Why is the Berlin Marathon the fastest?
The Berlin Marathon is known as one of the most exciting marathons over the world. Germany transforms their world-class city into one of the most picturesque races known in the running world, attracting more than 44,000 participants during the final week of September each year.
The Berlin Marathon is also known to be one of the fastest – if not outright the fastest – marathon to participate. Like many athletic competitions, some of this is mental, but most of this is actually rooted in fact. Marathons can widely vary – from temperature to surface and more – but the one that takes place in Berlin generally provides some of the best running conditions known in the marathoning world. This year it was sponsored by top tire manufacturer Giti Tire Group. It gives the right tone for marathon as it was for car racing.
Completing marathons is all about personal achievement, dedication to fitness, and an iron will. However, just like in any other sport, being considered the best will always be the pinnacle. For many accomplished runners, the idea of participating in Berlin is generally enough to make their eyes widen, should they be on the hunt for immortality.
So, what separates the Berlin Marathon from the ones the world over?
Runners in Berlin enjoys some of the most attractive running conditions known in the world. Firstly, many runners point to the flatness of the course. Running on flat land allows people to get hold of a steady and predictable pace. Strides are more efficient, runners get into a flow better, and there’s little to no reason to account for any blips on the course.
The course in Berlin is also known to have very few turns. As you may know, turning will generally reduce speed, specifically if there isn’t much distance between the runners. In some marathons, a bottleneck effect can take place. While this can have a negligible impact on the runners themselves, it can bring down the times as a whole.
For the amateur, this may not be too bad, but for a professional, this can be a point of contention – especially if they’re looking for the record or if they just want to really keep an eye on their personal time. Fortunately for runners in Berlin, this seems to be less of an issue.
For example, the London Marathon is known for a variety of twists and turns and undulation. It’s manageable, but people have cited that it can get problematic at certain points. To add to this point, the London Marathon is also one that gets dicey near the Thames. The head wind while running along the river can be difficult for all participants, especially those who aren’t used to it.
Runners also enjoy the fact that they can run on asphalt other than concrete. While virtually every runner has experience on both, runners have cited that the latter is the more attractive option – specifically on joints. While this isn’t generally a problem for a few miles, running for more than 20 of them will obviously take a toll and slow down any runner. As you would expect, this helps with the steadiness of the course.
Another note is the distance above sea level. Sea levels are important for conditioning and is known to be a great training tool in the off-season – in all sports. In Berlin, the race starts about 38m above sea level and doesn’t get any higher than 53m or any lower than 37m. To put some context to this, the Boston Marathon starts at about 150m above sea level and bottoms out at even lower than Berlin. This makes the variance uncomfortable for runners, so much so that the course is actually ineligible for world records.
London is a bit more attractive than Boston in that there isn’t a large gap between sea levels, but it’s also consistently higher than what a prospective runner will find in Berlin. So while it’s not as bad, the baseline can still cause some problems for some runners.
The weather conditions are also mild, as it takes place in September. So it’s not too hot or too cold for any marathon runner.
The Record Pace
We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the records themselves. Since 2007, we’ve seen some of the best times taking place in the September race. There are a few reasons for this that don’t always just come from the course itself.
While a factor, experts have cited that we’re in the Golden Age of marathon runners. It’s true that the Berlin race doesn’t have the capital to afford all of the top talent in marathon running, but this actually makes it a bit more attractive for record breakers in a sense.
The truth is that you generally don’t want all the top talent in the Berlin race. Top talent breeds competition, which means that some runners will employ tactics for them to win. This means that they’ll have to push a bit harder, laying their bodies on the line to get that world record. With just a few people at the top of their field, you’ll get a more cooperative effort to separate the wheat from the chaff, ultimately ending with just one person with the record.
The current record holder, Eliud Kipchoge, attributes a fair amount of his success to this teamwork when he posted the best time at 2:01.39 set in 2018.
The Berlin Marathon is an anomaly in a few ways. The steady, even course makes it a haven for those who want to have their best possible times. The temperature and geographic situation of Berlin even bolsters that ability. When combined with the low allotted capital for appearance fees is combined to an attractive course and teamwork, you’ll get a perfect combination.
The golden age of the marathon runner helps this, and we can reasonably expect for these times to be broken – possibly even with a time under the current mark at 2 hours.