Berlin Half Marathon: The Lowdown
I was in Berlin a few weeks ago you know! Did I mention it?! I've had a wee break from the blog for some life stuff so this is coming a little late, but this post is intended to serve as a ‘race review ‘ (I don't know why, I'm not into that term for some reason) but just with the bits I think you might wanna know if you're thinking of running Berlin. Here's the Lowdown:
- The Expo is in a really cool exhibition space in the centre of Berlin, ringing with the sound of East London and really shitting on expo spaces like the Excel Centre (soz, London). It was super busy on Saturday afternoon and there was a bit of crowd control going on, but we easily wandered through picking up our race numbers and I even bought a VERY fetching visor to protect me from two hours’ worth of frown lines I was bound to get from squinting in the forecasted sunshine. (I have a MASSIVE frown line, I swear from running outside.)
- I googled Berlin Half Marathon a week or so before we went, so I could read all about it from other like minded people. I heard a lot about the ‘German efficiency’ of the race organisation so I was looking forward to seeing that in action (whatever that meant). However, I didn't necessarily did see that side of things. When we arrived at the start area, despite it being pretty small, we couldn’t really find our way around the place, couldn't see much signage and generally were a bit confused.com.
- On that note, the toilet queues were insane at the beginning of the start area and, as you would expect, waned the closer we got to the start line. Be brave and keep going towards your start pen, the toilets went all the way up to pen B so you could go literally right outside your start position, which is great. We relieved ourselves then went off into our pen but I had to say goodbye to Bex to ditch back out to the loos once more before running! Damn race nerves (and weak bladder).
- We didn't use the bag drop 'cause it was such a lovely day so we travelled light, but there weren't queues and that all looked well organised.
- Getting into the start pen was slightly stressful. We weren’t particularly late and maybe it’s because it was a nice day that people were there well in advance, happy to stand around in the sunshine, but it was a real squeeze trying to get into the pen with the amount of people there vs the amount of space - I would definitely advise getting there early!
- The race didn’t actually get going for a good half an hour after the set 10:05 start time. Normally (in my experience) I would say it takes 10-15 minutes to get to the start line but there was a lot of waiting around at the beginning (which I was surprised about given how early people were there ready to go and the notorious 'efficiency' etc).
- The race starts and ends in the same place, which I’m a big fan of. There’s no traipsing somewhere else to get your bag and there were no going back on ourselves as part of the course as it was one big loop.
- The water along the course was in plastic cups. I’m not a huge fan of this but I was running quite conservatively and it gave me a chance to slow down, have a drink, pour some water over my head (IT WAS SO HOT) etc. However, Bex was fuming about this for a good hour after we met at the finish because: (a) it makes it impossible to drink on the run and slows you down because you do need to physically stop; (b) you can’t drink on the run so you need to take in what you need then and there and can’t keep some water for a mile or so down the road; (c) you got a bit of a soaking before and after getting your water from others around you – impossible to grab a cup without sloshing it somewhere and everyone was throwing them to the floor spraying it all over everyone else around them when they were done. Fine for a hot day to be honest though.
- As well as water there was also warm sugary tea on offer, which I found weird until I tried it and then I was a convert! Beer at the end was a treat as well and so Germanic that I had to take one (although I probably drank about a quarter of it although I didn't find out til much later that it's non-alcoholic!).
- The course is really flat (although Bex and I both felt a minor lift towards the end) so really ‘fast’ if that’s your bag i.e. you are aiming for a P.B. It took in some good slights including Checkpoint Charlie. A particular highlight of mine was going under the Brandenberg Gate which gave me a bit of nostalgia about going over Tower Bridge in the London Marathon. I took this rather beautiful wobbly photo as well.
- I really noticed how there was absolutely no one in fancy dress – I appreciate it’s a half, and not a full, marathon but perhaps fancy dress is a real British thing?! I got the impression most people there were taking the race pretty seriously. Apart from a group of Adidas Runners, I didn’t see any other groups running together either, and no charity mentions on people’s shirts unlike in London races when you can get a bit weepy reading why everyone is running.
- The crowds were really great. I’m sure the hot weather helped but they didn’t disappoint. I had high fives, my name called with a German accent and there was plenty of music along the course as well.
- Don’t forget to hand your shoe tag in at the end. There are a couple of very inconspicuous people with buckets collecting them (and not a specific section you go through where people cut them off a-la London Marathon) and if you forget/don’t see the bucket people or have some kind of hankering to keep your tag for other races or as a general keep sake then you will be charged the princely sum of €25 which is a complete scam in my eyes.
Overall, I would say the Berlin Half is a great race to get involved in, in a brilliant city. There's no better way to take in the sights other than on foot so what a way to do it. There's a small vibe to the race which surprised me given the amount of runners involved, and I felt slightly claustrophobic at the start, but was buzzing off the crowds once I got into it.
Unfortunately, once again my IT band kicked in. After worrying about it for the first six or so miles, I finally relaxed before it kicked in at old faithful mile nine. Cursing and on the verge of tears, I stretched and walk-ran for two miles before thinking a big fat FUCK IT. I did not train for two months and set this race up as a resolution in 2016 to come back without a PB. I knew I could run through the pain for a mile or so and wasn't worried about the aftermath so I just went for it. I crossed the finish line with tears of pain in my eyes and a minor PB coming in at 1:55. I don't want to say I hated every minute of it but it's one of my worse race experiences and I hate that I was disappointed at a PB just because it wasn't what I trained for.
Anyway, PB in the bag, a bit of a face-arm tan and a great weekend in Berlin with my bestie, it was all still worth it :)