So, I had great expectations for the Berlin Marathon, and overall is was an amazing race: it was as flat as promised and incredibly exciting to run. I got into the race by going through a marathon tour company, so they actually took care of all the nitty gritty details of registration etc., so as far as how the race was managed, I was slightly removed from direct contact and cannot accurately judge that aspect. Otherwise, the only way to get into the marathon is through a lottery, or to be a famous runner :)
What I loved: The course is, of course, phenomenal. Getting to run all around an amazing European city was really exciting and completely different from any US race I have ever run. The course was lined with spectators from the first kilometer to the 42nd. It was even more fun to hear people cheering your name in a foreign accent! :) The race was easy to access on public transportation and there were ample porta potties all the way from the entrance to the corrals. The energy of being in a world marathon major was incredible as well.
What could be improved: The expo was a bit odd...there were not the usual samples of bars and gus and energy drinks (silly, I know, but I always look forward to trying something new at the expo). Of note, there was no race shirt included in the race fee. Although I normally do not even like race t-shirts (I'm more of a tank top kind of runner), I felt that since the race was so expensive in the first place, a shirt should be included for those who do enjoy a race tee. Finally the most important aspect of the race that I felt truly affected the overall experience of running the race was the water situation. IMHO, it was a disaster. It felt like amateur hour, and I expected a lot more from a major:
-there is no water for the first 5K, which is not that big of a deal, but if it is super hot out, it could be a problem.
-they use plastic cups which do not fold, therefore spill all over you before you can even take a sip.
-they do not clean up the cups as they get dropped, so by the time more averaged paced runners (like myself) were getting to the water stations, the ground/road was covered in the plastic which actually was a hazard for slipping and tripping.
-most of the water stations were only on one side of the road, which resulted in veering over from wherever you were to grab the cup, and then veering back out of the way to avoid the chaos.
-which brings me to the next point: the water stations were chaos. people were literally coming to a complete stop to grab a cup and standing there to drink it, without any regard for runners who were actually attempting to run through the station. I nearly ran into runners coming to a stop directly in front of me several times over the course of the race.
-additionally, the volunteers were handing out the cups from the far side of the table (runner table volunteer instead of runner, volunteer, table), which significantly slowed the process as well.
-also, there were only electrolytes available every few water stops, and even then it was a very poor ratio of water to powder resulting in really watered down, poorly tasting drinks.
So, besides the water disaster, which I really believe significantly affected the speed of the race, it was an incredibly well run and executed race.
Of note: You have to rent a timing chip, unless you own one of your own and keep in mind that the race markers are in K not miles, which may throw off your pace abit if you do not plan for it, or have a GPS watch of your own.
Besides the few drawbacks that I noted, the Berlin Marathon is an amazing race to add to your bucket list.