As the autumnal air blows gently in, runners around the world are gearing up for the annual Berlin Marathon. Whether you plan to run, walk or cheer, here's the lowdown on the course route and what to look for along the way.
In 1974, just 286 runners participated in the first ever Berlin Marathon. In 2014, there were over 40,000 runners and power walkers, almost 9,000 schoolchildren competing in the mini-marathon, and a total of more than 56,000 participants from 130 nations.
Scheduled for September 27 this year, the marathon joins five others to form the World Marathon Majors, in which elite runners compete for the annual title. Aside from Berlin, the member cities are Boston, Tokyo, London, Chicago and New York. Even if you're not running at an elite-level pace, this fast and flat course is ideal for those looking to achieve a personal best. The route winds around Berlin's historic center, sending runners out to Friedenau and Schmargendorf before bringing them home.
The race starts at Straße des 17. Juni, between Brandenburg Gate and the intersection known as Kleiner Stern, and ends in the same area. It's hard to miss the gate; one of Germany's most famous landmarks, the imposing neoclassical arch serves as a national symbol of unity. If you plan to take public transportation, it's advisable to use the S-bahn or U-bahn rather than public buses, which may be subject to race-related diversions.
If the dozens of bands playing along the course route aren't enough for you, there are plenty of other attractions along the way. At the 7-kilometer mark you'll pass the seat of German parliament; the Reichstag, which was nearly destroyed by fire in the early 1930s. Today, members of the public can tour parts of the building, including the rooftop terrace and striking steel-and-glass dome. If you plan on visiting before or after the race, remember that although tours are free, advance online registration is required.
Throughout the race, you can use Berlin's iconic 368-meter-high Television Tower in Alexanderplatz, as a point of orientation. But when you find yourself more or less next to it, you'll know that you've passed the 11-kilometer mark. After that, you're just a few short meters away from crossing the river and setting off for the south-west of the city.
Around the 30-kilometer mark, the course turns back to the north-east and eventually passes Potsdamer Platz, a bustling public square in the heart of Berlin. A 30-minute walk away from our Radisson Blu Hotel, Berlin, you can also access the square by U-bahn or S-bahn. Runners will cross the intersection shortly after the 38-kilometer mark, so if you set up camp as a spectator here, make sure you provide plenty of vocal support.
.After passing Brandenburg Gate a second time, you'll know the finish line is near. The course records are set at 2:02:57 for men, also the world record, and 2:19:12 for women, so if you're under that, you've definitely done well. After the race, shake out your legs with a leisurely stroll along the lush lawns and winding pathways of Tiergarten.