How the Berlin Marathon Works

Berlin Marathon Route

History buffs, beware: You might want to wear blinders for this race so you don't get distracted by all the amazing sightseeing along the loop route, which winds through 10 neighborhoods -- it's really an incredible way to see the city. The marathon starts and ends at the magnificent Brandenburg Gate, a former portal between East and West Berlin and the site of famous speeches by John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan ("Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"). The Reichstag (where the Third Reich convened and the modern German parliament meets) is also visible at the start, before the race heads down the Strasse des 17 Juni through the Tiergarten, a huge city park. Here are some of the other sites along the way:

  • Potsdamer Platz (public square that was also once a gate on the Berlin Wall)
  • Siegesäule (victory column for Germany's defeat of Prussia in 1870)
  • Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral)
  • Konzerthaus am Gendarmenmarkt (home of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra)
  • Bundeskanzleramt (the German chancellery)
  • Staatsoper Unter den Linden im Schillertheater (State Opera House)

There's definitely a party atmosphere around the Berlin Marathon. The festivities start on Thursday and Friday with the Berlin Vital Fair, where runners can pick up their race numbers and shirts, hang out in the Pasta Lounge or Massage Island, and check out the wares from almost 200 exhibitors. On Saturday morning, marathon participants have the option of taking part in the "Breakfast Run," a low-key 6-kilometer jog into the Olympic Stadium, where breakfast is served. Also on Saturday morning, there are 500- and 1,000-meter (.3 and .6-mile) "Bambini Runs" for kids 10 and under. Later in the afternoon, there's the inline skating marathon and the Mini-Marathon for older kids. The Mini-Marathon course comprises the last 4.2195 km (2.62 miles) of the marathon route -- in 2009, there were about 9,000 participants, many of whom ran with 10-member school teams in a hotly contested race in which the runners' times are totaled into a full marathon time (the 2009 winning team "finished" in 2:29:49).

For the main event on Sunday morning, about 60 to 70 bands -- along with more than a million spectators -- line the route. Runners can bring their own drinks and snacks and leave them to be distributed at the refreshment points, but the race organizers stress that actually finding your goodies can be nearly impossible. Refreshment points are located at the 5-, 9- and 12 km marks and then every 2.5 km (1.5 miles) thereafter. Starting at 25 km (15 miles), you can also get a massage every 5 km (3.6 miles) if you so desire (although that probably wouldn't do wonders for your finish time).

So, how much prize money are you in for if you win the race? Sure, it's a long shot, but we'll tell you on the next page, just in case.