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Berlin Marathon: Expect to be Overtaken

In 2020, Corona won the Berlin Marathon. This is not supposed to happen again. Tens of thousands of runners, including some living legends, are getting ready for this year’s big race. It is almost time. Sound the alarm!

Berlin, September 14th, 2021 (The Berlin Spectator) —  Most of Berlin will be blocked for motorized traffic on September 26th, 2021, the day of the BMW Berlin Marathon. How will people even get to the polling stations on the big day? Yes, Super Sunday, which includes two elections and a referendum, and the big race are scheduled to take place on the same day.

Rear View Mirror

At the Berlin Marathon, the task is to get 42 kilometers (26 miles) behind you as quickly as possible. For anyone who takes part in the main race, the likelihood of being overtaken by Kenenisa Bekele, an Ethiopian long distance runner everyone wants to beat (but most likely nobody will), is high. He will hit the finish line while others are still putting on their running shoes.

Kenenisa Bekele is faster than fast. Photo: Nobert Wilhelmi/SCC Events

Participants might also see Hiwot Gebrekidan in their rear view mirror, but not for long. Even before they know what is happening to them, the record runner who is Bekele’s compatriot will have passed them. Only seconds later she will already be out of sight. That is how fast she runs. At the Milan Marathon, she just broke yet another record, and might do so in Berlin too.

Purity Rionoripo from Kenya, Amane Beriso and Shure Demise, who are both from Ethiopia, are lighting-fast as well. Expect to be overtaken rather quickly by them as well. Among the men, the Ethiopians Guye Adola and Olika Adugna should be watched, even though it will be difficult to see them because they will disappear behind the next corner in milliseconds. So, don’t blink or you will miss them. This is how fast they are. There are strong participants from Japan as well, including Hidekazu Hijikata.

Speed of Sound

The tens of thousands of runners and other participants need room, and Berlin is providing it. Both the Berlin Police Department and the Fire Department are ready for the big event. So are hundreds of volunteers who are supposed to guard the route and give out water to the runners who will be racing by.

Since it all started, in 1974, more than a million runners have crossed the Berlin Marathon’s finish line. The event usually includes a slow-paced ‘Breakfast Run’ for amateurs, a ‘Pasta Lounge’ and a party after the race. For obvious reasons, they were cancelled this year. The usual ‘Marathon Expo’ is supposed to take place, but with less exhibitors.

For those who still want to register: Forget it. The early bird will catch the worm while those who oversleep the registration deadline will be watching the Berlin Marathon on their screens, or standing on the sidelines, while the participants run by at the speed of sound.

Mostly Flat

Berlin is a good place for marathons since the city is mostly flat. This is not San Francisco, right? It all starts at ‘Strasse des 17. Juni’ between Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column. The finish line is only a few steps away. So, is cheating possible at all? Could runners just walk back to the finish line and pretend they covered the entire route? No. All of them will be carrying a “champion chip” on their shoes. The device does not only measure each participant’s exact time, but it will also identify beacons that are spread out all over the place. Runners whose chip does not mark all of them will be disqualified. No exceptions. They obviously thought of everything.

Once the marathon folks get going in several waves, they will have to run to Ernst Reuter Platz where they should take a sharp right towards Moabit. From there, they will run back across the Spree river, past the Chancellery which is up for grabs right now. The route continues through the Mitte district to Alexanderplatz and via Karl Marx Allee to Strausberger Platz.

In 2019, tens of thousands of people took part in the Berlin Marathon. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Then, they will see the “real Berlin” in the Kreuzberg and Neukölln boroughs, where they are supposed to go via Kottbusser Tor and Hermannplatz, two infamous squares, to Schöneberg, Steglitz, Wilmersdorf and Charlottenburg. Here, they will be seen on Kurfürstendamm, one of Berlin’s most famous boulevards. It was West Berlin’s pride. Those who have not given up by then will be continuing to the finish line via Potsdamer Platz and Hackescher Markt.

Some Kind of Victory

By the way: Losing the Berlin Marathon is easy, winning it is hard, unless your name is Kenenisa Bekele or Hiwot Gebrekidan. On the other hand, managing to cover those 42 kilometers (26 miles) in their entirety already is some kind of a victory. Good luck, guys.

The English version of the BMW Berlin Marathon’s website can be accessed here.

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