I live tweeted about it on the Write this Run #twittertakeover, I shared a million photos on Instagram, I even gushed about it on Facebook. Most of all though I couldn’t stop telling people in Berlin how great their city and half marathon is.
We arrived in Berlin on Thursday night and headed straight to the expo at the old Flughafen Tempelhof which is such a cool venue. It was nice and quiet on Thursday night so we got to explore the expo at our own pace and do all the fun things like make a flip book and get snapped in the Brooks Run Happy Europe photo booth. We grabbed our race number with no fuss and headed out to the bier garten on the runway for a celebratory 0.5L stein.
We spent the next 2 days sightseeing on foot and bike, so not your normal race-prep, but for me race-cations aren’t only about running the race but also experiencing the city and the race. Currywurst starts & pasta mains as pre-race carbloading is the way it should be in Berlin .
The race start was at a generous 10am on Sunday so we had time to have a good hotel breakfast and catch the u-bahn to Alexanderplatz and walk to the start area. With 30,000+ runners it was a big race but the Germans were up to organising it efficiently. Our wristbands from the expo got us in to the start area and from there we could easily find the bag drop (about 50 trucks parked on the streets), portaloos (loads with short lines), and Bretzl vendors for last minute carbs. We arrived about 20 minute before the race start and comfortably dropped our bags, peed, and got into the back of our 1:45 pen before the elites were even introduced.
About 15 minutes after the start our pen crossed the start line and within the first 5 steps Alex looked at me and said, “are your legs heavier than ever?” I couldn’t believe how tired our legs were from the 3 days of sightseeting (even with daily baths, hotel yoga routies, and legs up the wall!) and hadn’t really ever run a race where I was this tired to start. Nevermind though as there were thousands of people linining the route as we ran along the flat road around Alexanderplatz towards the Brandenburg Gate. The flatness of the route helped wake our legs up and they soon got into the spirit of running a half marathon.
We were quickly under the Brandenburg Gate (we ran through the wider Royal entrance arch obviously) and continued on through the Tiergarten. In any other city this would have been a long straight road, but in Berlin it’s one of the roads that the Nazi’s widened to create their East-West Axis leading towards the Siegessäule. It’s dark history, in true Berlin style, has been matched by postive recent history as it’s where the big NYE celebrations take place each year.
This is a part of the awesomeness of the Berlin Half Marathon as you are always looking left and right to see the incredible history of the city and how it is changing right before your eyes. At about 8k the road was 100% in the sun and were were starting to feel it – the tailwind was nice, but it was one of those times I wished for a bit of a headwind breeze just to cool down. We quickly made the decision to stop and walk at every water station to drink 2 cups of water as we didn’t want to sacrifice enjoyment of the race to get a good time. We have no room for dehydration on race-cations.
There were tons of people supporting the route all along the race. Not to mention so many bands along the route that it could have been called Run to the Beat and (for once) be an honest race name. From 11k on the route was packed with fun. There was a street side biergarten offering us steins, the Lululemon Berlin team dancing away, a few Canadian flags waving us on, and even saw my Team Naturally Run friend Melissa and the Cheer Dem Crew at 16k. Running past Potsdamer Platz and Checkpoint Charlie was super cool and soon we were on the last road towards the finish back on Karl-Marx-Allee. I had the *I don’t want this to end* feeling again like at Bacchus, and enjoyed every step up to the finish. Clearly including this step the race photographers caught just after 20k.
Alex and I crossed the line together in our first actual tie and joined the queue to get our medals. Finishing just at the 2 hour mark meant we were right in the biggest group of people and there was a bit of a wait to get our medals. No mind though as we waited in a sweaty group of fellow finishers dreaming about the beers awaiting us 20m away.
There was lots to do at the finish, loads of photographers taking your photos, medals to grab, beers to drink (non alcoholic of course) so we set up shop at a table to relax and take it all in. After we finished our non-alcoholic post-race isotonic beers we grabbed our bags and made course for the closest real biergarten we could find. We grabbed a pint and our race printouts and enjoyed the festival atmosphere at the finish line. After Cookie Monster finished we made our way to our favourite, the Brauhaus Georgbraeu biergarten for a sit in the sun with meat and beer.
Beer, meat, and bretzels aside I highly recommend the Berlin Half Marathon as an amazing race-cation and stand alone race. It was so well organised, an interesting route, and a great big city half marathon experience.
Flights: Fly British Airways Euro Traveller fares for only £49 each way (carry on only but big carry on size not Easyjet teeny tiny) and you go from Heathrow T5 (lush) to Berlin Tegel which is only 40 minutes from the city on public transport.
Hotel: We stayed at the fabulous Hotel Johann and couldn’t have been more impressed. It was like a home inside and out. Perfectly comfortable room, in a quiet neighbourhood, walking distance to the tourist sights and u-bahn stations, and an amazing breakfast included in the room price. Berlin isn’t the cheapest for accommodation but we found this place on Bookings.com for just under £79/night and it was totally worth it.
Eat: Henne – classic German simple food in a classic German restaurant. We didn’t make a reservation but have heard it’s busy in the summer. Brauhaus Georgbraeu – Delicious German meats (the snitzel was amazing, pork knuckle to die for, and bratwursts tasty!) and all their bier is made on site in their brauhaus (the only place you can drink it in Berlin). Plus their biergarten is the perfect sun spot out of the wind and on the river to spend a lazy afternoon.