Another race, another race report – this time it’s the turn of the 2022 Generali Berlin Half Marathon.
I love Berlin and have long been fascinated by its character, history, architecture, people and diversity. When I started running, I wanted something to aim towards and knew completing a half marathon in the German capital would be a special experience. I signed up for it last September, just a few weeks after joining Sportsworld in fact. When registering you provide your estimated finish time and I would be starting in Wave 4, Block F, at 11:10 a.m., a group suitable for people who had never ran a half marathon previously or had done one in 2 hours 14 minutes or more. The block would set off a full hour and 5 minutes after the start gun. I’d just done the 10km Mini Marathon in 58 minutes and this seemed like a suitable wave for me.
My running has come on a bit since September, and I wanted to change wave to start with runners at a similar pace to me to make me push to run faster. I emailed but heard nothing back. Maybe I’d just have to go along with where I was. Then I did parkrun in Berlin the day before the race and was shocked at how cold it was. My hands were numb even after running the 5k. There was no way I wanted to hang around in those temperatures for over an hour after the first runners had set off. I could also feel pre-race nerves setting in and wanted to start as early as possible. Luckily, at the Expo they accepted my 01:43 time from Mullingar and moved me to Wave 1, Block C, meaning my start time was 10.05am with all 3 blocks in Wave 1.
With that pre-race concern sorted, I was ready for race day. As I set out, the scale of the event hit me, there were runners and inline skaters everywhere! I had overheard someone say there would be 35,000 participants, I’m not sure how true that was, just over 22,000 runners finished and there also seemed to be hundreds of inline skaters speeding around. Everything was well organised, with runners entering the event area by the Reichstag, and lots of information to make sure we all found our way to the correct place. As we waited light snow began to fall, but nervous energy kept me warm. The speeches began and the elite runners were introduced. I was just in awe at their times, these people run faster than I can cycle! During the speeches I found myself feeling a bit overwhelmed. One of the speakers talked about how we all had different journeys there and had set our own goals and we would all be winners at the end. I thought back to exactly a year ago when I finished week 5 of the Couch to 5k programme and ran for 20 minutes nonstop for the first time in my life – I think I managed about 2km in that time then. I nearly had to pinch myself to believe I was about to run 13 miles along the streets of Berlin now. Luckily before I had chance to get too overwhelmed, we were off. I pulled myself together to focus on the job at hand.
I had a vague plan I would go out with a 4.45min/km pace and try to hold it. The race starts on Straβe des 17 Juni, just west of the Brandenburg Gate, and runners first head towards the western area of the city, passing the Siegessäule, on towards Ernst-Reuter-Platz, then northwards towards Charlottenburg Palace. It was clear early my race plan wasn’t going to work – the start of the race was so congested, I found myself stuck behind rows of people. I knew I needed to follow the green lines to ensure I ran the exact half marathon distance, but it was impossible, I had to go wide to get by crowds. Somewhere along the way though things did open up though and I managed to pick up my pace.
We reached the western Charlottenburg area and Charlottenburg Palace, turned south and headed towards Kurfürstendamm (Ku’damm), the main shopping area in west Berlin and home of KaDeWe, Germany’s equivalent of Brown Thomas, as well as the Gedächtniskirche. At some point, before Ku’damm, we went over a cobbled area. I had to slow down there but can honestly say it was the only bit of the course that was any bit difficult, it’s really a nice flat route overall.
Disaster struck on the next part of the route – I noticed my lace was undone. As I stopped to tie it I wondered what impact it would have on my time, I just put it out of my mind and got back running, heading on towards Potsdamer Platz, an area that went from being a bustling central part of the city, to being almost completely destroyed during World War II, to then becoming part of the no man’s land between east and west in the DDR time as it was divided by the Berlin Wall. Post reunification it became the biggest building site in Europe, and then the modern intersection it is today. We were about 15km in at Potsdamer Platz and I noticed I’d slowed a bit. Then with horror I realised I’d forgotten about the green line and was running wide. I tried to move nearer as we weaved around Mitte, passing Checkpoint Charlie, on towards the Museum Island and the Berlin Cathedral. We seemed to take turn after turn, and then it happened, we arrived onto the wide Unter den Linden boulevard and finally the Brandenburg Gate came into sight!
Back on the green line and the race to the finish line
The last few hundred metres were amazing; it was a brilliant feeling passing the Brandenburg Gate. The support was incredible. In fact, the spectators throughout were brilliant, hundreds of people cheering. I don’t remember a single place where there were not lines of people. The party atmosphere ramped up further at the end and there were massive cheers as we crossed the finish line. There were smiling faces everywhere as we received medals and refreshments, and then a logo poncho, not my usual style, but given the temperature it was very welcome!
The men’s race was won by Alex Kibet of Kenya in an incredible 58.55. The women’s race by Sheila Chepkirui Kiprotich, also of Kenya, who had promised she would set a new course record and did just that, finishing in a jaw dropping 01:05:02. They were both long gone and hopefully well into their recovery by the time I eventually crossed the finish line in 01:41:23. I was delighted with that time, especially as I’d managed to add 370m to the route and stopped to tie my lace. I was shocked to also see I was within the top 10% of women finishers. I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day!
The half marathon is a super way to get a sense of the size and layout of Berlin. I’d been to a lot of the places on the route before, but always using public transport and had no idea where places were distance wise relative to each other until taking part. Berlin is a super city; my weekend there went much too quickly. I spent Sunday afternoon doing some sightseeing and then it was home on Monday morning. I can’t wait to go back and hope this is just the first of many races I’ll take part in there, I’m already thinking of next year – I’ll be aiming to get under the 01:40:00 for sure.
Full results are available here: https://berlinerhm.r.mikatiming.net/2022/?lang=EN_CAP