By Richard Slack
Another April comes around and another European city half marathon for Marie and Richard. This year the four day break (Friday to Tuesday) was to Berlin with the half marathon on the Sunday. The organisation in true Germanic style and accepting wild generalisations was practical, efficient and most orderly. Race numbers and chip timers was collected from the expo on the Saturday, after which we did a rekkie of the start area to ensure that on Sunday morning we were not wandering around aimlessly. After that, for the remainder of the day we then played at being tourists and went for the city sight-seeing bus followed by a bit of Berlin wall history and a visit to the Checkpoint Charlie museum which we were to run past on the Sunday. A relaxed and fairly alcohol light (shame but sensible) dinner that evening.
Race day: beautiful blue sky and light breeze throughout the run. Start time was 10.05 (obviously the five minutes were important to someone) on Karl Marx Allee. This long broad avenue (probably as wide as the M1) was in the former GDR (East Germany) and is flanked by high rise flats. Starting blocks were well marshalled; Marie was in Block E and I was in Block C based on prior half marathon official times. At the end of Karl Marx Allee is Alexander Platz, formerly the height of any consumer life in the East. The route then went pretty much due West along Unter den Linden (3km) before passing under the Brandenburg Tor (Gate) and into what was then West Germany. After that the race followed long avenues past the Siegessaule (Victory Column) at 5km and onto Schloss Charlottenburg around 9km.
Near to half way, we then turned south and ran in the shade of the buildings for 2-3 kms before turning back East and running along Kurfurstendamm (Ku’damm for the locals) where the famous (apparently) Ke De We department store is located (13km). A couple of welcome drinks stations were then handily placed at both 14km and 16 km (prior drinks at 6 and 10km) as we headed towards Potsdomer Platz, and in my reckoning one (although seemingly endless) parkrun distance left to go. Happily the final 5kms as much of the race before remained flat and continued to pass by some great landmarks – Rotes Rathaus and checkpoint Charlie before a final blast back to Alexander Platz for the finish line.
Marie continues with her massive half marathon time PBs, following 2.11 in Vienna ,this year a fantastic 2.04.55 so heading for a first sub 2 hour run. I had again set out for a sub 1.50.00 mindful of going under 1.45.00 for the first time. Not to be with a final time of 1.49.05 although somehow running 13.5 miles.
Great post finish organisation with loads of water, bananas, alcohol frei bier and the customary medal. Plenty of small bars and food outlets post finish and all very relaxed and not crowded despite a 30k plus number of runners. Then the acid test – the metro (U-bahn) back to the hotel and fears of the Great North Run end travel fiasco. No fear in Berlin – straight to the platform and onto a full but not packed train to the hotel.
All in all a fantastic half marathon and thank you Berlin. Roll on 2017 for another European adventure!