I Am a Berlin Legend

“Eich bin ein Marathonlaufer!” I yelled as I passed through the Brandenburg Gate in the final stretch of the 48th BMW Berlin Marathon.

Peeking down at my Garmin, I was just two hundred meters from improving my personal best by over 7 minutes. On the same day Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya set a world record of 2:01:09 (beating his own previous world record) I set mine. I’m sure it was my effort that drove him.

The Berlin Marathon is one of the 6 Abbott World Majors (including Boston, New York, Chicago, London and Tokyo) and one of the most prestigious running events in the world. On September 25th, over 45,000 runners lined up in the Tiergarten to become a #BerlinLegend.

The course takes you along such scenic sites as the Reichstag, the Siegessäule, Berliner Dom, Brandenburg and Potsdamer Platz. Berlin, like Chicago, is a flat course that loops throughout the city. Comparatively, both Boston and New York are point to point courses with varying degrees of elevation.

Whereas other marathons provide hydration every mile, aid stations in Berlin are closer to 2 miles apart.  Water is served in plastic rather than traditional paper cups, making it a challenge to drink more than you wear. Berlin is also one of the few marathons that allows you to wear full hydration vests. Being an extremely green city, they encourage it. Aid stations also provide sliced apples and bananas, an electrolyte sports drink, warm tea and an energy gel called Maurten, that was just about the most horrible thing I’ve had during a race.

The crowds were considerably thinner compared to Boston, NY and Chicago. You would have thought the marathon was on a different day. Even deep into the Nor’easter of 2018, the Boston crowds lined the streets late into the afternoon. The buildings shake in the Bronx and the crowds spill out onto Chicago’s Michigan Ave., to funnel you through the finish.

Maybe Kipchoge was all the rage, or perhaps Berlin just isn’t a “marathon city.”

My race began at 10:30AM (4:30AM EST), which was perfect, because that’s when I usually run. The weather was just a touch over ideal, warming up to the mid 60’s, but having trained exclusively in Florida, I was well prepared.

This was my 6th marathon, including Boston (2018, 2019), Chicago (2018, 2021) and New York City (2019). My goal was a PR, but I faced some challenges along the way. I spent months recovering from an exhaustive battle with Covid, sprained my big toe in a Spartan Race, and not 3 months ago, fractured my rib in the Ohio Super. 

This was the first marathon I’d ever run without mile markers, only Kilometers. I thought I was cruising along but when I crossed the 21k mark, I realized a gap in my GPS of nearly a mile! As the race went on, my math got worse, and I was unable to know my exact pace. Being an obstacle course racer, I took it the only way I knew how: One obstacle, one water station, one kilometer at a time.

I dug in the final 10K and the remaining fans carried me the rest of the way. Wearing my Nike Team USA Singlet, Junk Brands Spartan USA headband and MudGear First Responder Compression socks, I was a slow-moving flag often greeted with cheers of “USA! USA!” and not just from Americans.

It’s incredible the humanity you encounter in these events. I am a marathoner, I thought.

I was in awe as we approached the Brandenburg Gate. Napoleon marched through this gate. For 3 decades, no one could walk through it at all. And here I stormed through, running the Berlin Marathon, also a very small number of people in that club.

I celebrated the crowd to the finish. Per my OCR tradition, I dropped down to one knee while the volunteer hung my medal around my neck.

Nick Klingensmith is an amateur obstacle course racer closing in on his 100th OCR. He’s completed 5 major marathons and is currently training for the Berlin Marathon in September. An ambassador for MudGear and Spartan 4-0, Nick is the author of Through the Fire. Nick works as an executive in the logistics industry and lives in Seminole, Florida, with his wife and two dogs. 

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