Overall Rating
Overall Rating (41 Reviews)
4.1
(41 Ratings)  (41 Reviews)
DIFFICULTY
1.5
SCENERY
3.9
PRODUCTION
4
SWAG
3.1
The fact that the past seven men’s marathon world records (most recently in 2018) were all set in Berlin speaks to the course’s fast and flat profile. As the first of three World Marathon Majors series races staged in the fall, Berlin typically offers perfect running weather on a course … MORE
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Recent reviews

    cedoyle FIRST-TIMER '21

    Well organized race as you would expect from the German people. The race starts and finishes around Brandenburg Gate. You get to run through the gate just before the finish. … MORE

    Well organized race as you would expect from the German people. The race starts and finishes around Brandenburg Gate. You get to run through the gate just before the finish. The course is flat and had a lot of spectators cheering throughout the race. It was a beautiful day but a little warm for a long race (60-70 F).

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    4

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    mharm78 FIRST-TIMER '21

    This is an absolutely fantastic race. If you're even somewhat considering it, just do it. I'm working towards my six star World Marathon Majors, and I have now done 5 … MORE

    This is an absolutely fantastic race. If you’re even somewhat considering it, just do it. I’m working towards my six star World Marathon Majors, and I have now done 5 of the 6 (just Tokyo left). Chicago is my hometown race and I have run it a dozen or so times and absolutely love it, and I’ve done Boston a few times and it’s great. When I decided to do the WMM, those were the only 2 of the 6 I had done. I would say of the 4 I had left at that time, I figured Berlin was the one I was least interested in. Wow was I wrong. I think this might be my favorite out of all the WMM, and it’s definitely one of my favorite overall marathons. Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about this race. The course is unbelievable – not only do you get amazing views of tons of cool historic sites and just running through Berlin in general is really cool – great city – but I think this has to be the only marathon course in the world flatter than Chicago. The crowds were great, not over the top crazy, but definitely support throughout the race. Race organization was very good, the expo was in an old airport and had kind of a cool vibe. You have the option to get a shirt or not, which is unusual for a race of this size, and is a nice option for people trying to budget for lots of races. That, too – affordable race in an affordable city. Highly, highly recommend this race, especially for a first international marathon.

    DIFFICULTY
    1
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    hbr245b FIRST-TIMER '21

    Easy to see why this is a fast race - flat & mostly wide open roads so no unexpected bunching of runners to slow you down. Forgot that I didn't … MORE

    Easy to see why this is a fast race – flat & mostly wide open roads so no unexpected bunching of runners to slow you down.
    Forgot that I didn’t pay for a finisher shirt at registration so a little perplexed at bib pickup not to receive one. Bought a different shirt in the end as the finisher was nothing special (black).
    Won’t be back in 2022 but maybe in 2023 if I’m chasing a sub 3!

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    3
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    2

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    TJax FIRST-TIMER '21

    A huge, well organized major marathon with enthusiastic spectator support along the entire course! As a first time visitor to Berlin, the race was an incredible way to see and … MORE

    A huge, well organized major marathon with enthusiastic spectator support along the entire course! As a first time visitor to Berlin, the race was an incredible way to see and experience this fascinating city. The course itself is flat and world records have been set here. Unfortunately, no world record (haha) or personal best for me as I had just arrived on Friday night from the US for the Sunday morning event and underestimated the overall effect of the time zone difference on sleep, my stomach, nutrition intake, etc. I woke up too early, ate, and then waited in my starting block for 1.5 hours before my race began, so I was getting hungry again. Aid stations were plentiful and offered water & Maurten sports drink, with bananas and Maurten gels at later points on the course. Recyclable plastic cups are used at aid stations. Runners were encouraged via starting line video presentations to throw said cups into the one of the multiple trash receptacles after use, however, most runners threw them on the ground, which created an interesting and messy obstacle course after each aid station. Seeing Brandenburg Gate as you run to the finish is exciting, but don’t be like me and think that the gate is the actual finish line. It is not. But it is close. Overall, a great experience that I would recommend to anyone interested in running in a large event! If traveling from far away, my advice: arrive at least a few days ahead of time and be sure to see more of the sights of this awesome city while you’re there.

    DIFFICULTY
    1
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    4
    SCENERY
    4
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    3

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    The course is fantastic. The aid stations are close together and many of them have bananas and apples. This race is an awesome experience especially after having to wait almost … MORE

    The course is fantastic. The aid stations are close together and many of them have bananas and apples. This race is an awesome experience especially after having to wait almost 2 years to participate.
    I didn’t realize the medals would not have the date on them and didn’t pay for the engraving beforehand – my only criticism.

    DIFFICULTY
    1
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    3

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    thestudadam FIRST-TIMER '21

    This was my first international marathon & my 2nd World Marathon Major. Berlin is a very unique city with a lot of history and it really behooves you to spend … MORE

    This was my first international marathon & my 2nd World Marathon Major. Berlin is a very unique city with a lot of history and it really behooves you to spend some time after the race seeing the city and it’s history. From it’s government buildings to the Berlin Wall to the Cold War History and of course the WWII history there really is a ton to see. A nice walking tour in the days after the race will help you get your mobility back and something I would recommend.

    Rather than comparing this race to other smaller local races which this of course blows out of the water, I’m going to compare it to the other Marathon Majors which is more apt comparison. This was also the first Major Marathon to take place in the Covid world so some of my observations may only be truly applicable to 2021.

    EXPO/PACKET PICK UP:
    Getting to the Expo was very easy. It was held at the old Berlin Airport so public transit by bus or the U-Bahn (Subway) were both easy options. There was a long but fast moving line to get into the expo for participants. Considering they were checking for ID proof and Vaccination proof the line went smoothly. Sadly we didn’t notice a seperate line for visitors until we were near the front so that cost us some time. They used this ID check to give you a fabric ribbon that they tightly put around your wrist that you then have to wear until the race was over. We went on Friday and wearing it for 3 days was only mildly annoying. The old airport was a unique place to have any event. The baggage claim area serves as a lobby after the wrist band area and from there you walked out onto the old runway/gate area to walk to some maintenance hanger where the expo proper was. You first had to enter a racers only area to pick up your bib and bag. They print the bib when you arrive at the front of the line and this part was pretty easy. It being a piece of paper meant that it tore more easily than a normal bib and I had to re-pin a torn corner mid race. I run mostly half marathons so although they say you can use a full or half time to prove you pace my bib said I was in the very last corral because i didn’t have a marathon time recently, not accurate at all. There was another line to get this fixed, I was able to move through this line in 20 minutes but I heard many people say it took them well over an hour. When I reached the front the volunteer took a swag at what my full pace would be based on my half marathon time (His opinion a 1:31 half last month => 3:25 full) I disagreed but he didn’t care and put me in the slow corral, I was pretty disappointed by his attitude. Another 30 minute line in the regular customer service/question line got me in the proper corral. My advice, print and bring with you a proven Full marathon proof time recently if at all possible, worst case a half marathon time. I heard many many people say they had registered with a proof time that didn’t process so they had to stand in line to fix their start corral as well. If you didn’t have proof of a recent race time for your desired corral then you were out of luck. Lastly in the runners only area you could pick up any merchandise that you pre purchased.
    The rest of the expo had a large gear purchase area (I spent my fair share as I do at majors but rarely at small races), get there early so everything isn’t picked over in your size. Also heads up several items are only in the women’s section or vice versa. I found my favorite T-shirt over there and another shirt that I couldn’t find in my size in the Mens area. None of them were Women’s cut so it is worth your time if you can’t find what you want in your area. The rest of the area was large with quite a few vendors but in comparison to an expo like NYC this was a tiny expo.

    Parking/Access: Either get a hotel near the finish or take the U-Bahn(Subway). Don’t drive there. Getting into the start area was a breeze with the wristband and bib, zero line very easy. The start area is the Tiergarten (Really big park). This meant tons and tons of room to warm up and stretch with nobody around.

    T-Shirts/SWAG: Oddly the default race shirt is NOT provided for free. I suppose it is nice to not be forced to buy it but it is the only race I have ever run that has done this. The shirt was nice with some track suit stripes on the shoulder which felt pretty European (See picture). The medal seems to follow a similar look each year. German flag ribbon which is very cool and distinct but made out of a cheap fabric. The medal is a silver color and come with quite a few chips and dings which happens when you have medals in a stack but felt like more than usual. One side of the medal was a unique Berlin highlights collage, the other side is apparently always a person. I lucked out that this year it was Kipchoge setting the world record. A few years ago they had the face of the retiring race director, I can’t really imagine anybody wanting that on their medal. I would have been really disappointed with that, but this year was ok.

    Aid Stations: Aid Stations in Europe are different than in the US. Until about the 30k mark they were spread out closer to every 2.5-3 miles rather than every 1.5-2 like you would find in the US. They all had water and some kind of “energy” drink that I had not heard of so I didn’t trust it. They also had tea which was odd but I guess common over there. The other unusual and a little frustrating thing is the cups they use. You are likely used to paper cups that you can crush/crimp to make it easier to pour the water in your mouth. These were more like small clear Solo cups so they didn’t really crush well without breaking. Getting water down your throat without soaking yourself was extremely hard. Also those cups being tossed all over the ground make incessant noise of clacking that you will take weeks to get out of your brain. The aid stations were long and well stocked through and also had food at a ton of them. Aid station frequency did increase near the end, like every 2 miles instead of 3. Also of note each aid station had a hydro pack filling station.

    Course Scenery/Elevation Difficulty: There is a reason the World record was set on this course. It is really really flat. The scenery is a real mixed bag. The start area is pretty and has you run past the victory column like .5k into the race and the finish at the Brandonburg gate is one of the most iconic in the world. That said the rest of the course is really blah, I do tend to laser focus during a race and not notice much but it was mostly just running down residential streets in a major city. The shortest route blue line was well marked and easy to follow and most of the course was kept clear of spectators crowding the runners. In several areas people would cross when there were no barriers but I didn’t see any collisions. I heard the crowds were maybe 50% of normal so it could be a bigger issue in normal years. The course is overall also quite narrow and has some bottlenecks. Again not a huge issue in a year with “only” 25k instead of 43k but certainly something to be aware of in a normal year.

    Weather: This race is held at the very end of September so the weather could be anything from 35-80 during the race. In my case we got upper sixties changing into mid to low 70s during the race. This of course slowed down everybody’s pace. Even the race winner was nearly 5 minutes slower than 2 years ago. If those guys lose 5 minutes I feel great about only losing 6 minutes from my goal time.

    Race Management: Overall pretty good but also a bit of a mixed bag, of course some grace has to be afforded to the organizers for actually pulling off the first major since Covid happened. Communications in the months leading up to the race was really lacking in my opinion. I found the event Facebook page comments from other runners to have better info than the emails from the event during planning. Eventually the race would send info or respond to emails but it took forever.

    The unique fabric wristband/ribbon system for the event to get into the start area worked well. At first I thought it was odd and useless to make people wear the wristbands but it ensures there is zero bib swapping because only a person with a wristband and a bib was allowed in the start area and on race day it meant the lines to get in the start area were non existent since you just walked up flashed a bib and a bracelet and they waved you through.

    The bathroom situation was however less than ideal and lines were LONG. Men everywhere (and a few women) were making use of the bushes and trees to make their own bathrooms. This race only had 25,000 people instead of the 43,000 they had pre covid, did they have fewer bathrooms? The same? If it was the same then it would have been truly crazy in a normal year. FYI there are additional bathrooms near the start corrals which are a bit of a walk from the warm up area. They also had standing 4 person urinals near the start area, very fast and convenient but probably not the favorite visual for most ladies.

    The start corrals were guarded to make sure you were in your proper area which was nice but of course a few people made it into other areas. They had fun pump up music and a clapping “Skol” chant before introducing the elites on video boards they had throughout the start area. They did a good job making it feel like an epic event in the start area.

    The finish area was a little confusing to navigate and shaped like a cross where you had to go down different arms to get things like a free beer, finisher poncho, bag pick up, or food. Eventually you spill out into the park again with plenty of room to recover before leaving for the family meet up area.

    Pictures for the event are reasonable $35, and I ended up with 266 pictures with me in them (lots of them very similar). I heard that there was an official photographer after the finish where you could take your picture with your medal but I never saw it and nobody I talked to seemed to have done it either. So either be aware to look for it immediately after finishing or use your own camera to take a picture on the podium they had set up in the park after you exited the finish area.

    Overall this race has quite a bit to nit pick about compared to other majors but when compared to other non Majors events it is still epic and very well done. I would highly recommend it as part of both your 6 star journey and just a race that you do as you travel the world.

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    M_Sohaskey Oct 08, 2021 at 8:41pm

    Brilliant review Adam, this brought back so many memories of race weekend in Berlin... the stuffy expo in the old airport hangar, the piss-poor (bad pun intended) porta-potty situation, the… MORE

    Brilliant review Adam, this brought back so many memories of race weekend in Berlin... the stuffy expo in the old airport hangar, the piss-poor (bad pun intended) porta-potty situation, the cheap plastic cups bouncing underfoot, the speedy flat course, and above all that amazing finish through the Brandenburg Gate—"iconic" is the right word for it. Luckily I didn't have to deal with the corral placement, that sounds infuriating. And happy to say I didn't get a finisher medal with the retiring RD pictured on it, that's one of those things that's amusing unless it happens to you. But CONGRATS on a shiny new PR—glad you had a great race and a great time in Berlin, it really is an amazing city to get out & explore. Two Majors down, four to go... what a journey! LESS

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    Chinanow Oct 01, 2021 at 12:12pm

    Congrats....I ran this as well and as you stated it was very warm and the bathroom situation was less than ideal. Great job on your finish!

    Congrats....I ran this as well and as you stated it was very warm and the bathroom situation was less than ideal. Great job on your finish!

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    edge FIRST-TIMER '21

    Awesome atmosphere all around. Well supported by the city. Party like scene at the beginning. Has the feel of a smaller NYC marathon. Post race festivities were fine given it … MORE

    Awesome atmosphere all around. Well supported by the city. Party like scene at the beginning. Has the feel of a smaller NYC marathon.
    Post race festivities were fine given it was the first World Major post pandemic. The alcohol free beer not so much and was expecting more from Germany when it comes to beer.

    DIFFICULTY
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    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4

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    KevinJonell FIRST-TIMER '19

    This marathon was great! It definitely had the big marathon feel! Which wasn't a surprise considering it's a world marathon major. The expo was huge which was great. Though a … MORE

    This marathon was great! It definitely had the big marathon feel! Which wasn’t a surprise considering it’s a world marathon major. The expo was huge which was great. Though a lot of things were in a foreign language haha. The scenery was amazing. Got to run around so much history! It was very well organized and it was one of my favorite marathons I’ve done.

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    Marathontwinmom FIRST-TIMER '16

    The race is huge and the pre-race line up seemed very disorganized. Give MUCH more time to line up at the start than you think you will need. There were … MORE

    The race is huge and the pre-race line up seemed very disorganized. Give MUCH more time to line up at the start than you think you will need. There were some hills, but not bad. The finish line beer is (near-beer). Not what I expected in Germany!

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    3
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    3
    SCENERY
    4
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    andrew.lee1 FIRST-TIMER '19

    Contrary to stereotypes about German efficiency and organization, I found the expo and start lines quite chaotic. Regardless, this is a flat and fast course. The best thing is that … MORE

    Contrary to stereotypes about German efficiency and organization, I found the expo and start lines quite chaotic. Regardless, this is a flat and fast course. The best thing is that it attracts other fast runners so you will always have somebody to run with.

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    5
    SCENERY
    4
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    3

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    drjorobinson FIRST-TIMER '19

    Berlin is one of the World Marathon Majors, so that alone makes it worth doing. The city is fascinating and the course is as flat as can be (and I’m … MORE

    Berlin is one of the World Marathon Majors, so that alone makes it worth doing. The city is fascinating and the course is as flat as can be (and I’m from Chicago). It is tempting to think of coming here to run fast, but as a middle-of-the-pack runner, it was far too crowded to really chase that PR or BQ. I think it would be best to approach it in a relaxed and curious state of mind instead (maybe next time for me!). The production is excellent and the volunteers were great. The weather was the biggest issue this year. It rained for the vast majority of the race, sometimes quite hard, and this made it difficult to enjoy and tiring to be always dodging puddles. They use hard plastic cups as well, which adds to the sense of having to step carefully. Bring your own fuel, as the on-course offerings are uniquely German (tea and beet juice?). The crowd was plentiful, but oddly quiet unless you happen to be running near the runner they were there to see. Running under the Brandenburg Gate is very fun, as is just the general feeling of being in such a historically significant city. The race swag was a disappointment. The shirt and “jacket” (really a windbreaker) were not terribly attractive. The medal featured the face of a recently-deceased man who was crucial to the management of the race. This seemed a bit obscure compared to last year’s medal which featured Kipchoge. Overall, it’s a magnificent spectacle that is definitely worth doing as long as you’re in the right frame of mind.

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    elisexingzi REPEAT RUNNER '19

    Expo: So crowded. The number pick up is at the end of the hall, you have to pass by all the exhibitors. As a world major race, there is not … MORE

    Expo: So crowded. The number pick up is at the end of the hall, you have to pass by all the exhibitors. As a world major race, there is not a t-shirt to be provided?
    Race: Starting corrals have a limited amount of porter potties which blew my mind. If you are hosting 45K people at the starting line, at least have enough restroom for everyone. I waited for an hour to use the bathroom and made it to the starting line 5 minutes before it started.
    Crowd: The crowd is just not that excited, at least comparing to new york.
    Organizer : i was trying to find a medical tent at the last 5 miles and there was NONE.

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    spifko FIRST-TIMER '19

    Overall I loved the experience of this race. There are tons of people participating and even more along the course cheering you on... even in the rain! I would have … MORE

    Overall I loved the experience of this race. There are tons of people participating and even more along the course cheering you on… even in the rain! I would have liked to have the course go along some of the more iconic and scenic parts of Berlin, but you can’t beat finishing through Brandenburg Tor! I also appreciated that they made an effort to make the race more green with reusable water cups. My only complaints are that there were not nearly enough restrooms (and no toilet paper in them) and the expo was way too crowded. The race swag was mostly sold out for common sizes, and they couldn’t keep the shelves stocked quick enough.

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    Amac1167 FIRST-TIMER '19

    Expo = not the most organized initially, but goes smooth once you get through the initial check-in part. The bibs are legit a giant piece of paper that gets printed … MORE

    Expo = not the most organized initially, but goes smooth once you get through the initial check-in part. The bibs are legit a giant piece of paper that gets printed in front of you so bib pickup is pretty easy. You have to go to a separate area to get your shirt and that can be a bit of a hassle. The Adidas merch area runs out super quickly so get there early as possible.

    The afternoon before the marathon, make sure you get to a spot on the marathon course so you can watch the inline skating marathon. It’s super cool to watch those folks rip by at breakneck speeds on the course you’ll be running the day before.

    Pre-Race staging area = get there early, use the bathroom, then get right back in line to go again before you line up. Or just keep walking around until you find a trove of hidden toilets. Waited in line for 45 minutes upon getting there only to find out there was a whole other section with no one waiting.

    Race = do you like drums? Yeah? Good cause there are a ton of bands out and about along the course. Tons of drum bands, school bands, bandy bands. Certainly helps push you along the course.

    Scenery = you’re in the middle of a city so don’t expect too much. You’ve got some street art and the Tiergarten but that’s about it.

    Course = pancake flat. Only issue is the constant moving from 2 lanes (or both sides of road) down to 1 which creates a huge bottle neck.

    Enter the lottery for this race, go get your WMM star, and eat some currywurst.

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    DocRob FIRST-TIMER '19

    Nice course, too many runners. The course never opened up for me. I spent the entire race fighting for my spot. Terrain, what terrain, entirely flat. This race, just is … MORE

    Nice course, too many runners. The course never opened up for me. I spent the entire race fighting for my spot. Terrain, what terrain, entirely flat. This race, just is too big. I ran it to just check off a majors. There is nothing here to bring me back to run. It again.

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    I was so looking forward to running the "world's fastest" marathon that my expectations were maybe a bit too high. First, the pre-race area sorely lacked porta potties as line … MORE

    I was so looking forward to running the “world’s fastest” marathon that my expectations were maybe a bit too high.
    First, the pre-race area sorely lacked porta potties as line lengths extended more than an hour, and I witnessed two women nearly come to blows over one I had just departed. The lack of facilities on this cool, rainy morning led to some people, including women, going in public and causing others to actually miss their corral start time. It was pretty much a joke. The porta potties were an abomination inside (I will not paint a picture with words) and lacked even rudimentary follow-up materials (ie. TP).
    As for the race itself, I would suggest fudging a bit on your time and starting in a corral faster than your anticipated finish. I started in the last corral, knowing months ago I could not put in the training I would have liked, and paid dearly for it. Although the course is flat and very fast, it was beyond super crowded. I spent more time and energy running sideways in an effort to work my way through the crowd than I did running forward. I also was forced to nearly walk the first kilometer due to congestion and the proliferation of selfies. Steady rain throughout much of race also slowed the slower runners. It was exhausting and difficult to work one’s way through the mass of humanity running in this race!
    Even further, many starting in the last corral were running their first marathon and apparently were not aware that aid stations extended beyond the first person handing out water or snacks causing massive jam-ups early in the race.
    The race was so crowded it was difficult to even take full strides at times, and the congestion never really cleared. The streets were not as narrow as many other races I have run, but as an indication of how the crowd size, my fastest 2K was from 40-42 kilometers when the avenue finally widened.
    As for the aid stations, there were more than enough, with bananas, beer, Red Bull and gels available at various points throughout the race. Although the Red Bull stop did cause some problems as the product was served in biodegradable cups. Rain, crowded streets, tired runners and paper cups turned to mush make for some hazardous conditions.
    I also appreciate Berlin race officials for trying to become more eco-friendly. The plastic cups put into play were at least an attempt to change the status quo as was the try at recycling. It might not have worked perfectly, but something does need to change when it comes to the waste generated by these massive events.
    The crowd support was awesome considering the weather, and running through the Brandenburg Gate was pretty cool. However, because of the destruction brought on by the war, Berlin is a fairly new city and there is not really a great deal of cool architecture or many historic sites to see along the course.
    I don’t run for medals or swag, but each runner was provided with a bag of water and snacks afterward making the transition from running to finishing up pretty smooth. Ponchos also were provided, a welcome sight due to continued rain and cool temps. The expo also was well-organized.
    This was my third international marathon and my sixth overall. How easy was the course? I really didn’t feel stiff or sore after; in fact, I continued my European vacation to Prague and walked nearly 20 miles over the next three days without pain and suffering.
    I would recommend Berlin, and it is a great race for those attempting a PR (even though I ran by far my worst time ever). Fudge on your finish time, get to the corral early and work your way to the front, take care of personal business in the porta potties along the start area and don’t be afraid to push your pace.
    Although I didn’t enjoy Berlin all that much as I vacation spot (I do credit the people of the city for owning its role in the Holocaust and the pervasive guilt is palpable), there is still something about being able to run in Europe that is special.

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    basserker FIRST-TIMER '19

    Not going to find too many races better in terms of size, crowd attendance, and race production than a World Major Marathon. Add in a flat course and perfect weather/temps, … MORE

    Not going to find too many races better in terms of size, crowd attendance, and race production than a World Major Marathon. Add in a flat course and perfect weather/temps, and you’ve got the Berlin Marathon.

    Overall, really great course and a fun event. Being my first International Marathon I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Everything was mostly the same, except for some of the water stations serving hot tea, and a beet juice sport drink. Different, but not bad.

    Some of the drawbacks I found were just with other runners, and maybe a cultural difference being in Europe. I was elbowed numerous times (has happened before), but the worst of it came with being force-ably shoved in the back once, and having someone clip the soles of my feet twice while running the race. Again, this might just be a European thing and not the Berlin Marathon’s fault, but major drawbacks and made me feel uncomfortable during the race.

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    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    3

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    RunnerMeg FIRST-TIMER '19

    Berlin Marathon was my 66th marathon and 6th World Marathon Major. It wasn't on purpose that I finished there, but it was fitting. It's not where many people want to … MORE

    Berlin Marathon was my 66th marathon and 6th World Marathon Major. It wasn’t on purpose that I finished there, but it was fitting. It’s not where many people want to finish the journey, for whatever reason; London and Boston seem to get the most majors finishers. However, Berlin was special. It’s a fast course (though not a PR for this slightly undertrained runner), it’s iconic, and it has what I think might be the coolest finish line of all the majors: the Brandenburg Gate. More on that in a moment.

    To preface this, I went with Marathon Tours and Travels and stayed at the Berlin Marriott. It’s a fantastic hotel, walking distance to the start/finish, and easy Uber/cab/train distance to other sights and the expo. We had periods of blue skies and nice weather combined with showers and sprinkles and downpours the five days I was in Berlin. Great temperatures though. It was nice to be close to the action and able to walk to so much – thankfully the rain cooperated and never prevented sightseeing or even walking to the start or standing in the corrals.

    The expo is big, as you can imagine. It’s at an old airport a few miles from where I was staying. I listened to the advice of previous runners and the marathon organizers themselves and went Thursday afternoon, right after I dropped my bags at the hotel. It was busy, but not stupid busy, and I didn’t have to wait to get my bib/chip, nor did I wait more than a few moments to pay for the souvenirs I purchased. I pre-ordered my shirts and jacket and that line also went very quickly. I’d say the only bad thing about the expo is that it’s kind of cramped, and when it gets REALLY busy, like on a Friday or God forbid, Saturday, it’s really tough to look at shirts, pay for things, or even just walk around because people are EVERYWHERE. Thankfully I got in and out of there pretty quickly after collecting my items and getting the six-star finisher sticker on my bib from the Abbott booth. A quick Uber ride got me back to my hotel.

    I won’t talk about all the sights there are to see in Berlin, but do take at least a day to go see some of the iconic WWII locations and memorials, not to mention the Berlin Wall exhibits and other historic areas. Lots to see and do.

    Additionally, as a six-star hopeful, there was a reception at the Hall of Fame at the Brandenburg Gate Friday night. I almost didn’t go to this, but it was so worth it. In addition to the free beer, they also gave the few attendees that showed up a pair of awesome WMM compression socks (my new favs), and you got to stand in the area where the elites came through to be interviewed. I got my picture taken with Joan Benoit Samuelson which was incredible, and just had a nice time talking with some of the six star runners from around the world. It was a very nice perk, and the evening ended up being beautiful and clear. Perfect!

    Race morning is relatively leisurely. I was in Corral E/Wave 2 and had a start time of 9:25am, which let me sleep a full night, have my coffee, and mosey to the starting area on foot without any rush. I got to the corrals around 8ish, no lines for portajohns at that point! There were big screens set up in the corrals so you could see the videos they were playing of Kipchoge’s world record run last year and other live streams from the announcer on stage. We saw the starts of the other corrals before moving up for our own. There was no rain yet and actually the morning was quite beautiful and clear for our sendoff!

    Once the gun goes off, it’s time to focus. It is a crowded field, regardless of where you are I assume (unless you’re in A!). While I didn’t ever feel like I was weaving and dodging too much, I know some people really complained about elbows flying and getting cut off. I found it about average for a major. My only complaint would be I wish they continued to have water/aid stations on both sides of the road and that they wouldn’t use plastic cups. They are a bit dangerous and loud, and hard to drink from and no one seemed to care about at least trying to get them into the bins. The race also tried to use silicon reusable cups at one of the last aid stations that they specifically said had to be thrown into a special bin so that they could be recycled. That seemed to be a major fail – those were everywhere BUT in the bins. Another note on the aid stations – at one point I decided to be daring and take one of the cups of tea – it was delicious! Not a fan of the beet drink though.

    The course is very flat; it’s a city race and runs through the typical cityscape, but there are iconic views along the way. In my opinion though, nothing in the other majors compares to seeing the Brandenburg Gate towards the end of the race. By the time I got there, I was soaking wet (though not freezing – the rain really did feel good), I was ready to be done, and there it was: the chariot and the horses and this conquering angel welcoming me to the finish. It was the most beautiful sight!

    The finish chute is like most others – a long trek to get a medal, a wrap, a goodie bag, etc. I was one of the relative few who also went to the Abbott tent and got my six star finishers medal which was truly amazing. I got my Berlin poncho next which was a nice thing to have in the cool rain. And then I departed, making sure to snap a photo of the gate and my majors medal before leaving the finish area. Note to the race – the way they have spectators crossing towards the end is amazing. I wasn’t sure how I would cross the finish area to get going toward my hotel on foot but they have it set up to shuttle people across without getting tangled in runners going toward the finish line.

    Bottom line is that this is a world marathon major in a big city. It’s 44,000 of your closest friends running through sometimes narrow streets. I thought it was well organized and I have no true complaints. Honestly it was a great experience and because it was #6 it will forever hold a very special place in my heart amongst all of the majors. I’ll never forget the Brandenburg Gate or how I felt when I crossed that finish line and received those medals. The city of Berlin came out and supported runners in rain and wind and cool temperatures and that is special. Thank you, Berlin! Ich bin ein Berliner!

    DIFFICULTY
    1
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    3
    SWAG
    4
    My Media

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    cassidymegan3 FIRST-TIMER '18

    It simply was not a good day for me. If I can pass on any information to my fellow US runners it would be this: there is no Gatorade, Powerade … MORE

    It simply was not a good day for me.
    If I can pass on any information to my fellow US runners it would be this: there is no Gatorade, Powerade (which they have here and in France), Lucozade Sport drink (they have that in Ireland), Cytomax (which is not my favorite), on the course. There is beet juice and hot tea. There is plenty of water at the station, but the volume of people running the race make it impossible to keep the roads clear and since the cups were plastic, they did not crush well. A guy brushed against me just enough to knock me off my balance and I slipped at the 17K mark: I lost my mojo after that.
    I always carry salt tablets, but I went to grab an energy gel from my belt and I dropped my salt pills around the half-way point.
    It was warm that morning and only got hotter as we were running on blacktop. I trained so hard in Central FL all summer with BQ dreams in my sight, but I was cramping up so bad and I could feel the salt that I was losing on my face.
    Another thing that I would point out: The first arch after your watch hits mile 26 is not the finish line…and it’s not the Brandenburg Gate… and it’s not the red one after that. I think I went through 5 inflatable arches before I finally crossed the finish line and I was at a full-out sprint for ½mile because I thought that I was almost there….but you know what? I freakin’ ran the Berlin Marathon! That is awesome.
    •PROS•
    º The course was gorgeous! Architecture, history, tree-lined streets. Beautiful
    º The race was HUGE! I love big races and I know that this was an Abbott World Marathon Major, but it was still just so awesome! (and, no – I haven’t run NYC yet.)
    º The expo was huge. Lots of vendors – big and small.
    º There were plenty of portable toilets and portable urinals which I thought was awesome.
    º Train transportation was free to runners as long as they were wearing their bibs.
    º Everything about the event was extremely well-organized as expected.
    º Communication with the team was great. I had several questions about the event since I was running through a charity partner and got better response from the actual marathon than the charity.
    º The post-race area and nutrition was great. A nice, open park. Free beer (if you chose), free massages (if you chose and were willing to wait). I think that we got fruit, water, maybe some snack bar.
    º The race directors have no control over the weather so I can;t blame them for the heat, I can give the Fire Departments “props” for hosing us down (they took the hoses up on the ladder and let it rain down on us – that was so nice.)
    •CONS• (These may all be non-elite,”American” things to gripe about but:)
    º If you wanted a shirt, you had to buy it. I think that it cost €30 or €35 at the expo
    º The medal was not substantial. It felt lightweight and of poor quality. (But – again – it’s from the Berlin Marathon, so who cares?)
    º No electrolytes on course except for some super-sticky Gu-type something that they gave to us at the half-way point.
    º (Be warned this will gross you out, but I survive to tell the tale) They gave us reusable, collapsible, silicone cups at the expo to use along the course for water as they try to move toward being a no-cup race. I used this thing and it wasn’t until I saw the first series of spigots with free-flowing water before I realized that the troughs in which I had been dunking my cup was actually for people to dip their sponges in. :p Oh well – it may have been the only salt that I ingested along the course after I dropped my pills into the sea of people around me.

    All-in-all, me and my giant race bib had an interesting race day experience. I fell well short of my goal for the day but at the end of the day: I was in Berlin. I was in another country. I had just run one of the World Marathon Majors. I had participated in a race where the guy who won broke the world record – and his face was on our medal, too. If I went with the expectation of just finishing the marathon, I probably would have taken the time to really enjoy the scenery, the architecture, and allow myself to submerge myself into the experience. Would I go back? Yeah- probably – but I have other races to make off my list first.
    Happy Running!

    DIFFICULTY
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    PRODUCTION
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    SCENERY
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    SWAG
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    M_Sohaskey Feb 22, 2019 at 6:27pm

    I laughed, I cried (or maybe winced a couple of times), it was better than "Cats"... now that's a memorable run, Megan! Mmm, yummy sponge water... you can't make this… MORE

    I laughed, I cried (or maybe winced a couple of times), it was better than "Cats"... now that's a memorable run, Megan! Mmm, yummy sponge water... you can't make this stuff up. Sounds like Berlin has added a few post-mile 26 arches since I ran in 2014; I only remember Brandenburg and the finish, but then again I was wobbling badly and just trying to hang on at that point, so may have missed a few things. And glad they had alcoholic beer this year — I was shocked to finish Germany's largest marathon, only to discover they were serving near beer. And yes, the plastic cups bouncing underfoot were a dangerous distraction. I'm sorry you weren't able to take home a BQ, but I'm glad you were able to maintain your sense of humor and enjoy the race, since Berlin really is an amazing city. And even though it's a bit smaller than NYC, it felt much more crowded to me since the streets are so narrow — cool that you still have NYC to look forward to. Congrats on notching (your first?) World Marathon Major, and thanks for another awesomely entertaining review, beet juice and all! LESS

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    cassidymegan3 Feb 25, 2019 at 10:16am

    Ja! Danke! This was my first World Major. Sponge water's not so bad. ☺

    Ja! Danke! This was my first World Major. Sponge water's not so bad. ☺

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    jfm0912 FIRST-TIMER '18

    Not my best race and mentally wasn't there. Regardless, it felt very crowded. Some of my issues: plastic cups that crunch under your feet and could potentially cut you if … MORE

    Not my best race and mentally wasn’t there. Regardless, it felt very crowded. Some of my issues: plastic cups that crunch under your feet and could potentially cut you if broken, pacers that weave and take a piss in the middle of the race, and a long walk to water after the finish.

    DIFFICULTY
    1
    PRODUCTION
    2
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    1

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  1. Races
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