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Run Panthera

BMW Berlin Marathon 2019

©SCC EVENTS/camera4

Eating pretzels vs. running marathons

Of all the things on my to-do list when I moved to Berlin, watching the Berlin Marathon wasn’t a high priority. After all, I’d got pretzel eating, beer drinking and trips up the iconic TV tower to cross off first.

But when news of the marathon reached me, I couldn’t help but get very excited about the prospect of watching the marathon in realtime.

A brief history

We’ve all heard of the Berlin Marathon. It’s one of the six Abbott World Marathon Majors, standing strong alongside London, Tokyo, Boston, Chicago and New York City, and attracts thousands of people every year. But do you know the real history behind it?

The Berlin Marathon was founded in 1974 by baker Horst Milde. In its first year, it saw 244 runners cross the finish line with only ten of those being women. Famous for its cool conditions and well-kept flat roads, the marathon has celebrated 11 world records with the most recent being that incredible 2:01:39 run from Eliud Kipchoge in 2018, shaving 1 minute and 18 seconds off the previous time.

Even more iconic, in October 1990, after 45 years of divide, the Berlin Marathon re-routed so that runners passed through what was formerly known as the Eastern Zone for the very first time.

And if that wasn’t enough, this year, in 2019, the marathon welcomed its 1 millionth finisher — that’s an amazing 1 million finishers from the very first marathon to present day.

Just by that hefty introduction, you can understand why Berlin is such a popular marathon to enter and why so many put in for the ballot at the end of each year.

Sea of runners

Being a little (but not too far) away from completing a marathon myself, I decided to head to the marathon as a spectator rather than a runner. As part of the route passed near to where I live, it seemed only right that I took time out of my sleepy Sunday to show my support. I’ve attended a few 10k’s, halves and full marathons as a supporter before, but walking towards this race seemed a little bit more iconic.

As I got closer to the route, the sounds of cheers, plastic clappers, brass brands and techno music flooded the air. In the distance, splashes of fluorescent orange, yellow, green and pink blurred into one, and as I took my place at the side of the street, it became apparent just how big this race truly is.

A gigantic sea of runners flowed down from as far as the eye could see, moving past me and into the distance on the following side. At 12KM in, these runners had an unfathomable 30KM still to do and some of them seemed to have already hit the wall. Others were more than up for what lay ahead of them, running close to the railings to hi-five children and adults alike.

Part of the route took runners around the fountained roundabout on Karl-Marx Allee, where hundreds of people had gathered to show their support. What began as a breezy Sunday morning quickly developed into a wet weekend washout, and conditions suddenly changed from ideal to a little bit of a pain. But even the rain couldn’t wipe the smiles off the faces of family and friends, as they proudly watched, cheered and even sometimes hugged their superhuman loved ones.

There were bumblebees, beer bottles, superheroes, cartoon characters and more, all pushing for a new PB, a first marathon experience or to tick off one of six iconic marathon majors.

The bling

Over the years, the Berlin Marathon medals have become just as infamous as the race itself. From Ancient Greek running legends to former Olympic marathon champions, getting to add a Berlin medal to your collection is a must for all road racing fans.

This year the back of the medal displayed the face of Lutz Derkow. A former middle-distance runner, Derkow was one of the first permanent SCC Events (the organisers of the marathon) employees and was known for many years as the event’s Technical Director. Sadly, Derkow passed away at the beginning of this year aged just 65, but his memory lives on through the 2019 medal.

The front of the medal was an engraving of many of the buildings and structures that Berlin is known all over the world for — the TV tower, victory column and of course Brandenburg Gate — as well as the Berlin bear, with the colours of the German flag proudly displayed on the adjoining ribbon.

The elites

As I mentioned at the beginning, last year the Berlin Marathon saw Eliud Kipchoge set a new world record, crossing the line after running an incredible 2:01:39. It was the talking point of the sporting world for many weeks and if you ask any keen majors fan today, they’ll probably be able to tell you where they were when they found out about the new record.

This year, with Kipchoge in training for his INEOS 1:59:00 Vienna challenge, it was all to play for. Notable male athletes included Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, Leul Gebrselassie and Sisay Lemma, with females Gladys Cherono (Kenya), Mare Dibaba (Ethiopia) and Haftamnesh Tesfay (Ethiopia), the three fastest runners respectively in both genders.

But it would be Kenenisa Bekele who would steal the show, the fastest male of the 2019 marathon, narrowly missing out on the world record by just 3 seconds. He ran a strong 2:01:41 to become the second-fastest man to ever run the marathon. For the women, it was Ashete Bekere who took first place running an equally incredible 2:20:14. But one of the big talking points of the elite race was fifth place, taken by US runner Sara Hall who pushed for a new PB of 2:22:16.

2020 marathon

So what about next year? Will we see Bekele return to shave off those pesky 3 seconds that got in the way of a world record? Or will Kipchoge line up to put more time between him and his closest competitors?

And what about the women? Can Hall push further for a top 3 finish or will Bekere come back to steal the show once more? Only time will tell.

If all this talk of the marathon has got you interested, then you’re in luck. The ballot for 2020 marathon opens at noon (CET) on Tuesday 1st October 2019 and closes on Thursday 31st October 2019 at 11:59 PM (CET). You can find out more about the ballot process by visiting the Berlin Marathon website.

Whether you’re looking to cross off all six marathon majors, return to lay down a brand new Berlin PB or just want your first marathon to be an iconic one, make sure you get your applications in before the deadline. Places will be announced from the 27th November onwards.

Good luck!

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