- 26.2 miles/Marathon
- Road Race
The last six men's marathon world records have been set in Berlin. In 2016, the great, Kenenisa Bekele, pushed by former world record holder, Wilson Kipsang, nearly broke the world record the seventh consecutive time at this iconic event. While I didn't run close to a world record, I will say that the event's heritage helps draw some of the world's best runners at every level. This competitive field combined with the pancake flat course and consistently comfortable weather are what make this event one of the best in the world for those seeking a fast time.
Bib pickup and the expo location were straightforward - be prepared to cab or take the efficient U Bahn (Train). My main gripe with the expo experience was that the official Adidas merchandise booth was a complete mess - finding the perfect piece of apparel was like wrestling an octopus.
The start corrals were no big deal - in fact it seemed like a pretty low key environment for such a big event - the corrals at Boston and Chicago are much more intimidating. Toss-away plastic ponchos were a nice amenity.
The course itself was well supported by volunteers and spectators. I felt like there was pretty good crowd support and many different bands all over the course. I could see the plastic cups making footing a bit dicey depending on the traffic in your wave, but it was never an issue for me. I only took water so I don't have any comments on the other beverages or amenities on course except that they really should have the sports drink before the water.
Other than a few epic landmarks like the Brandenburg Gate and Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, the course is rather uneventful, running through neighborhoods with rather tall (5-7 stories) and consistent buildings which provide very good cover from wind and sun. Standing around at the start, I wasn't cold which is typically bad. Thankfully the cover from the buildings and trees along with dousing myself with water from aid stations kept me mostly comfortable.
As I mentioned earlier, the field one of the best assembled annually. It was inspiring to run with such a motivated bunch of kindred spirits. In fact, this brings to mind one of my favorite parts of the event, Saturday's "Breakfast Run." The official "Breakfast Run" is a 6km shakeout which is pretty much open to anyone and runs from Charlottenburg Palace to the Olympic Stadium. There were thousands of other runners from all over the world doing a casual, fun jog. Bring a costume or something with your country's colors and do the run! Just outside the Olympic stadium near the old parade grounds is a nice flat straightaway perfect for strides after the shakeout.
If you're chasing personal records, this is a must experience event, even if you aren't able to PR, it's still fun to run the world record course with a bunch of other motivated athletes. If PRs aren't as important to you, I would say this is a decent destination event, but there are likely other marathons you may find better suited to you like NYC and London to name a few (I haven't run either event, but I hear the crowd support is deafening). I'm glad I went, but with Chicago Marathon in my backyard, I don't see myself going back for some time.