by Caitlyn Edmundson
My journey to a World Marathon Majors Six Star Finisher Medal began in Tokyo in 2019 and continued in Berlin at the end of September of this year, although this leg of the journey was a long time coming. Around Thanksgiving of 2019, three of my running friends rand I received emails informing us that we had been selected through the lottery to run the Berlin Marathon in September of 2020. At the beginning of 2020 we were excited to plan our trip to Germany – Berlin for the marathon and Munich for Oktoberfest (running + beer – it’s difficult to find a better combination!). We booked our flights and hotels and then the world completely shutdown due to the COVID pandemic. It only took a short time for all the remaining World Marathon Majors, including the Berlin Marathon, to cancel their 2020 races. To say we were all bummed would be an understatement. We were given deferrals until 2021, but then Oktoberfest was canceled again in 2021, and we decided to defer our registration to 2022 – we didn’t want to miss out on that Oktoberfest experience!
By the time the summer of 2022 rolled around, and it was time to start training for this year’s marathon, it felt surreal that we had finally reached this point. Going into this training block, my goal was to PR. The Berlin Marathon is known for its flat, fast course and ideal running weather and is conducive to PRs. My body had other ideas though – I dealt with plantar fasciitis and a bout with COVID at the end of July. After all that, my goals changed from PRing to just getting to the start and finish line relatively healthy and having fun.
My friends and I arrived in Berlin on Friday morning, September 22 for the Sunday, September 25 marathon. We immediately headed to the race expo, held at the former Airport Tempelhof. Given the cliché of German efficiency, we were expecting a well-organized event, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. After waiting in a long line to pick up our race bibs, we then had to wait in another long line to pick up our race shirts. We then headed to the merchandise sections to buy our coveted race jackets, only to find that there were no women’s jackets left. We ended up going on the adidas website and ordering jackets that way, in the hope that we could pick them up in the store. Later that evening when we went to the Adidas store, we were told not to hold our breaths as their stock of women’s jackets was extremely limited (although they had plenty of men’s jackets available!). We ended up returning to the Adidas store later in the week when we were back in Berlin and were overjoyed to find out that the jackets we had ordered had indeed arrived (phew!)
After all the running around and waiting in lines on Friday, we were on our feet for much longer than we would have liked to be two days before a marathon, so we went off in search of food and then an early bedtime. We tried to keep Saturday as lowkey and restful as possible. After a relaxing brunch, we visited a portion of the Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery and then spectated the inline skating marathon (a unique part of the Berlin Marathon weekend experience, held the day before the running marathon).
Sunday morning dawned with perfect racing weather – temperatures hovered around 50 and the skies were overcast. The Berlin Marathon features a later start than most marathons (9:15 AM), so I didn’t have to wake up until 7 AM, which was welcomed by those of us who might have still been jetlagged a little bit. I took the U-Bahn (subway) to meet my one of my friends on the Unter den Linden, the main boulevard leading toward the Brandenburg Gate. The starting line was in Tiergarten Park, and it was rather calming to walk through the greenery on the way to the start. It still hadn’t quite sunk in yet that we would be running 26.2 miles in a short while. After waiting in a long and rather disorganized porta potty line, we made our way into our crowded corral. We were able to hear the start of the elite race and the uproarious cheers for Eliud Kipchoge who himself was hoping to PR (a.k.a. set a new world record!). In about half an hour, it was our turn to cross the starting line and officially begin our 26.2-mile journey through the historic streets of Berlin. Once we crossed the starting line, the runners were able to spread out quite a bit and the race never felt crowded after that.
Since my friend and I similarly had no expectations for the race other than to cross the finish line and have fun, we agreed to run together the entire way. Because of that, I would have to say this was probably the most enjoyable marathon experience I’ve ever had! We chatted up a storm and that really made the miles fly by. We enjoyed seeing the sights and listening for the many spectators lining the streets to cheer our names. Before we knew it, we made the lefthand turn onto the Unter den Linden and saw the Brandenburg Gate looming before us. I would have to say that this is one of the most iconic marathon finish lines out there (just beyond the Brandenburg Gate). To celebrate our run together, my friend and I crossed the finish line hand-in-hand, arms raised – a memory I will cherish for a long time.
Around the 10-mile mark of our race, we learned that Eliud Kipchoge had lowered his own world record by 30 seconds to 2:01:09! The video of his finish shows an exuberant, yet slightly surprised man, who looked as fresh as when he began the race, 26.2 miles earlier. His abilities seem superhuman and his enthusiasm for the sport, and life in general, is contagious. He truly makes you believe, as his motto states, that “no human is limited.” Tigist Assefa of Ethiopia won the women’s race in a course record time of 2:15:37, the third fastest time in history. What a record-setting day in Berlin!Click on picture for video
We kept the celebration of our accomplishments going later that night and for the remainder of the trip, as we headed to Munich the next day for Oktoberfest. We soon discovered that Germany is teeming with so much history and culture to explore and enjoy. I would highly recommend traveling to Germany and running this race if you are ever lucky enough to get the opportunity – it certainly won’t disappoint!
by Caitlyn Edmundson
Read Caitlyn’s exciting account about running the Tokyo Marathon in April 2019