Overall Rating
Overall Rating (13 Reviews)
3.9
(13 Ratings)(13 Reviews)
DIFFICULTY
1.5
SCENERY
3.8
PRODUCTION
3.8
SWAG
2.8
The fact that the past six men’s marathon world records (most recently in 2014) 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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    Profile photo of Jack Lee
    Maniac5377 REPEAT RUNNER '17

    Berlin is definitely the fastest and flattest course in the world. There's only 2 baby bridges to go over in the first half of the race, and rest is pretty … MORE

    Berlin is definitely the fastest and flattest course in the world. There’s only 2 baby bridges to go over in the first half of the race, and rest is pretty flat. It’s a world class event, with a massive expo and organization is near perfect. The race is crowded and some runners will push others out of the way at the water station to grab liquids and some runners will simply bump you as they try to pass as opposed to a friendly heads up. The course is very scenic and you see many of the key sight seeing destinations in Berlin with the start and finish near the Victory Column and Brandenburg Gate.

    DIFFICULTY
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    5
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    Profile photo of Johannes Heym
    JoJoRunner FIRST-TIMER '17

    I did run Berlin as a challenge of two (world major) marathons within two weeks. So two big city races with heaps and heaps of thousands of runners. Berlin marathon … MORE

    I did run Berlin as a challenge of two (world major) marathons within two weeks.
    So two big city races with heaps and heaps of thousands of runners. Berlin marathon starts and finish in the historical axe between Brandenburger Gate and Siegessäule (Column of Victory). Runners run in 3 waves. The exhibition was huge and spread through numerous rooms in the Congress area near Gleisdreieck. The exhibition and race felt alike: always a bit crowded. Berlin doesn’t have wide avenues as Chicago or New York and so running in your own pace can be challenging. Organisation went smooth and you had the option of bag drop or getting a cape after the race that you had to determine upon registration.
    2017 was very moist and coolish- was running with two friends and we pushed us to a sub 3:10h photo finish. Will definitely try to do it again next year.
    On the downside: I never saw rubbish bins anywhere past the water stops and the streets were filled with trash quickly. And in the finish line area it was somewhat complicated to find what you were looking for but in retrospective to the area given and the size of the race it was adequate (never understand runners doing a full marathon and complaining about having to walk 0.3 miles after the finish line).

    DIFFICULTY
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    5
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    Profile photo of David Deutsch
    mnjogger FIRST-TIMER '17

    Berlin is a great city to visit! For that reason alone this is a great destination marathon. I've run the Chicago marathon before and use that as my baseline to … MORE

    Berlin is a great city to visit! For that reason alone this is a great destination marathon. I’ve run the Chicago marathon before and use that as my baseline to compare against since the number of runners is similar. Overall I thought the Berlin organizers could learn a lot from how things flow at the Chicago marathon. That said I don’t know the constraints the Berlin organizers are under.

    I went to the Expo Friday early afternoon and it was very crowded. At the entrance to the Expo they even separated runners from non-runners at bib pick up to help alleviate the congestion. What was unique at bib pick up was that they print your bib on-the-spot. I haven’t seen that before, but it meant you could enter any (marathon) line to get your bib. To get your (finisher) shirt you needed to travel to a different part of the Expo through crowds of people. One would think this could be optimized. I felt guilty getting a finisher shirt days before running the race: It should be earned.

    The Saturday shake out run to Olympic Stadium was nice and had many nationalities represented. Entering Olympic Stadium, seeing where the Olympic torch was and seeing the Olympic rings was inspirational. Partaking in the light breakfast they offered afterward wasn’t very orderly as people seemed to rush the food stands. “Crowds” was going to be the theme of this weekend.

    The race was Sunday, the same day as national elections. I was a little out of sorts because the map of the starting area didn’t show the bag drop off area. Textually they described it was near the start of each corral but I would have liked the visual as well printed on the map. I don’t want to leave things to Fate on race day morning and like to have things planned out. People did bring “drop” clothes to wear in the corrals. I mention that because I saw someone’s Facebook post weeks earlier stating drop clothes weren’t allowed (not true).

    There were 3 waves for approx 40,000 runners. I started among Wave 2 near the 4:30 pacers. It seemed there was always a wall of people in front of me throughout the entire race. For that reason I didn’t feel I could “race” this … it would have involved weaving in and out of people probably the entire race. I finished 4:08 which was pretty reasonable for me. Another person in my group ran with Wave 1 and finished 3:23. He commented he wasn’t as blocked in as I described and he could race it. I guess it all depends where you start. On that note, the corral you start in is based on your marathon best from the past 3 years. Corral placement is not based on what you anticipate running which is how some other marathons do it. That said there were a complement of pacers in each of the three waves, e,g, 3:45,4:00, etc hour pacers in each of the waves.

    Along the course I thought there was good crowd support and cheering. The volunteers were great. Water stops seemed to creep up on me. Better visual cues that a water stop is coming would be appreciated. Water stops later in the race had tea as well, sometimes comfortably warm which was welcome on this day. The plastic cups used at the water stops were hard to work with while running: I prefer paper cups that you can fold and drink on the run.

    I was perhaps too focused on my running to notice the landmarks we passed. The roads would widen and narrow at times and I wanted to anticipate how I’d merge into the crowd of runners. Road conditions were pretty good overall but you did want to watch you step. Running through the Brandenburg Gate to the finish was pretty cool.

    There were several who traveled with me to run this race. We compared the distances on our running watches at the end. The mileage varied from 26.4 miles to 26.9 miles.

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    M_Sohaskey Oct 20, 2017 at 8:49pm

    Congrats on a well-run race in an amazing place, David! Sounds like you and I had similar experiences, and it's funny you mention your friend running a 3:23... I ran a 3:24 back in 2014, and I still felt like the course was as congested as you describe it the entire way. Looking at the video footage of myself at the 25K mark, it still looks like we're within 100 yards of the start line, it's so crowded. I started at the front of corral 2, and those first few hundred yards were the least crowded of the day. I'd also agree that the production (and race) at Chicago are superior, though their streets are wider than Berlin's as well. But WOW, one thing neither Chicago nor Boston nor any of the other Majors have is the chance to run through the Brandenburg Gate at the end – THAT was the highlight for me. Congrats again, and thanks for another always helpful review!

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    Profile photo of Kristin Taylor
    kristin FIRST-TIMER '17

    No water and LONG bathroom lines at the start!!! Water stops were not well marked / organized. Was there an energy drink (other than Red Bull)? Finish line was not … MORE

    No water and LONG bathroom lines at the start!!! Water stops were not well marked / organized. Was there an energy drink (other than Red Bull)? Finish line was not well organized at all. Difficult to fun ponchos, not clear where to get medal, water, food. Had to remove your own chip from your shoe before leaving the grounds. No clear direction on where / how to get out. Disappointed by the complete lack of organization.

    DIFFICULTY
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    Profile photo of Marlon Richards
    merz80 FIRST-TIMER '17

    No finisher shirt Too crowded Weather was not ideal Aid stations had no trash cans! Didn't cared much for the plastic cups for water (carton would've been better) Multipower drink … MORE

    No finisher shirt
    Too crowded
    Weather was not ideal
    Aid stations had no trash cans! Didn’t cared much for the plastic cups for water (carton would’ve been better)
    Multipower drink was too diluted

    DIFFICULTY
    1
    PRODUCTION
    3
    SCENERY
    3
    SWAG
    1

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    Profile photo of Drew Sheppard
    DrewNYC FIRST-TIMER '17

    The Berlin Marathon is known for being flat - and it is. This was my 4th of the 6 World Majors. I went through Marathon Tours for this trip and … MORE

    The Berlin Marathon is known for being flat – and it is. This was my 4th of the 6 World Majors. I went through Marathon Tours for this trip and I was very happy with that/them.

    The weekend starts with a 6k Breakfast Run on Saturday that was quite fun. It was great to see all the runners wearing their “country flair” and it was a blast to end in the Olympic Stadium. This is a non-timed event and once you get to the stadium everyone is walking. I highly recommend taking part in this fun, low-stress event.

    The main event is on Sunday. For those 4:15+, the start time is 10am. I feel like they could have used one additional wave (4:15 and over is quite a mix of paces). While waiting for the start, there were several runners smoking, which was a new experience for me!

    The course was flat, but crowded. I’m a back of the pack runner and it wasn’t too bad by me, but I can’t imagine being a 4:30-ish runner. They must have been squished. The course wasn’t as scenic as I had hoped. Nor did it have as many spectators as I was expecting.

    The expo was a zoo! We went on Friday and wished we had gone the day before. I pre-ordered the jacket and shirt (which is NOT included in the race fee), which I was glad that I did.

    I definitely enjoyed my time in Berlin. I don’t think this will be at the top of my list of my marathons (even my World Major races), but I would still recommend.

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    M_Sohaskey Oct 04, 2017 at 1:42am

    Four down, two to go! I'm eyeing Tokyo in 2019, so depending on your timetable we may meet again in Japan. Sounds like we had very similar experiences in Berlin, and I can confirm the 3:15-3:30 wave was like running in a school of sardines – the official video taken at 35K looked like someone had yelled "Fire!" in a crowded theater. And this was also the first (and last) time I've seen another runner put out their cigarette when it came time to line up in their corral. Congrats on another fantastic "Run the world" experience Drew, and thanks for the excellent review!

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    Profile photo of Noel Early
    noelearly FIRST-TIMER '17

    Yes it's a pb course but only if you are in the corrals at the front. The water comes in small plastic cups not like Dublin who really have an … MORE

    Yes it’s a pb course but only if you are in the corrals at the front. The water comes in small plastic cups not like Dublin who really have an excellent system. Expo was really crowded and poor, Chicago is a better event.

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    Profile photo of Jens Stapelfeldt
    YanisNanashi FIRST-TIMER '17

    Berlin Marathon is just awesome. Fantastic course through downtown Berlin passing by most of the touristic highlights. Runners also get a good impression of the variety of the city as … MORE

    Berlin Marathon is just awesome. Fantastic course through downtown Berlin passing by most of the touristic highlights. Runners also get a good impression of the variety of the city as the course takes them through different districts like Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain and Charlottenburg. The expo is huge and offers a lot. Race packet was very easy and efficient. Start is close to Brandenburg Gate and even though there are around 40.000 runners I had the feeling that everything was quite relaxed as it was very well organized. The atmosphere was fantastic and even though weather was quite bad (light drizzle) there were so many spectators cheering for the runners all along the course. The best moment was when runners turn to the left at km 41,5 and see the Brandenburg Gate again. Everyone was crying and got so emotional while running the last some hundred meters, through the Brandenburg Gate to the finish! Unforgettable!!! Super nice finish area in front of the Reichstag building. I can really really recommend Berlin Marathon for all marathon runners!

    P.S.: no finisher shirts for free, but entry fees are extremely cheap compared to all other major marathons that you can buy 2 or 3 finisher shirts on the expo and still don´t spend more money as for example for Chicago or New York.

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    M_Sohaskey Sep 27, 2017 at 8:02pm

    Congrats Jens! Rain and humidity aside, it sounds like a fabulous day. And YES, running through the Brandenburg Gate was an uplifting moment I wish I could have bottled, to open whenever I'm feeling stressed out or tired. Sounds too like they've moved the expo since 2014 (when I ran), which is great news – having that in an enormous airport hangar with minimal air flow just wasn't working.

    I know you ran the Frankfurt Marathon several years ago and though it's much smaller, I'd be interested to know how the two races compare?

    Thanks for another thoughtful review, and run strong in Chicago! I'll be interested to read about your Windy City weekend.

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    YanisNanashi Sep 29, 2017 at 1:15pm

    Hi Mike! Thanks for your comment. Yes, the expo of the Berlin marathon and also of the Berlin half marathon has been moved from the airport hangar (which I also liked) to a even more centrally located exhibition centre and I do like the expo. Frankfurt marathon is super! I live in Frankfurt and I have run Frankfurt several times. It´s also a fast course - I would say as fast as Berlin. We also do have he top elite runners here. The expo is quite big and with more than 12.000 runners finishing the 42k it´s Germany´s second largest marathon - even bigger than Hamburg and Cologne. Runners love the flat course and the fact that it takes place at the end of october. Weather conditions were perfect last year. The atmosphere is good, but not comparable to Berlin. You must know that Frankfurt is a quite small city which leads to the fact that the course has to leave downtown behind and then it gets a bit quiter before you return to downtown. The finish into the famous Festhalle (it´s an old beautiful concert hall) is awsome! I really like the race and I can highly recommend it!

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    M_Sohaskey Sep 29, 2017 at 2:10pm

    Much appreciated, Jens! Frankfurt definitely sounds like a fun race and one I'd appreciate, especially if it means another trip to Germany – loved Berlin and hope to visit again one day soon!

     
    Profile photo of Karen Fuss
    karenfuss FIRST-TIMER '16

    Very well organized, large Expo. I stayed at a hotel that was listed on the website and it was right behind the start area and also had some orientation type … MORE

    Very well organized, large Expo. I stayed at a hotel that was listed on the website and it was right behind the start area and also had some orientation type things that were unaffiliated with the race to help out runners staying there. The breakfast run the day before at the Olympiastadion was amazing. An unbeatable finish and medal with the Brandenburger Tor. The spectators were plentiful and provided a lot of energy, plus private musical acts that were very regularly placed along the course. I definitely recommend.

    DIFFICULTY
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    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    Profile photo of Donn Raymond
    Donnald69 FIRST-TIMER '16

    For a big time, big city, 38,000 participant marathon, this race was really well run. Although getting in is via lottery or through a tour agency, the fact that it … MORE

    For a big time, big city, 38,000 participant marathon, this race was really well run. Although getting in is via lottery or through a tour agency, the fact that it is one of the 6 World Marathon Majors, makes this race extra exciting.
    Expo: busy, crowded, jammed into a fairly small venue. I could not get in and out fast enough. I was very concerned about the race itself, and the anticipated large crowds after going to the expo. Definitely treat yourself to a “cocktail” prior to the expo, just to be relaxed. 🙂
    Race morning: if you stay downtown, the race starts and finishes very close to the Potsdam Platz area. Easy to walk to and from the race and local hotels. I stayed at the Marriott, but there are several close by hotels to stay at, and the bus/subway station is also close by and easily used race morning.
    The Berlin Marathon course: flat, easy to run, tons of spectators, very well organised as far as 8 groups, and spacing out the start. Except for the first quarter mile, i always felt that i had plenty of room to run. After the chaos of the expo, i had concerns about the race course. No worries! The start was in a large fenced off park area. As i arrived early, i had lots of room to just lay on the ground and relax before the race. Lots of activity going on, but plenty of space to feel comfortable and relaxed.
    Crowds and spectators: almost the entire course is run to enable spectators, and there were plenty, cheering and encouraging the runners. I never felt claustrophobic, as i felt in the London marathon.
    Swag: you must purchase a t shirt if you want one. The medal is nice sized, and a definite tribute to the city and a previous runner. Otherwise, NO SWAG.
    The course, as advertised is flat and fast. Running through a bit of history, one really needs to look at your surroundings. I would say the Berlin marathon was one of my most enjoyable of the large marathons. Being one of the majors, made it that much better.

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    Profile photo of Dan Solera
    dansolera FIRST-TIMER '15

    Despite my incredibly high expectations of the Berlin Marathon, I loved this race. I knew that the Expo would be enormous (it was), and that the streets were a bit … MORE

    Despite my incredibly high expectations of the Berlin Marathon, I loved this race. I knew that the Expo would be enormous (it was), and that the streets were a bit too narrow (they were), and that the post-race spread was surprisingly meager (it was) and that participants have to pay extra for a t-shirt (they do). In spite of all these significant hindrances to perfection, I loved my time in Berlin, though not my RACE time.

    Performance-wise, I went too fast and blew up around mile 16 before dragging myself to the finish in one of the worst positive splits in history. But that aside, the race was impeccably organized, with an almost stereotypical German adherence to efficiency. Runners have to go through FOUR checkpoints to reach their corrals and each one is strictly manned. The course is as flat as advertised, though there are about three small hills in the first six miles that call into question whether it is truly flatter than Chicago.

    Berlin’s denizens were out in full force. Though they weren’t as vociferous as the average American cheer squad, they were supportive and friendly. Aid stations weren’t loudly advertised as they usually are in stateside marathons, but they were properly spaced, stocked, and each cup was very full. The plastic cups did become a nuisance, even for me, and I finished in the first fifth of participants. I can easily imagine the discarded cups becoming an unmanageable pile with another hour of runners.

    The medal is simple, just as ornate as it needs to be. The lack of a participant t-shirt is definitely confounding, but we’re all there to run fast, not to collect more tech shirts. It’s a definite bucket list race, one to be experienced on its own. Though it’s made for elite PRs, it’s not the most PR-friendly course I’ve experienced – that honor still belongs to Chicago.

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    Profile photo of Jeff Rohleder
    jrohlede FIRST-TIMER '14

    Berlin is a good, well run marathon. It is one of the 6 majors. Couse is as advertised - flat and easy running. Lots of runners - 45,000 so if … MORE

    Berlin is a good, well run marathon. It is one of the 6 majors. Couse is as advertised – flat and easy running. Lots of runners – 45,000 so if you don’t like large marathons this is not for you. Expo is huge in and airport hanger. To be expected for the amount of runners they have. Race and expo organization are 5 star. But something just seemed to be missing. Maybe it was because of the travel or being in a non American city the excitement of being involved in a world class sporting event just wasn’t there. Other than the start and finish the course – other than being completely flat was somewhat ho hum. So if you want to do all 6 majors you have to do Berlin. Don’t get me wrong it is a really good marathon – just not a great one.

    The best thing – sorry this isn’t anything to do with the marathon. Berlin is a city with so much history – bad and good. Just being there for four days and trying to absorb and see all the historical sites / museums having to do with WW1, WW2 and the Communist regime was overwhelming but loved it.

    Worse thing – The finishers medal. C’mon Berlin you can do better. Your a major. I am not a bling freak but have done 43 marathons and this medal ranks as one of the weakest one I have received. Have got better medals at some 10k’s I have run.

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    Profile photo of Mike Sohaskey
    M_Sohaskey FIRST-TIMER '14

    BOTTOM LINE: “Flat and fast” is the phrase most often used to describe the Berlin Marathon, and I’d agree with the first part of that – the course is flat … MORE

    BOTTOM LINE: “Flat and fast” is the phrase most often used to describe the Berlin Marathon, and I’d agree with the first part of that – the course is flat for everyone. And in all fairness, its obscene flatness does make it faster than just about any other marathon course out there – even the Chicago Marathon has “Mount Roosevelt” lying in wait at mile 26. But Berlin’s fastness is deceptive because as flat as the course is, unless you’re an elite it’s also among the most crowded courses you’ll ever run. And it’s crowded for pretty much the entire 26.2 miles, with Berlin’s narrow streets allowing for only occasional stretches of comfortably uncongested running. That said, I was still able to PR by 4½ minutes.

    So race day felt a bit like an extended cattle drive, and race production – especially for a world marathon major – was surprisingly subpar (see below). But if you’re a hardcore runner, it’s doubtful anything I write will discourage you from running Berlin. In some ways it feels as though the organizers are saying, “Hey, if you want to go run a DIFFERENT world marathon major, be our guest.”

    And honestly, I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from running Berlin, if for no other reason than to experience and immerse yourself in one of the world’s most historically and culturally amazing cities. Despite my wanting to curl up and sleep under it by that point, running through the Brandenburg Gate at mile 26 was an indescribable thrill, and moments like that are a major reason I love running the world. But as epic a race weekend as this was, a few tweaks could have made it so much better…

    PRODUCTION: I can only imagine how challenging it must be, and how much choreography and security must be involved, to organize and stage a marathon the size and gravitas of Berlin. With that in mind I tip my cap to the organizers, since to a person every runner I spoke with had an overall positive experience.

    That said, race production is where Berlin fell short on many levels. In comparison to the only other marathon major I’ve run so far, Chicago 2012, Berlin was a disappointing second. And many if not all of these issues were echoed by other runners:

    • The expo was TOO FREAKING HUGE, and was more like a trade show than a race expo. It’s a pretty clear indication your expo is out of control when it expands to fill several hangars of a former airport. Unlike U.S. race expos there were scarcely any free samples to be had… every item seemingly carried a price tag, and even the normally generous PowerBar peeps were carefully guarding their electrolyte drink station. What’s more, the expo was a harbinger of things to come on race day as I felt inexorably herded in different directions, first to access each separate hangar, then to enter the bib pickup area, then to exit the bib pickup area, then to traverse (how convenient!) the Adidas storefront hawking official race merchandise, and finally toward the ausgang (exit).
    • And on the topic of the Adidas storefront, as absurd as it sounds in 2014, Berlin race registration includes NO race t-shirt – though official race shirts were available at the expo for the {ahem} bargain price of 30€ (= $39). Do a quick calculation, and you can estimate how much money the organizers must be a) saving by not providing t-shirts, and b) raking in by charging for shirts.
    • Re: the pre-race setup, I arrived one hour beforehand and waited in line for ~40 minutes to use one of the ten port-o-lets that were serving literally hundreds of anxious runners. This was horrific planning by the organizers, and was by far the most stressful part of race weekend – even the much smaller (and more well-organized) California International Marathon, which I ran in 2011, had roughly 10x the number of units as Berlin. Not only that, but when I finally reached the front of the line my port-o-let was out of toilet paper. And to top off my pre-race cortisol levels, I completed my harried pit stop two minutes before my wave was scheduled to depart, and had to hurriedly jog another ¼-mile (at least) to reach the start line where I barely arrived in time to join the corral departing in the wave after mine. Damn, I’m getting stressed out all over again just writing this.
    • Luckily I took advantage of only one aid station on the entire course, so I don’t have much to report about their frequency or offerings. But I couldn’t avoid noticing that the organizers chose plastic rather than paper cups – an unfortunate choice since plastic cups ended up bouncing underfoot at every aid station, as runners were forced to expend energy sidestepping carefully to avoid getting their foot caught in one.
    • The post-race spread was abysmal, and in fact I walked what felt like several hundred yards through the finish chute before even reaching the first water station (at which point I was shunted to another table, since that water was only for medical emergencies). And with apologies to Erdinger, their sponsorship was a big ol’ letdown. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that, after running a world marathon major in Germany’s largest city, the word “free” should fall before rather than after the word “alcohol”. Chicago after all had free-flowing real beer (thanks, Goose Island!). Alcohol-free beer after the Berlin Marathon felt like having your picture taken with a cardboard Mickey Mouse cut-out at the Walt Disney World Marathon.
    • Food-wise, the only offerings I could see were apples and bananas, with no obvious source of protein – ironic, considering that even the 6K fun run Katie had run the day before had provided its scarcely winded finishers with both regular and chocolate milk. Later I realized that the not-so-goodie bag handed out by volunteers in the finish chute (why do I need another goodie bag?) contained a PowerBar wafer product, which like so many of their products over the years held true to the PowerBar ethic of falling just this side of “Soylent” on the palatability scale. Accordingly, I gave up after two nibbles.

    For a more blow-by-blow account of the weekend, check out my race report at http://blisterscrampsheaves.com/2014/10/13/the-berlin-marathon-race-report/.

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    YanisNanashi Sep 27, 2017 at 11:38am

    Hi! I have just read your review as I ran Berlin Marathon last Sunday. I agree on most of the points, but in terms of the finisher shirts I don´t get the point. Compared to most other major races Berlin Marathon is much cheaper. I will run Chicago next week and I paid more than twice the money I paid for Berlin. I prefer paying less and decide by myself if I wanna spend money on a shirt I will most probably never wear again (I do not wear most of my finisher shirts...). The medal really could have been better... Best regards from Frankfurt, Jens

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    M_Sohaskey Sep 27, 2017 at 8:00pm

    Thanks Jens! Solid point on the race fees, Berlin is decidedly cheaper. And while not receiving a race tee certainly wasn't a deal-breaker for me (as you said, I don't wear most of the shirts I have), as a World Marathon Major I expect to pay more, and the added registration cost for a race tee would have been negligible compared to the cost of airfare and lodging. T-shirts don't cost that much more when ordered in a quantity of 40,000+, so it struck me as a strange way to cut costs since many runners do look forward to sporting their WMM gear. Sorry to hear you were disappointed with the medal, I'm much more of a medal than a shirt guy myself and I appreciated the 2014 version... though amusingly the 2014 medal, which pictured 2013 world record holder Wilson Kipsang, was outdated by the time I received mine, since the current world record was set by Dennis Kimetto that day!

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