report by Mary Colclough

Sometime last year, a notification from Sportsworld caught my attention – a club weekend away to Berlin for the half marathon in April. I had planned a trip to Berlin waaaaaay back in 1995 –  I was 10 years old but had access to the means and money –  but unfortunately had to cancel last minute. I had never taken the opportunity to go back and here it was. Fast forward to last weekend, and Helen McGrath and I were looking at each other across an empty hotel lobby in the NH Berlin Kurfürstendamm, wondering how we had managed to alienate so many Sportsworld members. You don’t even know us… we are quite simply fabulous.

But despite the lack of running mates, we proceeded to have a fabulous weekend. It began with finding our local hostelries on Friday night. The neighbourhood, Charlottenburg, is in western Berlin, and has quite a cosmopolitan feel with a range of attractive cafes, bars and restaurants close to us. I would happily stay in this area again. The hotel was just 200m from the Savigny-Platz metro station, which took us to Brandenburg gate, where the race started and finished.

What better way to prepare for a half-marathon than by spending the day before doing a 6.5 hour 23km cycling tour around the city? Helen and I signed up for Fat Tire’s city bike tour on Saturday, ranked by TripAdvisor in 2018 as #2 experience in the world! It proved a great way to see the major sights and learn a bit about the history of the city. I would definitely recommend it (but I think #2 in the world is pushing it). Berlin felt less congested than cycling in Dublin, which surprised us both for such a big city.

Don’t worry, I’m getting to the running bit. Our cycle complete, we had a nice leisurely evening ahead and other than hopping on a couple of metros/UBahns to go to the Expo centre to collect our race numbers and take multiple selfies there, we had nothing particular planned. The evening definitely didn’t involve Helen calculating what speed she needed to go at and what splits she would need at 5k, 10k etc. That was my job. After all I had done 2 half marathons, she had only done one.

The race was scheduled to start at 10am Sunday and we headed off from our hotel bright and early to make our way to the starting point. The metro was free for anybody participating in the half so we didn’t have to worry about fumbling for change at the ticket machines. Although Helen had registered in a different wave to me, our intentions were to run together in my wave – that plan didn’t last too long. Ok, call us novices, but we thought that with over 35,000 people participating, maybe if we talked to the officials nicely and they saw our Sportsworld vests they might just let Helen into my category. There was no charming the German stewards, and in stereotypical formidable (I mean efficient) fashion, they didn’t allow her upgrade to my super elite wave. Off she sloped to the group that included a man running with a fresh pineapple on his head (sometimes you just don’t ask).

We had been told Berlin was flat and they were right! For all you serious runners, I’m sure it’s a place you would definitely get a PB. For us two vastly experienced half-marathoners, it was also a place we got PBs! (big shout out here to Stephen O’Donnell who we met for the first time in the queue for the Ryanair flight going home the next day – he will be back for his PB). There was good support on the streets, with lots of locals and tourists cheering us on and plenty of music and entertainment along the route. My favourite poster was “You run better than the UK Government”. Helen’s was “Toenails are for sissies”. The advantage of running slower is that you have time to appreciate the posters! The race finishes just after going through the Brandenburg gate. We had met a local runner on the metro earlier that morning who told us that the finish was actually 200m past the Gate, which was good to know. Nice finish.

The weather at 20 degrees, whilst much warmer than we expected for running, was perfect for sitting out after the race savouring our beers and devouring some of the tastiest pizza we have ever eaten. And you’ll never know what we did on the Club Trip after we had our beers.