Sunday, November 4, 2012

I could Never Run the Berlin Marathon

running in Germany Today was supposed to be the running of the New York Marathon. The last of the 5 big races making up the World Marathon Majors series,  it is also one of the largest in the world with usually over 40,000 finishers. But then a little storm called Hurricane Sandy (aka Frankenstorm) rolled in as the largest Atlantic hurricane on record with winds spanning 1,100 miles (1,800 km) and early calculations of a minimum of $20 to $25 billion dollars in damage. Not a good time for a run.

Luckily, this was not the case a few weeks ago when we went to cheer on our Irish friend in the Berlin Marathon. Dave & Ger had made their home in Neuk├Âlln for several years before repatriating back to Ireland. After a year away, they were back for the weekend to re-connect with the city and friends like us. It was bitter-sweet to see them back in the city we all love. It's not quite a vacation going back to a place you once called home, and in such a fast paced city that is constantly changing, they were at once familiar and estranged. This is just part of the pain of expat life, your friends may periodically leave (but if they're like us - maybe they'll come back).

Anyhoo - Back to the Berlin Marathon. It is an illustrious race, also part of the World Marathon Majors. Begun in 1974, the event traditionally takes place on the last weekend in September. It starts and ends near the Brandenburg Gate and crosses through Charlottenburg, the Tiergarten, Mitte, Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg, Neukolln, Schoneberg, Steglitz, Zehlendorf, and then north to the center. The course is known for being flat and even with mild temperatures, making it an ideal setting for breaking world records. Because of the former division of city, the marathon was limited to West Berlin before 1990. When the race was run on September 30th, 1990 it was the first time athletes were able to cross the Brandenburg Gate of a united city. Runners streamed through the gates with tears of joy. 

Brandenburg Gate Marathon

We actually arrived in Berlin on the wheeled Saturday events 5 years ago. Loaded with big backpacks and without a place to stay, we tried to squeeze through the narrow chute's where pedestrians were still allowed to walk and cursed the rollerbladers cruising by. Maybe that's why we never even considered coming back to watch the race.

This year we were watching Dave on his second run of the race. He had completed it in about 5 hours the first time and was determined not to be picked up by the "loser bus" that picked up stragglers this time. We had faith in his abilities, but I really had no idea what a race like this required. I know from movies that there are fancy Gatorade stands with volunteers, but I didn't realize this also included fans with noisemakers (usually over one million enthusiastic spectators) and bands playing along the route. A Steelpan group greeted us as we ascended from the UBahn and the vibe was reminiscent of so many festivals in Berlin...with slightly less drinking. 

It was a glorious Berlin day with fans cheering on the runners of all ages, shapes, sizes and costumes. I couldn't believe some people were able to run in their outfits, let alone run a marathon. Everyone was smiling and cheering - even the runners. I would be murderous if I was every convinced to run that far. Geraldine thought to make a sign and we eagerly waited at the agreed upon marker for Dave to make his appearance. They had been keeping in contact through text and calls - which again surprised me. I doubt I would have enough energy to hold my cell phone, much less arrange coordinates.

Beer costume (far right)
 Ger literally jumped for joy upon seeing Dave in the crowd...and promptly spilled the beer she had stored in her pocket. It didn't matter. They were adorable. Easy candidates for cutest couple ever. It was a thrill to see him, and a shock to have be no more winded then if he had just come up a flight of stairs. Well done Dave!

We raced to make the next stop by UBahn, cheered, and then were off to wait at the finish line at Brandeburger Tor. An epic site on the grayest of days, it truly was picture perfect. I snapped a shot as Dave ran by and then we hurried to meet him through the maze of walled off streets. Eventually we were reunited and we traded the non-alcoholic hefeweizen* given to all runners finishing the race (yes, really) for a bottle of sekt.

Congrats Dave!

Champions get carried up the stairs

We don't think this guy ran the race
*The non-alcoholic hefeweizen is to replace some of the electrolytes expelled during the race. It doesn't hurt that Erdinger is a sponsor.


 Are you crazy and want to enter a marathon? Comprehensive info on the Berlin Marathon.

Berlin sunset


Tiffany @ No Ordinary Homestead said...

It's funny that you would post this. I've just been reading some runner's blogs about not being able to run this weekend in NYC. After this year's marathon where we had a few friends running, we decided to run it ourselves next year. So we stared running 5 weeks ago, and never really ran at all before that. Already have our first 5k behind us.

So we'd definitely love to have you come cheer us on. We're gonna need it! ;)

~ cheryl said...

Great post, E! Fun that you got to watch your friend finish the race. You didn't say if he ran better than last year but to finish is winning enough by any standard. Also - nice inclusion of the Red Cross donation info - - it is amazing what NYC and surrounding areas are enduring. If we only could spend the billions that are being spent on the unending political ads, perhaps we could have waterproof NYC subways and underground electricity. I think if either Obama or Romney pledged half their remaining war chest to Red Cross - it would assure a win for them. Love you!!

ebe porter said...

Yeah Tiffany! I read about your preparations for marathon & would happily cheer you on.

Thanks mumsy. He ran just slightly slower than his last time which was a great accomplishment as he hadn't been training as regularly as last time.

And in summary - OBAMA!

Milly said...

@Tiffany: did you actually get registered? They sold out in less than 4 hours so I'm going to have to do the half in the spring instead :(

We're Back in Berlin Ja!

We're Back in Berlin Ja!
ebe & ian at Yak-toberfest 2008