Berlin Marathon

First run in 1974, the Berlin Marathon has become one of the world's leading races for both Elite and mass participation runners.  It is traditionally run during the last weekend in September, and in 2008 set new records with 35,913 official finishers from 107 countries, with more than a million spectators lining the course.

Interestingly, the race is not just for runners – each year around 8,000 inline skaters race around the course the day before the running event, while power walkers, handbikers, and wheelchair racers also take part.  There's even a "children's marathon" that covers 4.2195 km of the race course.

The Berlin marathon has established a reputation for fast times – with its flat course, good road surface, cheering crowds and mild autumn weather it is considered the ideal place to aim for a personal best.

As a result it is one of the five marathons that comprise the World Marathon Majors, the series offering a $1 million prize purse for the leading men and women.  World records set at the Berlin marathon include the current men's record of 2:03:59 set by legendary Ethiopian runner Haile Gebrselassie in 2008.

A huge part of the appeal of a big city marathon like this is the sights of the city, and Berlin offers more than most.  The race course starts and finishes near the Brandenburg Gate, and then passes Charlottenburg, goes around Tiergarten, along Moabit and Mitte, before heading south to Friedrichshain.

From there it gradually winds west between Kreuzberg and Neukölln, through Schöneberg, over to Steglitz and Zehlendorf, then eventually turns north toward the city's center, above Schöneberg, before returning to finish by the iconic Brandenburg Gate.

Whether you are running your first marathon or are a veteran, this is a great race to run.  The course is interesting but flat, while the huge crowds that line the route will keep your spirits up even when you get towards the end of the race and your legs are beginning to suffer.

As with any marathon, your enjoyment of the race will be in direct proportion to the effectiveness of your preparation.  If you are well prepared and have done the hard work in training, you will be able to enjoy race day and the delights that the city has to offer.

Training for a marathon is a fine balance between training enough and over training – experts will tell you, somewhat cryptically, that the right amount of training is the minimum necessary to get you ready!

What that means in reality is that you need to balance out hard training with plenty of rest, and taper your mileage as the race approaches so that you are fresh and ready to go come race day.