by Katie Nugent

4 years: the length of a leap year span, Olympics, or World Cup. It also marked the last time I tried the half marathon distance – Lisbon on that occasion. Once again an international venue was chosen and booked.

On Saturday morning – very early- my sister and I headed east across the airspace to Berlin to take part in the half marathon there.  We made this journey together with approximately 30,000 others. A few days prior to flying we were thrilled to hear Eilish McColgan would also be competing. She is one of our favourite athletes and we are looking forward to watching her making her marathon debut in a few weeks time in London.

Unlike the royals and their chaperones last week, we had to negotiate the train to our hotel. As expected, the train was on time and the directions were straightforward and all made sense.  Fun fact ‘Spandau Ballet’ is named after the ‘Spandau’ area our train was ultimately headed for.


We later proceeded to Templehoff airport (one of two disused) to collect our race numbers. The German efficency was apparent with the ordered system of collection of race paraphernalia, and many stands to purchase merchandise, get massages or take part in games like “hang tough”. It was a very good expo and all you needed was plenty of money!

 Race day

 There was a great buzz leaving the hotel as over 50% of guests were also taking part in the race. We were well located and about a 25 minute walk from the Reichstag so we didn’t have to navigate any public transport before the race.  The brrrr was definitely in Berlin as we walked up to the bag drop…again excellently done with vans with our numbers taking our stuff. It was a day for sleeves/layers, though, with a cold wind in the air.  Toilets were a little problematic also with queues quite bad.

 As part of our preparations, I had read the report by Kimberley from last year. This was very useful in trying to ensure we were placed in a wave which gave us the best shot of getting our desired times. We had put down 1.39 as our expected time. Anything faster than that and we would need proof which we did not have.

 We were supposed to be in block C but somehow ended up in block B. The race went off -on time- in waves, and there were pacers for 1.25, 1.35, 1.45 and so on as well as water/gels/banana stations at many points on the course. There was unreal support and music along the flat course. My watch was acting up on the morning of the race. I think I tested my sister’s patience before the race giving out but it seemed to be back on track, until it wasn’t! It gave up around the 12k mark. I have to say there was a certain freedom just running with no control. It was a very enjoyable run and the km markers just seemed to fly by. There were no 1.30 pacers so I didn’t exactly know what time I was chasing. I knew I was comfortably ahead of the 1.35 pacers and was pleasantly surprised and delighted with my time of 1.33.36 marking a 7 minute improvement on Lisbon in 2019.

 The overall ladies winner was Eilish McColgan in 1.05.43 and Sebastian Sawe took the mens’ title in 59 minutes flat.

 After crossing the line, there were free massages available as well as fruit, tea, and the all-important medal.

 For a city so steeped in history, it is a great course to run as you pass many iconic landmarks: checkpoint Charlie, Brandenburg gate, and victory monument, amongst others. As history graduates, Berlin has always been on the list as a must visit place so what better way to do it.

Just to note, it’s worth booking your meal the evening before the race as most places were busy and booked out. Thankfully we did find a couple of really nice restaurants close to the hotel for before and after the race.

 As Bowie was inspired by Berlin, so too might some others to give it a go some time or take on the full marathon in September. It is definitely a city and course you could pb in.