The Persians are lucky that Haile Gebrselassie wasn’t Greek (or alive at a probably fictitious historical event, for that matter) because they wouldn’t have even had a chance to start counting their losses by the time the news would have arrived in Athens. Gebrselassie’s world record for the 26-odd miles of the marathon – set, naturally, in Berlin (in 2008) – stands at a touch over two hours. To be exact: two hours, three minutes and 59 seconds!
Berlin, you see, is perfect for athletics’ most gruelling event – a runner’s dream being a flat city with reasonable autumn temperatures. Its ideal conditions make the city the world’s fastest marathon course; for its 37th edition on September 26, the million or so attendees that line the streets will be expecting pace, and a lot of it… from wheels as well as (some 40,000) legs, since both wheelchair users and inline skaters can participate in the two-day (Sep 25-26) programme of events.
On the day of the main event, the vociferous morning crowds will also be participating in some partisan cheering as Germany’s Irina Mikitenko attempts to defend last year’s women’s title. Gebrselassie will be merely trying for his fifth in a row. But really, it’s not just the pace that matters. In 1990 – 20 years ago this year – the runners streamed through the Brandenburg Gate like the tears streaming down their faces, as they finished the marathon for the first time in a reunified Germany: this history is yet another reason why the Berlin Marathon is one of the most beloved in the world.
BERLIN MARATHON, Sept 26 | The race begins at 9:00 on Straße des 17. Juni at Kleiner Stern (Tiergarten, S-Bhf Bellevue) and ends on the same street, near the Soviet Memorial (Mitte, U-Bhf Brandenburger Tor). The awards ceremony takes place at 14:00, at the Brandenburg Gate. For a map and a complete schedule of events, visit www.real-berlin-marathon.com