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Berlin Marathon, 25 September 2016

Number four of the world marathon series in Berlin? Three done, three to go. Berlin next?

May be not, I stil have a plantar fasciitis 4 weeks before marathon day on 25 September.

(Also see Berlin Marathon 2019)


Berlin Marathon, Course map

Elevation map


Normally I run one marathon a year but after running all three spring marathons of the six World Marathon Series, Boston in April 2014, London in April 2015, and Tokyo in February 2016, I have a dilemma. Wait for 1.5 years and do Berlin in September 2017, Chicago in October 2018 and New York in November 2019, or do two in 2016, Tokyo and Berlin.

Berlin on 25 September is available and affordable, so I sign up with the company Holland Running (part of Kras Reizen) but keep it a secret. After running eight successful marathons in a row, the next one seems to be routine, no need for boasting.

Plantar fasciitis [1]

A slumbering injury due to overly soft Asics Kayano shoes caused a mild plantar fasciitis [1], overstretched foot tendons, in my left foot. This started to developed with the Kayano18 series, in 2013. During walks on hiking boots I often had a slight irritation in the arch of my left foot, and even more standing still at home. I ignored it so far, blaming it on too much exercise.

After a rough mountain trip in June in Spain, the injury was suddenly full blown. I could walk on my left foot but it was clearly painful.

I kept on running the weeks after, thinking I still had 3 months to recover for Berlin but always developed a mild pain after a run. Doing a marathon should be injury free, this is a healthy motto.

One month before the marathon I took a firm decision: to heal the injury or else a no go. Firstly, run less, only 3-6 km a week, and secondly, advise on the soft Asics Kayano running shoe insoles. Also, no long walking trips on hiking boots.

I noticed my running shoes were very soft compared to my normal office shoes and this caused a pressure point in the middle of the arch of my left foot, a plantar fasciitis [1]. The shoes feel comfortable but I know from an injury 18 years ago that soft shoes are deadly, they overstretch your foot tendons.

The Kayano 18 series insoles from 2013 are noticeable softer compared to the 17 series from 2012 so I went to a shop for sturdy insoles.


The Superfeet brand has three types. I chose the mildly supporting blue ones. At first the sturdy insoles feel uncomfortable, hard, but after running a km, you don't notice it anymore. I did three runs of 3 km in the last two weeks before the marathon and decided this could work.

I normally train 40 km per week as a preparation but now I behaved like a "couch potatoe".

The shopkeeper mentioned that the public likes soft insoles thinking this will avoid foot problems but this is counter intuitive, not realizing this overstretches tendons. The dominant brands reacted with ever softer shoes.

Carrying a lot of (body) weight, soft shoes feels better, but will accelerate flat feet.

Reichstags Dome in Berlin

Inside the Reichstag Dome, the mirror tower. Click on photo to enlarge.

The Reichstag Dome is the main attraction of Berlin. To visit, you have to make a reservation on-line. Alternatively, you could have lunch or diner in the roof top restaurant. When you reserve, make sure to pass on all the names of your party and dates of birth. This is checked at the entrance using an ID. I forgot to do this as I did not read the small German print but managed to get a table at nine.

The restaurant is big and when we were there, it had many empty tables after nine. German's eat between six and seven.

The restaurant is approaching a one Michelin Star in terms of food, location and price but not the service and entourage, this is fine.

The day before

In Berlin Mitten, near our NH Collection Hotel, along the Sprey River, there is a nice walkway for training. I tested my outfit and it felt good, full of energy.

The mandatory band

Band, cut. Saved just on time from the hotel bin.

At the marathon fair, on picking up the bag with the start number and other goodies, we all got a band around the pulse. They did not tell me why.

Back in the hotel, like Edmund, I cut the band and threw it in the bin.

That evening, I read the instructions and discovered the band was mandatory, to avoid rogue runners.

Solution, also for roque runners is easy, get a second one at the fair and use a needle and thread to put it back on.

Marathon Day, to the start

The NH Collection Hotel has a perfect location, start and finish are only a 15 min. walk along the Sprey River.

The start is at 9:15 h plus a few minutes, so I try to be there at 8:00 h to beat much of the other 40000 participants. It is already busy but toilets are still accessible.

At 8:15 I am already in the start area, finding a sunny spot to sit against a tree to avoid standing and warm up inside the emergency rain coat. It is only 12 Celsius. It is a long wait but you get a chance for the usual nervous toilet stops. At 8:45 h the toilet lines are already 15 min. Being early paid off.

The start, 9:15 h

The first 2.5 km is along the 6 lane road running through the Tiergarten park with plenty of space for runners on both sides of the road. First we pass the enormous Victory Column celebrating victories in wars with Denmark, Austria and France between 1964 and 1871 and then we head North and East.

Roads are two lanes now. It is crowded with runners but not overly when I was there at position 5000 out of 40000, but later on ....

At 7 km we pass the Hauptbahnhof where friends and family are waiting.

We pass the Rundfunk Tower after 11 km.

Rundfunk Tower

Edmond, running his 20th marathon

17 km, 10:45 h

At this point I am getting warm. The sun is out in full blast and it feels like 23 Celsius. Going West I try to find shade on the South side of the road, but to no avail, I am getting very warm. Also my heart beat passes the 170 mark.

Alarm! Normally my heartbeat is below 160!

21 km, 11:00 h, half-way point.

I try to find our friends and family but don't see them. Normally "I wake up" at this point. Today is different, I am exhausted and very, very warm.

I take a break at the next "water hole" walking for one minute.

Water hole”

Rude Germans, going straight for the water, are pushing me aside and yell to "geh fort" and be "verdammt" etc.
Most of the plastic water beakers are thrown on the runway by the same shouting Germans, a serious risk of slipping, “verdammte idioten” are my thoughts.

From 20 to 38 km

After the walk, my heartbeat is only 150 but it quickly goes back up to 170 so I slow down from 12 to 11.5 km/h. This doesn't work. It jumps again to 174 and again I feel very, very warm. Reminds me of Boston past 30 km. I now walk at each water hole, every 2-3 km, but this barely keeps the heart beat below 170.

At 27 km the 3:30 h end time balloons pass me. That's fine, I am not doing too bad, time wise.

I spot bananas, tasty.

From 30 to 38 km

Only 12 more kms to go and I am in trouble. I could walk it or do a run / walk, like so many 4.5+ hours runners. Plenty of time to make it within 5.5 hours. It is very warm, some 23 degrees Celsius, but running East there is now plenty of shade from the office buildings.

I manage to bring the heart rate down to 164 by slowing down to 10.5 km/h and walking at every water hole. This feels better.

Most runners are passing me at 12 km/h and may be thinking, "the old man is in trouble, how did he get this far?". They are right, I am in big trouble but no cramps which would be deadly.

38 km

At the Potzdammer Platz I spot our Holland Running fans dressed in orange and they take a picture.

My traveling companion spots me as well, follows me on a bike, easy to keep up with my slow running speed, and yells to encourage me, so I stop for a picture.

This helps but there is still a grueling 4 km to go through Stadsmitte, a deserted office area with few spectators.

40 km

40.5 km

Only 1.7 km before the finish, a water hole, a welcome excuse to walk again and now for a full two minutes. I take it easy.
Too late I realize that it would be nice to finish below 3:50 h. Seeing the Branderburger Tor in the distance I speed up and see my watch approaching 3:50 h.

Branderburger Tor

The finish is not at the Tor but a few hundred meters past it. I see the clock ticking in the distance past my 3:50 h goal.


3:50:21, one hundred meter short to finish below 3:50. Some 10000 of the 40000 runners already finished and stumble to the bag and change area.

Successful finished.

My thoughts now switch from the end time to recovery.

A marathon is all about finishing in one piece, not about the time it takes. Blisters are okay, muscle pain is normal, but painful knees, back pains and cramps are not.


A hard won number four of the World Marathon Majors. A big relieve that I made it.

My lungs were affected this time as if I climbed a 6000+ m mountain under freezing conditions in Nepal. I was short of breath for two weeks.

German city pollution? Possibly, may explain my abnormally high heartbeat.

Blame it on the conditions, the warm weather and pollution, and possibly too little training.

And the plantar fasciitis? Less after the marathon!

Marathon flowers, tough like a marathon runner, will blossom for 20 days


Note the 10 intervals with a low heartbeat (in red), the walks, bringing the heart rate down to 150 within a minute.

Photos from Holland Runner

See photos with the TUI stamp above and the link: Berlin Marathon, Holland Runner

Arend Jan, Holland Running (TUI) photographer.

Berlin Photos


Jewish Monument, walkways.

Jewish Monument

Berlin wall near the Potzdammer Platz


Marathon Photos

Red Bull girls at 38 km. Why Red Bull?

Mandatory band, refitted with ....

needle and thread.