get out of the way!!
From about 5k I knew this
was unlikely to be a PB, I had set my sights on a sub-4 hour but knew
that I had not done enough training for this and decided to aim to get
as close to my Dublin time as possible (4.09).
The course takes you past
many of the famous city landmarks within a few miles you head well into
the old east Berlin and the architecture still shows reminders of its
past. It’s a very flat route with few curbs or obstacles to watch out
for. Not surprising really that the world record has been broken here.
The crowds lining the route
were fantastic, I had got my name printed on my Wimborne vest and
thought ‘everyone can pronounce Julie, surely?’ However the first cries
of ‘go Hoolia go!’ had me chuckling. Many local communities had
organised themselves into bands and the music and atmosphere was
exceptional all the way. Most of Denmark seemed to have come to run the
race and those not running lined the route making lots of noise to
encourage all the runners.
By the halfway point I was
settled into a nice comfortable pace and really enjoying myself, I
thought if I can keep this up maybe I can beat that Dublin time?
However it wasn’t to be, by
the last 8 kilometres the temperature had risen to around 25 degrees and
I started to suffer. The pace of all those around me had slowed as well
and I was reduced to walking a few sections in order to keep going. By
now my aim was 4.20.
The last part of the course
takes you back into the city centre, through the ultra-modern Potzdam
Platz and finally back along the beautiful Unter den Linden, under the
Brandenburg gate and past huge grandstands full of spectators which line
the last 200 metres to the finish. Passing the line at 4.22 I was
relieved and happy to have finished.
With typical German
precision you are whisked through to collect medals, plastic covers to
keep you warm (not needed!) and then on to get water, there’s no
stopping to catch your breath!
Simon had finished in a
very respectable 3.32, not bad for someone who had not really trained
for a marathon!
The train back to the
apartment has us thinking of plans for next year…maybe Vienna…maybe New
York?? I aim to run a different one in a different country for as long
as my legs will let me. Simon (who may join WAC when he returns to work
in Poole next Summer) has signed up for a double Ironman, a mere 4.8
mile swim, 224 mile bike and 52.4 mile run. I think he might have to
train for that one….