Alex “AJ” Dautel is a running fanatic with an impressive track record. He also has a longterm love affair with the Marathon in Berlin: It was 1998, at the age of 10, when Ronaldo da Costa wrote history in Berlin as the first human being to finish the marathon distance with an average speed of over 20km/h. And it was this very day when Alex started to dream of running a marathon himself. Seventeen years later, Alex is coming back to Berlin with multiple marathons under his belt and is one of this year’s official 3:30 pacers, helping other runners achieve their marathon PR.
He’s the perfect local running guide to show us around the course, so he and photographer Antton went out early in the morning to capture the best moments and key segments of these famous 42 kilometers.
The start on “Strasse des 17 Juli” is the ideal launchpad for the race. It is a straight line towards the Siegessäule, and 40.000 runners will be streaming around the monument and its gigantic roundabout.
After a 10km loop just north of the start and crossing the river Spree three times, participants will see the Alexander Tower on their right when crossing over into the old East Berlin. The architecture changes: long and broad alleys lined with uniform buildings are testaments from the past. These shots were taken around km 11 on Karl-Marx-Allee.
After crossing the river Spree for the fourth time, turning onto Heinrich Heine Strasse on km 13.5, this impressive piece of wall art should not hold anyone back. This intersection marks the end of the first third of the race.
2.5 km later, the field transitions into Berlin’s hip neighbourhood Kreuzberg. Once on Kottbusser Strasse, there is a 150m slight uphill section to cross the Landwehrkanal. The same 150m downhill slope on the other side will kick you into km 16. Based on the Strava runners that logged the 2014 Marathon, this is the fastest kilometer on the course, with a 4:38min split time.
Runners that ran the BMW BERLIN-MARATHON already in 2014 watch out: the organisers have slightly changed the race course directly after the sharp right-turn on Hermannplatz. Unlike last year, the course will take you not down the left side- against the flow of traffic, but down the right side of Hasenheide: an almost 3km long straight with only the church on Südstern cutting into the sky.
The incredible mix of historic and contemporary railway bridges make for a real landmark around km 20. Duck under all the steel to arrive into the next neighbourhood: welcome to Schöneberg.
The halfway point is marked by a 90 degree left turn from Göbenstrasse onto Potsdamer Strasse. You will remember it by this equally iconic as typical view onto a 10-story house front with the road passing under it.
Tempting – yet not allowed: turning right onto Potsdamer Strasse and only two blocks down the road would get you back onto the race course right before km 37. This shortcut is often used by spectators and supporters: with only a few steps you can see the runners twice or see both the pros leading the charge on km 37 to then cut back to the main field hitting the half marathon mark.
Historic Strava data show a surprisingly steady average pace for the second half of the race. From the halfway point, most Strava runners run relatively even splits for the next 10km. The first real change in pace comes around km 35 and 36: a party zone with music, food and drinks carries most runners forward and inspires them to speed up and race towards the finish even through km 37. But from there, the runners-high tends to wear off, with significantly slower splits on km 38 and km 39. Interesting enough: most racers seem to hit their wall just about where they are crossing the old Berlin Wall around Potsdamer Platz. If you have a chance, take note of the single piece of wall that is still standing to your left. This marks the beginning of the slowest and possibly hardest kilometer in the event with an average split time of 6:01min.
Hold your pace on the straight line down Leipziger Strasse and at the end you have the km 40 mark waiting. The finish line is not yet in sight, but you will soon hear the crowds cheer in the finish area.
It’s a couple of zigzags through Berlin’s touristic center before you head towards the Brandenburger Gate. Finish strong! And here is the view from the other side: mission accomplished. If you see this guy on race day, you’ll have finished in just under 3:30.
Only a few weeks left to prepare – make sure to join our BMW BERLIN MARATHON Race Page and connect with fellow racers.
During our two days of shooting, Alex added a little night shift for himself by guiding a blind runner on the Berlin 100mile Mauerweglauf for the last 60km of the race. The next morning when we met at 7am, he told us over a double espresso that he ended up going to sleep at 2:30am after having a late-night ice bath. This seemed to have paid off – he did an incredible job taking us around Berlin and showing us the course. Thanks Alex!
*This post is also available in German language: please click here!
Photography by Antton Miettinen