My Berlin Marathon experience | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 29.09.2014
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My Berlin Marathon experience

This year DW reporter Marcel Fürstenau laced up once again for the Berlin Marathon. His was a race of emotional ups and downs, he writes, but characterized by some great support from the streets of the German capital.

To win a marathon in a record time, you need to have pacemakers, sometimes called "rabbits" in runners' circles. These guys are often up-and-coming young athletes who run with the top competitors in the early stages of the race to keep your speed up. By doing so, they help push them to the finish line in a record time. At the start line for this year's race I notice a rabbit in front of me too. This one is dressed head to toe in a rabbit costume though. I'm certainly not going to keep pace with a guy in a fluffy pink onesie, and I soon overtake him as soon as we set off.

Over the first few kilometers the streets are lined with onlookers, even though this part of Berlin actually isn't a residential area. We are running through the city's main park, the Tiergarten, and many friends and family members gather here to cheer on their loved ones or hold up a sign.

Once again, like every year, it's amazing to see so many national flags here as well. The red and white of Denmark seems to be everywhere I look. A lot of runners from up north traditionally travel down to take part in the Berlin Marathon.

High speed, and support from above

After four kilometers we approach the first band playing on the side of the road, in the suburb of Alt-Moabit. I hear just one line of the lyrics, but it's an appropriate one: "You have to get through it," sings the singer. True, very true.

The lead pack in the 41st Berlin marathon September 28, 2014.

The real pacemakers: Most leading runners run with a team of helpers to get them to the finish line

In fact, some 38 kilometers (23.6 miles) are still ahead of me. I'm feeling good and pass the five kilometer mark in a time just under 24 minutes. "Too fast," I say to myself, but don't try to slow down. Shortly thereafter, we come to a narrow stretch of road, a building site for the Interior Ministry has blocked some of the lanes and we struggle through. Hopefully, the road will be a bit wider next year.

Then, it's time to swing by the Federal Chancellery, but Angela Merkel doesn't bother to greet us from the balcony. But, shortly thereafter I see my boss, Dagmar Engel, watching on from the balcony of the seventh floor of the Federal Press Conference building, where we have our DW political offices. Despite it being a Sunday, she's in at work taking part in a seminar with my colleagues. I feel lucky to have had a good excuse to miss that one, although maybe I won't feel the same way in a couple of hours.

Lost in thought

After about an hour and a half, I start to hum the song "Gloria" from Van Morrison's old band "Them." I realize that the title actually has many meanings in Latin: glory, honor, magnificence. It's funny, all the random things that go through your head when you are running a marathon.

Speaking thereof, as I come up to the halfway point, I look at my watch and see my time is one hour and 42 minutes. I could be on my way to a personal best here. The time to beat is 3 hours, 24 minutes and 38 seconds, by the way.

Runners pass the victory column

This year was the 41st edition of what is considered the world's fastest marathon

I reach the 25 kilometer mark after two hours and three minutes. "The winner could be crossing the line right now," I think to myself. And, I'm right. As I struggle along, Dennis Kimetto is finishing in just 2:02:57, that's a new world record.

More concern to me though now is: in what state will I finish this race? I'm not too worried about the time, anymore. At the roundabout known in Berlin as Wilder Eber, onlookers are making a lot of noise but amazingly, here is where I am forced to stop and take a break. I've never stopped this early in a race before, normally I run a marathon all the way through.

Changing pace

In order to make the best out of the situation, I make a decision which turns out to be the right one. I don't want to just complete this year's marathon, I want to enjoy it. So, after another two kilometers I slip into a slower pace. My legs actually feel pretty good, but I resist the temptation to speed up again. For some reason, I am certain that I don't have a good time in me this year.

Marcel Fürstenau

Marcel Fürstenau is a member of the famed "Jubilee Club," whose members have raced 10 times or more in Berlin

At Wittenbergplatz, home to Berlin's most famous department store, the Kadewe, I am greeted by my wife. I stop to tell her about my moment of enlightenment at Wilder Eber. And then I continue on again, towards Potsdamer Platz.

My head is clear and I am moving well, even if I don't feel particularly fresh. I love to give high fives to the kids on the side of the course as I near the end. The looks in their eyes and the yells of encouragment, "Go Marcel!" are a great boost for me. It's like getting legally doped for the last two or three kilometers. Behind Gendarmenmarkt square we then go round two bends before we make our way onto Berlin's most famous street, Unter den Linden.

Then, suddenly, I can see the finish line near the Brandenburg Gate in the distance. There's so much noise I can barely hear myself think. On my left is the famous Hotel Adlon, on the right is the French Embassy. Then I pass through the Brandenburg Gate and I have only 300 meters to go.

The crowd on the temporary stands clap and cheer as I head toward the finish with runners at my side. As I cross the finish line I lift my arms up and open them wide. I am overcome with a mix of emotions: happiness, satisfaction and pride. There's no doubting: I'll be back next year. Oh yes, and my time? Three hours, 45 minutes and 19 seconds.

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